by CI Staff
PearBudget is an online service for budgeting and expense tracking. One of the most difficult aspects of budgeting is getting the numbers right. Sometimes we over- or under-estimate our expenditures, exaggerate our financial flexibility, or forget about smaller expenses that often add up to a significant cost. The solution is to understand that an individual’s budget is a living plan that is regularly refined and updated to make it as realistic and useful as possible, rather than a one-and-done plan that will be ignored for its lack of usefulness. PearBudget structures the user’s budget around this by breaking it into two parts: a spending plan and a spending record.
The first part of creating a budget with PearBudget is completing a five-step guide that helps users develop a spending plan, which includes both expenses and income. After completing the five steps, users adjust the numbers in their plan so that the remainder of their income is positive. The second part of creating a budget is entering spending receipts and income for the month.
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Finally, the Review tab allows users to compare how closely their actual spending matches their planned spending (i.e., budget) for the month. Users can easily see where they have over- or under-budgeted and where they can cut back on expenses. As with any good budget, users can go back and adjust their spending plan or add categories to it so that it is a more accurate representation of their financial situation and goals. With a reasonable budget, users can not only see where they need to cut back on spending, but also where they can afford additional spending or saving.
PearBudget is one of the easier budgeting services to use, but it does not compromise on performance and flexibility. For instance, PearBudget provides an area for irregular spending where users can enter their annual expenditures on things like property tax and college tuition. PearBudget will calculate the approximate monthly allocation necessary to meet this future obligation so that users are prepared for these expenses when they are due rather than dipping into a special-purpose account, such as a 401(k) retirement plan or “rainy day” fund.
Moreover, users can add notes or tags to any receipt when it is entered, which helps in analyzing their budget at the end of the month and year. This is especially useful for unusual events. For instance, if an individual has a car accident, he or she can tag the car repair receipt as an accident repair. At the end of the month and year, the user will see this tag and know it is a charge that is unlikely to happen again in the near future and so would not require budgeting for. However, if the unusual event occurs often, the user might want to begin including it in their budget.
PearBudget is an easy-to-use, flexible and comprehensive online service. Users can access their budget wherever there is an Internet connection without having to worry about backing up their information.
System Requirements: Web browser with an Internet connection
Price: $4.95/month; free 30-day trial
ETFzone.com is an independent exchange-traded fund ETF information website that allows users to research ETFs, compare them, and read asset class reports for free. Members of the website can create their own ETF portfolios using a step-by-step guide provided by ETFzone. They can also sign up for a free monthly ETFzone email newsletter. Membership is free and requires no personal information.
One downside of the site being free is that it contains an abundance of advertisements. However, the company that owns the website, Index Investing, LLC, maintains that all editorial content is produced independently of its advertising arrangements. A bigger weakness is the website’s lack of a search bar, which means that users have to manually scroll through a long list of funds to find a specific ETF.
Despite these potential negatives, ETFzone offers many useful features. For instance, ETFzone’s Comparisons tab is particularly useful when you screen for investments and must decide between a few ETFs. The Comparisons tool displays a chart showing the performance of each ETF for an adjustable time period, a table of each ETF’s performance at various time periods, and some useful information about each ETF, such as its primary asset class, fees and share price. This makes it easy to notice if, for instance, two ETFs perform similarly, but one has much higher fees than the other.
The Portfolios tab allows you to create, view, edit and delete your ETF portfolios. To help you create a portfolio, the website guides you through seven steps that simplify the process of creating an ETF portfolio from scratch while still allowing you to specify items such as time horizon and risk tolerance. For instance, if you would like a traditional, domestic, long-term ETF portfolio, ETFzone will not only narrow the abundant list of ETFs to a list that matches your specified criteria, it will also help you diversify the portfolio by asking you to select a different asset class for each ETF. ETFzone will then weight each ETF to match your criteria, indicate how many shares of each ETF provide that weighting, and display a pie chart of the portfolio’s asset allocation.
Overall, ETFzone is a useful resource for any investor interested in exchange-traded funds, especially index investors. However, investors should use the website in addition to their current process or as a starting point, rather than make decisions based solely on information provided by the website. The data displayed at the site is almost a month old, and user-created portfolios carry the disclaimer that they are designed for modeling and/or tracking purposes.
System Requirements: Internet connection and Web browser
Index Investing, LLC
Stock Aides 1.5
Stock Aides is a free stock charting and analysis program that runs on Windows. The program uses freely available historical quotes from online data sources, such as Yahoo! Finance and MSN Money. This means that it cannot provide intraday charting or analysis. However, except for day traders, this should not diminish the program’s effectiveness.
The software is divided into three windows: watch list on the left, analysis in the middle, and information on the right. The preset watch list is a sample to help users get started, but the stocks can be deleted and replaced with those of your own choosing. Double-clicking on a ticker in the watch list will retrieve the stock’s data and display its chart. To analyze a particular stock, make sure it is selected and click the Stat button. To display information about the company, right click in the information window and select the information desired.
Stock Aides’ analysis feature only performs a pure historical data analysis of a stock; it does not include any industry news or forward estimates beyond that which may already be embedded in the stock’s quote. With the analysis feature, users can measure a stock’s annualized historical volatility, volume ratio, trend and more. For instance, at the time of writing, the program showed that investors were bullish on Apple for the short, medium and long term.
The charting feature is quite sophisticated for a free program. In addition to seeing a stock’s price movement, users can view indicators such as moving averages, trade volume, RSI (relative strength index), and MACD (moving average convergence-divergence). Clicking the Options button allows you to adjust the program’s features, including a variety of default chart settings such as the chart type and data display range. To temporarily change the settings of the chart currently being viewed, simply right-click on it to display the charting options. Right-clicking on the chart also allows you to save an image of the chart or its data.
One particularly interesting feature is volume support and resistance analysis, which is displayed in the analysis window by clicking the Volume button. The information is color-coded: red for the resistance level, green for the support level, and black for current market price. When one of these rows is selected, the support or resistance level is highlighted on the stock’s chart to give a visual representation of the information. In addition to volume analysis, Stock Aides can also perform Pivot Point support and resistance analysis by clicking the Pivot button. For more information on any of these features, a Help area is provided.
System Requirements: Windows OS, 300 MHz or faster processor, 64 MB RAM or more; high-speed Internet connection; Microsoft .NET framework 1.1 or higher (installed automatically, if needed)
Timing Laboratories LLC
TinyTrader is a portfolio management program for Windows that can also download stock quotes and charts while helping users stay up-to-date on their investments. The program can download data for any security available on Yahoo! Finance, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, or forex currency. Data can also be downloaded for intraday, end-of-day, and historical periods; however, intraday quotes are delayed by at least 15 minutes. For foreign currencies, TinyTrader automatically converts investments to the user’s default currency.
The Home tab is where the bulk of research is done. To add a ticker to the Watchlist window, users type the symbol into the search bar, located just under the Watchlist window, and double-click on an investment to add it. In the Quotes window, users can view an investment’s current performance data and chart by clicking on its ticker symbol. Even though charts in TinyTrader are downloaded from Yahoo! Finance, they are fully customizable. Users can adjust the chart’s size, type, date range, and even add technical indicators. Selecting the chart icon, next to the chart setting options, displays a list of technical indicators supported by the program, such as RSI, volume, MACD, Bollinger Bands, and more.
In an attempt to help users stay current on their investments, TinyTrader provides a News and Google button, located on the Home tab’s menu “ribbon,” which opens the user’s default browser to Yahoo! Finance Headlines or Google News, with the selected investment already loaded. TinyTrader also provides a built-in Web browser so that users need not leave the program.
The Portfolios and Alerts tab is where TinyTrader becomes a portfolio manager. After creating a portfolio, adding investments to it becomes a little tricky. Users must go back to the Home tab and double-click on a desired investment in the Quotes window. A pop-up display asks for purchase details regarding the selected investment, such as quantity, price and fee. The Portfolios and Alerts tab then displays each investment’s performance as well as the portfolio’s performance and balance. Users can create price alerts for any investment by clicking on the bell icon next to its ticker symbol and entering a target price.
Aside from the few irritating inefficiencies such as the cumbersome portfolio building process, TinyTrader is a good all-in-one program for investors who would like to monitor their investments in multiple portfolios and download historical quote data. For users who prefer analyzing data in Excel, almost everything in TinyTrader can be imported into (and exported from) Excel 2.0 and XML format.
System Requirements: Windows OS, 32 or 64 bit; .NET Framework 4 Full Profile and SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP2 (program prompts download)
Price: Approximately $25; free 30-day trial
TradingBlock Introduces Portfolio Hedger
Online broker TradingBlock introduced Portfolio Hedger, a query-based tool that lets investors quickly create and rank protection strategies for nearly any stock or ETF in their portfolio. Using Portfolio Hedger, investors can select one or more stocks or ETFs in their portfolio or watchlist and specify what type of protection they want based on two basic criteria—how much downside risk they are willing to accept and how long they wish to maintain the protection. Portfolio Hedger then returns five or more “collar” protection strategies ranked either by the overall cost of the protection or the amount of upside potential the investor can retain as long as the protection is maintained.
TradeStation Adds Chart Trading Tool, Backtesting
TradeStation added dynamic chart trading functionality to its analysis and trading platform, giving traders additional speed and flexibility in placing orders and managing their positions. Used in conjunction with a Chart Analysis window in the TradeStation platform, the new Chart Trading feature integrates click-and-drag order-entry functionality, allowing traders to quickly and easily place trades and manage positions and orders from a chart. Buy and sell orders can be placed, edited or canceled by clicking directly on the chart or by clicking on the various order-entry buttons in the Chart Trading Bar.
TradeStation also released Portfolio Maestro, which enables traders to evaluate strategies for multiple symbols simultaneously. Portfolio Maestro provides portfolio-level performance reporting, risk assessment and optimization for virtually any combination of symbols and strategies. Its performance and optimization reports—including advanced analytics such as Monte Carlo analysis and correlation analysis—provide analysis of the portfolio from multiple perspectives.
TradingView.com Adds Data and Watchlists
TradingView is a social media website for traders by MultiCharts. It now offers users European stock data, U.S. futures data and a watchlist capability for tracking ticker symbols. The watchlist feature shows prices for users’ favorite symbols; with symbol-linking, sorting and symbol drag-and-drop to provide a complete overview of market activity. Other updates include a bull’s-eye category that shows accurate predictions by members, and more indicators for technical analysis, including ZigZag, Pivot Points, and the Alligator, which brings the total number of indicators to 45.
New Russell ETFs for High Dividend Yield
Russell Investments launched two high dividend yield exchange-traded funds (HDIV) and Russell Small Cap High Dividend Yield ETF (DIVS) seek to track the market-capitalization-weighted Russell U.S. Large Cap High Dividend Yield index and Russell U.S. Small Cap High Dividend Yield index, respectively.. The Russell High Dividend Yield ETFs are yield-focused products that seek to deliver more predictable returns, while offering an alternative to currently lower-yielding fixed-income products. The Russell High Dividend Yield ETF
Market Vectors Launches Indonesia ETF
Market Vectors ETF Trust announced the launch of Market Vectors Indonesia Small-Cap ETF (IDXJ), the first U.S.-listed exchange-traded fund designed to provide investors with pure play exposure to the small-capitalization segment of Indonesia’s stock market. Market Vectors believes the country is well positioned to continue to its rapid growth. IDXJ is the second ETF introduced by Market Vectors that focuses exclusively on Indonesia, joining Market Vectors Indonesia Index ETF , which focuses on the large-cap segment of the Indonesia economy.