Content continues to be the single most important determinant of what constitutes a good website. Though Internet users increasingly want to access websites from any location on any number of different devices, content—whether in the form of written articles, video, audio or tools—is what continues to draw visitors to a website. This is why, when putting together our 15th Best of the Net Guide, we placed an emphasis on providing you with a list of the most useful investment-related websites and tools. A useful website has more value than one that may be on the cutting edge from a technological standpoint, but lacks much in the way of good content.
The reviews in this year’s guide are for traditional websites, instead of the new crop of mobile websites. Our rationale is that desktop and laptop computers are still the primary choices for Web surfing, and many mobile websites and apps lack the full functionality that traditional websites offer.
However, we do realize that the growth of the market for iPhones, Android smartphones and tablet computers (e.g., the iPad) is changing the way users are interacting with content. In response, we’ve added a new section in this year’s guide that lists the best financial apps (applications).
For the second consecutive year, the guide includes boxes listing the websites that the AAII staff use personally. These lists not only name the websites, but also detail the specific features we like and why we use the sites. You will also see boxes highlighting our favorite features of AAII.com and our favorite financial Twitter feeds.
The first section of the guide presents a categorical listing of our picks for Best of the Net. The second section provides an alphabetical listing of individual websites, with information about the features we find particularly useful and how to find the content and tools within each site. The online version of this guide includes hyperlinks to all of the top sites.
AAII awards a Best of the Net rating to sites that provide investment information or service that, in our view, is both useful and substantial to individual investors and available either for free or for a reasonable price.
Most sites provide the information or service that we are reviewing free of charge. Some offer basic information for free and charge various rates for more in-depth data or expanded services. In the alphabetical listings, we show the lowest and highest rates to give you an idea of the range; visit the sites for complete details on pricing.
Some types of sites not included here are covered in other AAII venues: broker sites are investigated annually in Computerized Investing, mutual fund family sites are listed in AAII’s annual Guide to the Top Mutual Funds, and exchange-traded fund (sponsor sites appear in the annual Guide to Exchange-Traded Funds. You can access these special articles year-round in the Investor Guides area of AAII.com.
Keep in mind that the Web is constantly evolving. Sites can change drastically in a short period of time. Be sure to verify the source of information or provider of a service. And read the fine print on pricing before agreeing to pay for any data or investment service.
When researching a stock, I use these free websites to seek out information that cannot be found by merely analyzing financial statements.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (publishes filings for publicly traded companies in its EDGAR system. I pay particular attention to Form 10-K, which is a company’s annual report and is a goldmine of information.
Seeking Alpha publishes quarterly conference call transcripts for many companies. These transcripts can offer a lot of insight into a how a company performed over the past quarter and what management thinks may happen in the future.
Even though I am a value investor, I always look at a stock’s price chart to make sure I have not missed anything with my analysis. The customizable charts on this website are easy to use, but offer enough tools to satisfy someone who wants to conduct detailed technical analysis.
Many websites do a good job of providing updated news and commentary on individual stocks, so this is merely my personal preference. I like the way the site separates news articles and press releases on the quote pages for individual stocks.
—Charles Rotblut, CFA, vice president at AAII and editor of the AAII Journal
The Internet offers so many great investment resources that my favorites focus on the tools that I use to control the flow of information.
Most investment sites offer an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed that alerts readers when information has been updated or newly published. By subscribing to an RSS feed, I am able to centrally follow news headlines and stories from a wide range of sites in an organized fashion. I like to use Google Reader (www.google.com/reader) to manage my RSS feeds. I can read the feeds on Google, but generally I use the NewsRack application (www.omz-software.de/newsstand) on my iPhone and iPad to scroll through my headlines, read interesting stories, save stories, and share stories with colleagues. I am currently following the feeds of AAII.com, CNNMoney.com, MarketWatch.com, Morningstar.com and The Wall Street Journal.
I am always coming across interesting articles on the Web that I want to read later or save for reference. Instapaper has a service that allows you to mark pages to read later and stores that information in a centralized location. Beyond reading online, you can download and print your saved articles as well as format them for reading on your Kindle or other e-book reader. Smartphone and tablet apps provide access to optimized mobile versions of your saved Web pages.
The CNBC website allows me watch CNBC TV on my computer and provides real-time data and alerts. Their great mobile app, CNBC Pro, alerts me to breaking news and allows me to track my portfolio (pro.cnbc.com).
Many websites also offer helpful emails that push information to my inbox. For example, I get a daily email from Morningstar.com that lists the daily price action and news headlines for each of my holdings.
—John Bajkowski, AAII’s president
Twitter is a useful resource for investors, despite its origins as a social networking service. It provides news in real time, and many posts contain links to full-length articles. The 140-character limit of a single post, called a “tweet,” forces writers to be pithy, which not only makes the posts interesting to read, but also easy to scan. Most importantly, since Twitter connects so many people, we are often alerted to insightful commentary that we would have otherwise missed.
Twitter is very simple to use. You do not have to write a single tweet if you don’t want to. In fact, you can read all of a person’s or company’s tweets simply by going directly to their Twitter page. For example, www.twitter.com/BloombergNow displays all of the headlines posted by Bloomberg News.
However, there are advantages to signing up for your own Twitter account. The biggest one is that you can create a list of the people and companies that you want to follow. This turns your Twitter page into your own personal news feed, which is simpler than visiting multiple Web pages to get the same information. You can also post questions and interact with other Twitter users. Finally, if you are so inclined, you can write your own tweets. Twitter is completely free.
In terms of investing, who you should follow depends on your interests. Investment-related tweets cover everything from a broad view of the market and the economy to specific information about an individual’s trades. To help you get started, here are some of the favorite twitter feeds among AAII staff.
Financial Times Alphaville
New York Times Business
Wall Street Journal
The Dismal Scientist
WSJ Real Time Economics
Among the AAII staff, Wayne and Charles maintain Twitter pages. You can see a complete list of who they follow by going to their personal twitter pages and clicking on the “following” link on the right-hand side of the page.
Wayne A. Thorp
We also offer Twitter feeds with AAII content and other useful information.
AAII Invest Ed
AAII Stock Investor Pro
This remains my go-to website for financial news. On the right-hand side of the website, the last five viewed quotes and my watchlist are easily accessible, along with the most popular articles.
Yahoo! Finance lists the most recently searched quotes along with my portfolio on the right-hand side. Clicking on “View more top stories” from the home page gives me the archived top stories on the economy, stocks, bonds and earnings. I find this section useful when scanning for major events related to a big swing in the markets.
I like Wikinvest as an online portfolio manager. The website automatically connects to my brokerage and retirement accounts and updates my holdings. The performances of my various accounts are available on the home page and performance is broken down in the performance tab.
—Z. Joe Lan, AAII’s assistant financial analyst
I find this an excellent source for definitions of financial terms. In addition, the site has tutorials and articles broken down by investment level and style, such as Beginners, Active Traders and Retirement. The coverage is comprehensive.
Arguably the best charting website available and an excellent resource for free point & figure charts; it’s my favorite chart analysis tool. In addition, the site’s Chart School is an excellent starting point for those wishing to learn more about charting and technical analysis.
By following a variety of investment professionals and hobbyists, I am exposed to numerous investment articles that I otherwise would not find on my own.
With so many websites scaling back on their financial statement data, SmartMoney.com offers 15 quarters (and 10 years) of detailed income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement data.
The Premium subscription gives me top-notch portfolio tracking and stock and mutual fund screening tools, along with excellent investment insights and analyst reports.
—Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, AAII senior financial analyst and editor of Computerized Investing
AAII Investor Classroom
This is a great “how-to” resource, and I constantly refer members to it. The various lessons cover everything from managing risk and return expectations to evaluating dividend stocks. Best of all, it is very easy to find guidance on a specific investing topic.
Stock Investor Pro can be daunting without proper guidance, and our wiki and videos are great resources. Specifically written to help users familiarize themselves with the program, the wiki covers all the main sections of SI Pro and highlights their key functions and capabilities. Best of all, the wiki is collaborative: Users can submit their own input and suggestions. New SI Pro videos are posted monthly as a complement to the SI News email.
AAII Discussion Boards
This is an excellent way for AAII members to interact with one another without having to leave their homes! Pose questions to other members on a variety of topics or offer your insights on member questions or comments.
—Wayne A. Thorp, CFA
AAII Stock Screens
The stock screens area offers both education and investment ideas for members looking to construct and manage a stock portfolio. The area profiles over 50 strategies grouped by investment style. Members can read about factors that make each approach unique, see how a hypothetical portfolio following each approach has performed during various market environments, and even get a listing of stocks passing each screen.