Investment should be a buzzword for just about any adult these days, especially if you have discretionary income and want to know what to do with it. Investing your money can be scary, though, so getting help whenever possible is highly encouraged.
One way you can help is by finding paid and free investment tools to help you make wise, informed decisions about your finances. Some tools require purchases or subscriptions, but there are plenty f great online investment tools for free. I’ll provide you with options for either.
Investment Tools for Stocks
If you want to invest in stocks, there are several tools that are highly recommended to make your trading experience easier and smarter.
One must-have tool is a stock screener. These are programs that offer you several criteria to choose from, such as P/E ratios, market capitalization, growth rates, dividend yields, stock price, and any other factor you want. Based off the criteria you select, the screener will return a list of stocks that match your preferences.
This is an easy way to narrow down the thousands of stocks in the market to a few to choose from. Many stock screeners are free, like the one at Yahoo! Finance (which is one of the most capable free screeners on the market). Unless you’re into advanced and complicated metrics, I wouldn’t pay for a stock screener.
Stock Charting Programs
Trading stocks virtually requires a charting program of some sort. These programs give you an opportunity to not only see price and volume over time, but use indicators, metrics, and advanced tools to give you indications of price trends, reversals, and momentum.
You can get free charting programs – StockCharts.com is the best – or you subscribe to more-capable versions with full capabilities and indicators that give you information in real time. For serious investors deeply interested in technical analysis, paying for a subscription may be a wise investment.
If you invest in more than one stock (which you should), you’ll definitely want to use a portfolio manager to keep track of your investments. The best portfolio managers not only aggregate your positions, but also provide you with metrics, analytical tools, and volumes of information for research. One top-notch portfolio manager out there outside of online brokerages is ExitPoint.com, which, in addition to managing your portfolio, actually supplies you with recommendations for stop-loss orders to mitigate your losses and keep risk down.
ExitPoint comes with a free 30-day trial; after that, subscriptions cost $120 a year for the base plan.
Many online brokerages have portfolio management platforms built into their software, but they are not always capable or robust. Sometimes, it pays to pay for software.
Other Investment Tools
Financial Planning Software
Every investor needs a plan and a strategy. There are free and subscription financial planning websites out there that help you plan your financial strategy, including setting goals, predicting future income, planning for retirement, and learning more about how your objectives can be met by various channels and methods.
One of the best is Mint.com, now owned by the Intuit (the people who make QuickBooks). Mint allows you the chance to see and track all of your finances at a glance, but also gives you very useful investment tools that help you track your investments, analyze your performance, and improve your investments and your overall finances.
Calculators are great tools to have because they can help you crunch numbers – and investing is all about numbers.
Dave Ramsey has a pretty simple and useful investment calculator for determining the value of your investment in the future.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a tool-chest full of calculators that can help you with anything from saving for college to assessing your risk – always a good tool to have handy before you start your investment strategy.
Want to know the financial performance of a sector, industry, or company? Use Yahoo Finance, which gives you an interactive chart of revenue and financial performance collected from thousands of SEC filings each year. This gives you the ability to compare and contrast different sectors and companies by performance, which is always a very valuable asset to have when determining which stocks to invest in and which to leave alone.
If you want to look at American economic data, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is a go-to resource. They offer updated info on monetary supply, commodity prices, interest rates, values of various securities, commercial paper, federal funds futures markets, and other informative topics.
In finance and investing, knowledge is power. Many of these tools will help you accumulate knowledge and then leverage information for greater success with your investments.