by Joe Lan, CFA
No matter what type of investor you are, keeping an eye on your investments is always a priority. Thankfully, websites devoted to this task are continually offering more powerful portfolio management tools to help you do just that.
This Comparison article examines the top online portfolio tracking websites for individual investors. The focus here is on everyday investors and not on power traders or institutional investors, so top sites in this category should have a good balance of power and functionality, along with a reasonable price tag. In addition, expect these websites to be user-friendly. The three sites designated as the best in this year’s comparison are SmartMoney.com, Morningstar.com and Wikinvest.
Although online portfolio trackers are constantly adding new features and functionality, they still pale in comparison to software-based portfolio trackers. The majority of online portfolio trackers can only handle cash, stocks, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds ETFs; they are limited in their customization; and they offer fewer portfolio analysis features. Reports offered are generally less robust than those found in software programs, as well.
The main upside for online portfolio trackers is that they are typically less expensive and, for the most part, easier to learn and use. In addition, online services provide the added convenience of being able to monitor your portfolio using smartphones and tablets. There is no software package to install and update, and users do not usually need to worry about platform compatibility.
With the majority of individual investors using online brokerages, the merits of using a separate site to track investments may seem redundant. Many online discount brokers offer proprietary portfolio management capabilities that are very good. However, most investors now have holdings in several accounts at different financial institutions: For instance, you may have a 401(k) account in one place, an IRA account in another and also an account at a discount broker. A third-party online portfolio management service solves the problem of tracking separate accounts by allowing users to combine and analyze all assets in one location, making it easy to monitor all holdings as one complete portfolio.
Most of the top websites that offer portfolio monitoring capabilities are part of larger comprehensive investment websites. As such, the portfolio trackers often provide links to news items and are able to provide emails that alert you to price, volume and news triggers. Furthermore, if you are paying for a premium portfolio tracker, the membership often comes with all the premium products offered at the website, such as advanced screening tools and robust fundamental data.
Features to Look For
When you are deciding on a portfolio manager, there are certain crucial features to look for. The top portfolio trackers here are all similar in functionality. When creating our top list, the characteristics most heavily considered were:
- Number of portfolios that can be tracked,
- Number of securities that can be handled in each portfolio,
- The types of securities handled,
- Frequency of price updates,
- Availability of analysis tools,
- Simplicity of use,
- Availability of email alerts, and
- Links to additional news sources.
Although this list does not represent everything individual investors look for in a portfolio tracker, it covers the most important aspects to weigh when considering your options.
Number of Portfolios
The top websites each offer a different number of portfolios that can be stored. For most investors, the differences will not be an issue, since users can store 25 separate portfolios at a minimum. If you have more than 25 separate portfolios, you may want to consider consolidating.
Another area to take into account is the maximum number of holdings each portfolio can track. Once again, this should not be an issue for the most part. However, it is worth noting that there is a definite possibility that users might reach the maximum allowed by SmartMoney.com, which is 50 securities per portfolio. Investors run almost no risk of reaching the maximum number of holdings per portfolio when using Morningstar.com or Wikinvest.
One of the key differences between online portfolio trackers and the more robust software-based portfolio programs is the types of securities handled. Online services mainly track cash, stocks, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. Data on these types of investment holdings are readily available on most investment websites.
Morningstar.com allows you to manually enter bond holdings and SmartMoney.com offers tracking of options. However, investors with significant holdings in bonds, options, futures or real estate may need to look elsewhere. If you are interested in more powerful, software-based portfolio managers, be sure to see our comparison in the Fourth Quarter 2011 issue of Computerized Investing (available at www.computerizedinvesting.com).
All of the top online portfolio trackers can handle stocks, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.
Frequency of Updates
Online portfolio trackers originally required users to manually refresh the page to update pricing and market values for holdings. This is not the case anymore, as the top online portfolio managers reviewed here all update dynamic information, such as pricing, automatically when new data is available. In addition, the pricing data are all provided in or near real-time.
However, data updates are not frequent enough for investors who are performing trading functions.
Additional Analysis Tools
The availability of additional portfolio analysis tools is usually one of the top priorities of investors looking for a portfolio manager. The ability to generate quick breakdowns of your portfolio in terms of sectors, asset classes and industry is crucial when attempting to maintain a diverse portfolio. Being able to compare your portfolio’s asset class, sector and industry weightings against that of an index is an added bonus.
In addition, each of the three top online portfolio trackers offers company analysis and fundamental data. Morningstar.com and SmartMoney.com were both highlighted in AAII’s comparison of top comprehensive websites (August 2012 CI Online Exclusive; available in the Comparison archives online), so both offer a bevy of other features, such as stock and fund screening. Morningstar.com provides propriety company analysis for premium members. SmartMoney.com offers a variety of java-based tools. Wikinvest provides company pages that can be edited by registered users and allows members to post articles on perceived investment trends.
Simplicity of Use
Another key consideration for investors is the relative ease-of-use of an online portfolio tracker. Users with basic computer knowledge should have no problem using any of the three top online portfolio trackers.
Wikinvest’s extra option of automatically “syncing” with your brokerage accounts makes it the easiest to use, especially when initially setting up your portfolio. Morningstar.com offers videos to help you get started, along with an extensive frequently-asked-questions FAQs page.
Email Alerts and News
The beauty (and potential annoyance) of living in the information age is that you can be constantly connected to the Internet, which enables you to receive continual updates. Each of the three top online portfolio managers offers email alerts that can be sent based on a variety of triggers.
With so much news available at your fingertips, news items have become a big driver of short-term stock price movement. As two of the top comprehensive investment websites, Morningstar.com and SmartMoney.com provide outstanding news from outside sources. These news stories can be shown directly on the website portfolio pages. In addition, they are prominently linked in company summaries.
The Top Trackers
This comparison focuses on our top picks among the online portfolio management websites. This year, the top online portfolio trackers remain the same as our last Comparison in 2010—Morningstar.com, SmartMoney.com and Wikinvest. Depending on your investment websites of choice, the best portfolio tracker for you may simply be the one on the website you already typically frequent.
As part of our due diligence, I took a close look at the portfolio trackers at Google Finance and MarketWatch.com. After familiarizing myself with the new features available at each site, I decided not to add either to our top list. Google Finance offers very limited additional analysis tools and does not provide the features that we have come to expect from the best online portfolio trackers. MarketWatch.com, on the other hand, does offer good analysis tools, but creating portfolios on the site was not intuitive. In addition, MarketWatch.com does not offer a comprehensive help section.
|Company||Morningstar, Inc.||SmartMoney Magazine||Wikinvest|
|Subscription Price||free to $21.95/mo.||free; $5.95/mo. or $58/yr.||free|
|Portfolio Updates (Frequency of Updates)||automatic (delayed quotes)||automatic (delayed quotes), real-time $58/yr.||automatic (delayed quotes)|
|Desktop Software Compatibility||Money, Quicken, Excel||Money, Quicken , Excel|
|Newswire Services||Financial Times, Dow Jones Newswires, MarketWatch, Morningstar, PR Newswire, Reuters, Seeking Alpha||Barrons Online, Dow Jones Newswires, MarketWatch, Motley Fool, SmartMoney, WSJ.com||Bloomberg, Businessweek, CNN Money, Forbes, MarketWatch, New York Times, PR Newswire, RealMoney, Reuters, TheStreet.com, WSJ.com|
|Email Alerts (News/Price Targets/Dividends/Splits)||yes (news/dividends/splits)||yes (price targets)||yes (news)|
|Email Reports (Security Values/Market Summary)||yes (security values)||yes (security values)||yes (security values)|
|Additional Analysis Tools||Stock Screening/Mutual Fund Screening||yes||yes|
|Maximum Portfolios/Securities per Portfolio||25/140 (free), 25/280 (premium)||50/50||unlimited/unlimited|
|Maximum Securities||3,500 (free), 7,000 (premium)||2,500||unlimited|
|Securities/Assets Handled||Cash/Stocks/Mutual Funds/ETFs||yes||yes||yes|
|Options/Futures/Warrants||yes (options)||yes (options)|
|Security Classification||Identification (Name/Ticker/CUSIP)||yes (name/ticker)||yes (name/ticker)||yes (name/ticker)|
|Account Number/Management Firm||yes|
|Asset Class (Predefined/User-Defined)||yes (predefined)||yes (predefined)||yes (predefined)|
|Transactions Handled||Deposit/Withdrawal; Buy/Sell||yes||yes||yes|
|Treatment of Fees/Commissions||yes||yes||yes|
|Security Lot Assignments (Avg. Cost/FIFO/Specific Lot)||yes (average cost)||yes (FIFO)|
|Holdings by Lots|
|Cash Portfolio Status||yes||yes||yes|
|Tax Schedules (Interest/Dividends/Capital Gains)|
|Projected Cash Flows|
|Performance Reports||Security/Industry/Asset Class/Investment Style||yes (security)||yes (security/asset class)||yes (security/industry/asset class)|
|Portfolio (Single/Multiple)||yes (single)||yes||yes|
|Holding Period/Between Period Returns||yes||yes||yes (holding period)|
|Value-Weighted IRR/Time-Weighted Returns||yes||yes (time-weighted)||yes (time-weighted)|
Morningstar.com has really become a powerhouse in terms of providing comprehensive financial and investment data and tools. What began as a website offering mutual fund analysis has matured into one of the top comprehensive financial websites available, taking Computerized Investing’s Editor’s Choice for one of the best comprehensive website of 2012. Its portfolio tracker is no different, offering some of the best features, functionality and usability of any portfolio manager on the Web.
There are two ways to create a new portfolio: manually entering each position or importing your holdings. You can import your portfolio using a number of third-party programs, including Yahoo! Finance, Quicken and Excel. Morningstar.com also allows users to specify two separate portfolio types—watch list and transaction. A watch list portfolio does not require specifying the number of shares or purchase price for each holding entered. Transaction portfolios require purchase prices and share amounts, enabling users to track historical performance and perform portfolio analysis.
Currently, Morningstar.com allows users to store 25 portfolios of each type. Each portfolio allows 100 stock and fund holdings (including exchange-traded funds), 20 cash instruments and 20 bond holdings. With a premium membership, users are able to enter 200 stocks and funds, with 40 cash instruments and 40 bond holdings.
Portfolios you have created will appear in the dropdown menu at the top of the portfolio page. The portfolios are presented in five default views, self-explanatory by their view names: snapshot, news & opinions, intraday, gain/loss and fundamental. An additional view called insights is available to premium subscribers. This view provides figures that are unique to Morningstar.com, such as the Morningstar and Analyst Ratings, consider buying and selling prices, Morningstar fair value, price/fair value ratio, and three-year expected return and excess return. In addition to the default views available, users can customize and save their personal views.
Morningstar.com offers an extensive set of tools to assist users in analyzing their portfolios. One of the most widely used is its X-Ray function. The feature is aptly named, providing users with a quick look at a portfolio’s asset allocation and stock style diversification, a breakdown of holdings by stock sector and stock style, a geographical breakdown, and a summary of fees and expenses. You can also click on Holdings Detail for a further dissection of each section.
The My Performance tab allows you to plot your total performance figures against a number of indexes across various market sectors and styles. It also shows yearly and annualized average returns, numerically and graphically, compared to an index that you specify.
Morningstar premium subscribers can generate a Portfolio Monitor that is arguably the best portfolio report available to individual investors. The portfolio monitor provides a Morningstar Rating for your portfolio based on its performance and risk. The growth in market value is also provided as a chart and as annualized figures. Further down the report, the Portfolio Monitor presents the expected value of your portfolio in five, 10, 20 and 30 years based on pessimistic, baseline and optimistic outlooks. A breakdown shows each holding in your portfolio, along with their values, returns and Morningstar ratings. At the end of the report, the proprietary Morningstar analysis is provided on each holding that the website covers.
The data provided by Morningstar.com is offered in “near real time,” sourced from BATS when available. [BATS is an exchange founded in 2005 that currently handles about 12% of the trading volume in the U.S. (ranking it third behind the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ).] There is no need to refresh the page—updates are automatically loaded into your portfolio as Morningstar.com receives the data.
A wide variety of alerts are offered by the Morningstar.com portfolio tracker, most of which are provided to non-premium subscribers. The most useful alerts are divided into two categories: intraday alerts and nightly stock and fund alerts. Users have the option of receiving alerts on their entire portfolio of holdings or on individually selected holdings. For intraday alerts, you can choose to receive earnings-related news, merger/acquisition news, management changes and product news, as well as major movements in the stock’s price. For nightly stock and fund alerts, Morningstar.com offers alerts for changes in earnings estimates, earnings beats and misses, above- and below-average quarterly revenue growth, fund style and category changes and other major news.
Several new features have been added to the portfolio tracker since our last review. You can set up personal target prices directly in your custom views and the portfolio tracker will notify you if a target price is reached. In addition, Morningstar.com allows you to choose between two separate cost basis calculations: default and adjusted. The default method is consistent with IRS guidelines and includes the price paid for shares plus reinvested dividends and capital gains distributions. It also includes commissions incurred during the transaction. The adjusted method allows you to exclude reinvested dividends and capital gains from the cost basis calculation. Another useful new feature is the capability to track your cash flows, including dividends and inflows and outflows. You can link your transactions with your cash account by clicking on the “Track Cash Flows” icon next to the portfolio’s name.
One of the unique aspects of Morningstar.com is that the website allows you to share your portfolio with the Morningstar community. When sharing your portfolio, holdings and percentages are shown, but more personal information such as investment amount is kept hidden. This enables users to quickly discuss buying and selling opportunities, swap allocation strategies, and compare return and yield. In addition, non-premium users who choose to share their portfolios can get Morningstar.com ratings and an instant portfolio X-Ray analysis, which are normally premium tools. To browse portfolios that members have shared, simply navigate to the Discuss area of the Morningstar.com website. Users with a suitcase icon after their names have portfolios that are being shared. You can search for portfolios meeting certain criteria, such as conservative allocation or five-star-rated portfolios.
To help you get started, Morningstar.com offers videos on creating a portfolio, creating a watch list and using the the Portfolio Monitor. Furthermore, the website offers a detailed questions-and-answers section and allows you to easily leave feedback and contact the firm directly.
Like Morningstar.com, SmartMoney.com was named one of AAII’s top comprehensive websites for 2012. The portfolio tracker provided by the website is a great tool that is available completely free of charge. For $58 a year, you can add real-time stock and ETF quotes.
Once again, you can create a portfolio either by simply manually entering positions or by importing your holdings. Three types of files are supported—CSV, QIF and PTF—and the holdings can be imported into a new portfolio or an existing portfolio. You can also export your portfolio as an Excel file as well as any of the three above-listed formats. Fifty separate portfolios can be created, each allowing up to 50 holdings.
The main portfolio tracker page shows your portfolio performance across several adjusted time periods. The major indexes are also listed as well as your total and daily gains and losses. At the bottom of the page, there are several tabs that can be toggled to display different data. The portfolio tab simply lists portfolio holdings along with recent corporate events such as dividends and stock splits. The portfolio listing table shows ubiquitous information such as news, number of shares, current market value and gains and losses for each holding. Hovering your mouse over the news icon brings up a list of recent news items. The transactions tab lists buys, sells, dividends and inflows and outflows of cash across customizable time periods. There is also a quick edit tab that allows users to add and delete shares and edit share information.
Several useful portfolio analysis tools are offered by SmartMoney.com. The Portfolio Map depicts your holdings in a heat map, with each holding shown as a rectangular square. The size of each rectangle coincides with the size and relative strength of each holding—the larger the rectangle, the larger the holding—and the color shows gain or loss, with red depicting a loss and green representing a gain. In addition, this map can be shown for sectors instead of individual holdings.
The Allocation tool provides a quick breakdown of your portfolio’s allocation based on asset type and sector. Users are able to select any combination of portfolios to include in the chart. The benchmark link allows users to plot the return for any portfolio against an index for a customizable time period. The website also allows you to rank stock holdings by various fundamental and technical elements including performance, beta, expense, dividend and return on assets, to name a few.
SmartMoney.com also offers alerts for stocks. For each stock selected, users can specify a price, volume or 52-week high and low at which to be alerted via email. In addition, news alerts can be set up for press releases or wire news. If you are a SmartMoney Select subscriber, which includes access to real-time quotes, the website provides an email within three minutes of the alert trigger. Regular members get the email alerts a bit later to account for the 20-minute delay in quotes.
Wikinvest made its debut in our comparison of top online portfolio management websites in 2010. The website began as an investment website based on the “Web 2.0” trend, where registered users can collaborate and post ideas. In 2010, Wikinvest released a free portfolio tracker that is one of the best available on the Web.
One of the main advantages of Wikinvest’s online portfolio tracker is its ability to sync up with your brokerage account and automatically import your investment holdings and transactions. Wikinvest supports over 55 brokerage accounts, including all of the most popular discount brokerages such as Scottrade, Fidelity, Vanguard and Charles Schwab. The beauty of this design is that users never need to update their portfolio holdings or transactions. If you purchase or sell shares in your brokerage account, the changes will automatically be reflected in your Wikinvest portfolio.
Since Wikinvest syncs with brokerage accounts, it will ask for account information and password. Inevitably, there will be concerns regarding the security of the website and whether it is prudent to provide this information to a third party. Although there is no guarantee that any site is 100% secure, Wikinvest uses the same security system that is used by Amazon’s secure checkout process. In addition, the information on the site is “read-only,” meaning that even if an outsider were to gain access to your portfolio information, they would not be able to make trades or withdraw funds. The website is only meant to read and aggregate your holdings and transactions. No commands can be given to your brokerage account by using Wikinvest. Users who are still uncomfortable syncing with brokerage accounts can enter accounts manually (this option was not provided when we did our last review in 2010).
On the main portfolio page, the left side lists your accounts along with the portfolio values of each. The bottom of the left side shows portfolio performance against the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 index, the account value over time and the three largest gainers in the combined portfolios. Gains and losses are broken down into gains, deposits, dividends, interest, fees and other. Stats such as price-earnings ratio, price-to-book ratio, return on assets, return on equity, PEG ratio, beta and dividend yield are also provided for the portfolio.
The portfolio dashboard is separated into four separate tabs—news, performance, summary and fundamentals. Within each tab, you are able to group holdings by account, market capitalization, industry or asset class. In addition, each view is fully customizable. Over 30 data points are available that cover price, stock, valuation, income statement and balance sheet data elements. If you choose to include a Headlines column as a data field, links to news articles from Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes and The New York Times are all included.
Cash in your portfolio is tracked and included in the calculation of your portfolio return. However, cash withdrawn or deposited does not affect return calculations but does affect the graph showing account value over time. Portfolio alerts are available on a daily and weekly basis that show account balances, returns, top movers, latest portfolio and watch list news and historical performance for the previous day or week.
Wikinvest aims to be a top source of investment information and tools. The loose definition of a “Wiki” is a website that allows users to add content directly from their own browsers. In keeping with this definition, Wikinvest offers thousands of collaborative charts, company profiles, trading tips and articles authored by registered members of the website. Although anyone can edit a company’s page, the information is very thorough and thoughtful.
|Criteria are rated on a scale of one to five, with five denoting the best score. Performance rates how well the service accomplishes its stated objectives; Documentation rates the quality of online help and support; and Ease of Use rates how simple the system is to learn and operate.|
|Performance||Documentation||Ease of Use||Cost||Pros||Cons|
|+Portfolio X-Ray tools||–Limits on portfolios & securities in each|
|+Great tools for further analysis|
|+Best Portfolio report available|
|+Event driven email alerts|
|+Real-time data option||–Limits on portfolios & securities in each|
|+Generates many reports|
|+Numerous Java-based tools|
|5||5||5||free||+Links to 50+ online brokers||–Manually create watch lists|
|+No limit on number of accts|
|+Unique company summaries|
After thoroughly considering several online portfolio trackers, the same three—Morningstar.com, SmartMoney.com and Wikinvest—rate as top picks as did in our comparison in 2010. Simply put, these three websites provide the best combination of features and functionality, price and simplicity for the individual investor.
Morningstar.com and SmartMoney.com are also rated as top comprehensive websites and include a bevy of other investment offerings. There is a good chance that you are already using one of these websites for your personal investment research. Wikinvest is a refreshing new website that does away with manually updating transactions, a feature that in itself makes the website worth considering.