5 Killer Free Investment Tools
If there’s one thing Main Street has in common with Wall Street, it’s a common dislike for one of the most hated words in the finance industry — fees. And you can avoid them by employing one of the financial lexicon's favorite words — free. For individual investors, carefully researching investments through the use of free tools can eliminate potential fees wasted on brokerage advice, research, and botched trades. Here are five of the best free sources on the web for researching investments. (See also: Investing With Your Values)
A bastion of the investment community, Morningstar offers free members partial access to scores of independent research. Gratis members can help themselves to continually updated information on investments from mutual funds to ETFs, as well as broad spectrum economic and market commentary.
Best for: Consumers and investors looking for information.
Favorite Feature: Morningstar’s 5-star fund ratings guide, an independent ratings tool based on risk and historical returns of mutual funds.
2. Yahoo! Finance
Yahoo! may play second fiddle to Google when it comes to web browsers, but Yahoo! Finance remains at the top of the pack where free up-to-the-minute stock market pricing and data is concerned. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen brokers and fund managers at firms turn not to expensive custom financial software, but to Yahoo! Finance for pricing and performance data. Amidst a plethora of opinion-driven financial blogs and financial journalism, Yahoo! Finance provides hard data on investments in a simplified form, something that never goes out of style.
Best for: Up-to-the-minute pricing and real-time market data. Statistical performance and pricing research on investments, mostly individual stocks or mutual funds.
Favorite Feature: Tons of free historical market data and custom chart tools on almost everything with a ticker symbol.
3. The Motley Fool
Back when AOL was still cool, the Motley Fool emerged from the dot-com boom and quickly became one of the most popular websites on AOL for individual investors. Today, the Fool offers a broad variety of financial services, but still lives by its motto — to educate, amuse, and enrich. While I may not always agree with the advice from Fool.com, it’s a valuable resource for those looking to get a variety of viewpoints on investing. Articles are often intelligent, witty, and enjoyable to read. And the Fool offers a social media component, allowing fledgling and experienced investors to share ideas and investment picks.
Best for: Everything from advice for beginning investors to broad spectrum investment commentary.
Favorite Feature: The Motley Fool CAPS Community, where members research stocks, rank stocks, and share ideas.
When I first started working in Alternative Investments, my mind hit a big blank every time I heard investment jargon like “mezzanine” and “xyz” thrown around in meetings. A mezzanine? What were these guys doing talking about architecture? Enter Investopedia, which provided me with a crash course in investment terminology. While some of the site's other features are lackluster, Investopedia’s searchable dictionary of financial terms is a boon to individual investors.
Best for: Novice and experienced investors who need a quick overview of an investment concept or term.
Favorite Feature: The searchable investment dictionary, which features a definition of terms and a brief overview of the concepts behind them.
5. Fund Fact Sheets
Buried in the websites of mutual fund companies and investment firms are “fact sheets” or “tear sheets,” one-page marketing tools designed to provide an overview of the fund’s holdings and past performance. These are often in PDF format and offered for free to prospective investors. For those looking to research a specific ticker symbol, fact sheets offer invaluable information on an investment’s risk and historical returns.
Best for: Detailed information on a specific stock, mutual fund, or ETF.
Favorite Feature: A one-page synopsis of information on a single fund or stock, including investment allocation, past performance, and the investing strategy.
Have a favorite free investment site? Feel free to share!