I started investing in the stock market in my early 20’s. And during that time, I got most of my education through magazines, periodicals, books and even newsletters. The internet was just taking off during that time so the whole online investment landscape had not been widely developed. If you can imagine it, I used to make my stock trades and transactions through the phone, even compulsively checking my account balance and stock prices in this manner. Well, now that a few eons have past, saying that “things have changed” is a complete understatement. If you want to learn how to invest and make money in the stock market, there are a zillion places that you can now visit in order to get started.
Part of getting educated about the stock market and the whole topic of investing involves picking up the theory and the knowledge behind these activities. Part of it also involves getting the experience as an investor. These days, I’m picking up a lot of my knowledge (or at least supplementing it) through online resources that are (mostly) freely available. I’d like to use this post as a platform for discussing those online investment resources. I’ll start off with a list of investment tools, software and sites over here, and if you’ve got more to add, please feel free to do so!
Free Investment Tools, Software and Resources
Most investors visit Barron’s, Smart Money and Motley Fool for their investment information. But why not add these other sources to your resource list?
1. Online Stock Brokers
Sign up with online stock brokers to get access to free tools and resources. Technically speaking, you may not have to get an account with a discount broker to begin learning about investing. Brokerages such as TradeKing, ETrade and Zecco already provide rich resources for investors and traders in the form of tutorials, webinars, reading materials and a built in investment community (via forums). But some of the more sophisticated tools may be available only if you sign up and become a customer at these brokerages.
The kind of tools you’ll find on these sites range from stock screeners, charting software and virtual trading environments and may be of particular interest to more active investors. There are also options brokers that cater more towards traders and have outstanding tools that help you pick up skills and knowledge for dealing with both stocks and options.
This company is an investment research firm that’s in the business of stock market analysis, research and education. They offer investment products for retail and institutional clients and is an awesome source for independent market analysis and data. They cater to investors of varying knowledge levels, from novice to experienced. One of the free tools I’ve used from Morningstar is the Instant X-Ray, which allows you to evaluate your investment portfolio, and tells you how it’s weighted. This is particularly useful if you’ve got mutual funds and are wondering about how much their underlying assets overlap. They also have useful stock screeners that you can use to help build your portfolio. You might also like their Morningstar Mobile iPhone application which you can download to receive quotes, news, ratings, etc through your iPhone.
I’m a member of INO.com and have been privy to their investment materials and resources for some time now. They are an online company that also provides investment research and tools for their customers. I’ve also written about their free stock charting tool in some detail and covered some of their free videos on occasion. If you decide to sign up for their free analysis tool, you’ll be able to monitor your virtual portfolio and receive email alerts for quotes and other investments that you’re following. They also have a free investment video channel you may want to peruse.
Yet another familiar name in investment research, Zacks offers a free membership for you to check out stock recommendations, market commentary, wealth management tips, strategy screens and stock analysis reports. A free registration will get you some basic services such as a daily newsletter, news, charts, research and use of a portfolio tracker and email alerts. Their premium and elite subscriptions offer much more (such as targeted recommendations, stock lists, research reports and stock screenings and rankings), which you can review through a free trial here.
I like the premise of UpDown; they describe themselves as the “leading social platform for virtual investing”. It’s a place where you can improve your stock trading and picking skills without having to risk your own money (think: fantasy football meets trading floor). They also host regular stock market contests which you can join for some nice rewards (how does a few thousand dollars sound?) — if your portfolio performance wins out, of course. Beat the S & P and earn some money!
Here’s another virtual trading platform brought to you by the same people behind OptionsHouse, that low cost options broker. Their goal is to empower people to understand the stock market better by providing an investing and trading platform for virtual portfolios and fake money.
There are many more tools out there that are available to budding and experienced investors alike. What we’ve listed is just a sampling! If you’re interested in additional resources and education along these lines, you can, of course, also try out investment periodicals like Investor’s Business Daily and The Wall Street Journal. If you want the perspectives of a recognized “financial guru”, you can check out newsletters, subscriptions and books by some of them. I particularly like the works of John Bogle and dabble a little in the world of Jim Cramer; I find that different “gurus” allow me different perspectives and views of the investing world. This keeps me learning new things all the time, something I appreciate as a lifelong stock investor.
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