Some people call it research, others analysis, maybe its due diligence, and even worse, homework. It’s certainly not fun, can be overly time consuming, but with investing it’s an absolute must or it will cost you.
When it comes to researching possible investment opportunities, the hardest part is knowing exactly where to start. Finding consistent and reliable information on any mutual fund, ETF, stock or bond that you want to research can be difficult.
When doing my investing homework, I’ve consistently turned to a few free sites that offer enough information to get me started in researching possible investments. By using several of the sites below, I usually can get a good idea whether the mutual fund, stock, ETF or bond is a good or bad investment.
Daily, is probably the best way to describe how much I use Yahoo! Finance. I take full advantage of the My Portfolios feature, checking my investments performance each day, watch lists I’ve set up and all the relevant news of the day.
When it comes to research, Yahoo! Finance is my first stop. It covers everything I need to get started. The interactive charts, company profile, financial stats, analyst coverage, and any news headlines are all pretty accurate and up-to-date for a free service. It also maintains an audio archive of the most recent quarterly conference calls for all the publicly traded companies.
Yahoo! Finance is my go-to site for creating watch lists. I’ll use the My Portfolios feature to set up watch lists to track stocks, ETFs, or mutual funds that I may be interested in or just want to keep an eye on. I have the same set up for my IRA investments also. It makes it easier and more secure to check how my portfolio is doing, without having to constantly log in and out of my online brokerage account.
According to Seeking Alpha, it is a “website for actionable stock market opinion and analysis, and vibrant, intelligent finance discussion.” I tend to agree. It’s certainly not a site for everyone, as you can easily get overwhelmed by the abundance of information. Some of the analysis is over my head, but if you’re investing in stocks, ETFs, bonds, or sector specific mutual funds it’s definitely a great source of information.
All the articles are handpicked and written by the top financial blogs, newsletters, and experts. If you use Yahoo! Finance for researching stocks, you’ll see a lot of the Seeking Alpha articles in the stock news headlines.
One of the best features Seeking Alpha has is it’s portfolio tracker and daily e-newsletters, but you will have to fork over a relevant email address. You can subscribe to any or all of them, and have the information emailed to you before the market opens each day. The portfolio tracker will send you all the news and analysis relating to any stocks or ETFs you are tracking.
TheStreet.com is the free version of a much larger group of subscription sites including Action Alerts PLUS, that focuses on financial news and content. It tends to be a bit less biased than other financial media sites and offers a wide range of information for the beginner up to the professionals.
If your investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds or ETFs, TheStreet.com has enough analysis and ratings on its own to keep you well informed. I personally use the site more for initial research ideas and the video reports. I can listen to one of their videos, while I’m reading through another article.
Just like Seeking Alpha, if you use Yahoo! Finance to research stocks, you’ll see a lot of theStreet.com articles and videos in the news headlines.
For me, Google Finance is a busier, watered down version of Yahoo! Finance, which is why I don’t use it that often. It covers a lot of the same information as far as news headlines and financial stats as well as a portfolio tracker.
However, there are two features which Google finance offers that are better than the rest. If you’re big into charts and stock screeners, this is the place for you. The stock screener is probably one of the easiest to use and doesn’t require you to download anything.
The charts are by far the best available considering their free. For me, having that visual aspect of a stock, ETF, or mutual funds performance over a specific time period helps to understand all the numbers. But what sets Google’s charts out from the rest is having the ability to easily compare a stock, ETF, mutual fund to the Dow, the S&P 500, it’s competitors, or any other stock, ETF or mutual fund you’d like.
The Motley Fool
The Motley Fool is far from my favorite. When it was first started it was one of the best available because it was the only option. Unfortunately in order to get at the useful information you have to sign up, so use one of those seldom used email addresses to avoid all the spam emails you’ll be getting.
Most of the meat and potatoes of the site are part of multiple paid subscriptions, that I have never bothered to try myself. Personally I don’t think it’s worth the money, but there are those who live and die by the site, so take it for what it’s worth.
If you’re looking to use it for the free content, however, the most useful aspect of the Motley Fool is the CAPS Community feature. It’s the only part of the site I use. It provides a basis of how others view different stocks and ETFs. There is a commentary tab for each stock and ETF that will give you a good idea what other people think. The longer more analytical comments and the thumbs down/ underperform views tend to be the most useful.
The Perfect Site
Trying to find that one site certainly is difficult if not impossible. Which is probably a good thing. The more informed you are, the better investing decisions you’ll make. For me, the perfect site would be a combination of the five listed above and Novel Investor of course.