Our 17th annual Best of the Net guide features what we consider to be the most useful online resources. We tell you where to go to find data, access good analytical tools and get answers to key questions. In all cases, we looked for websites that provide useful information, are easy to use and do not overwhelm you with ads. Whenever possible, we sought out websites that are free, though when subscriptions fees are charged, we clearly tell you. (Keep in mind that many websites offer both free and subscription-based content.)
Our primary criterion for analyzing a website was to consider whether it offered value for its visitors. There are a large number of websites with well-designed pages and lots of content, but that possess little that is unique enough to make them stand out from their peers. We paid a lot of attention to the quality of content and whether it was credible or not. We also compared our former Best of the Net picks against their peers to see if a better alternative has emerged in the past 12 months.
One notable website missing from this year’s guide is SmartMoney.com. The site was shut down earlier this year by its corporate parent, Dow Jones. We were sad to see it go because SmartMoney.com was one of our favorite websites for both content and tools. In its place, you will see several new names.
To reflect the changing nature of the Internet, we also revamped the listing of social media and networking websites. Most notably dropped from the list of recommended websites are the Yahoo! Finance message boards. New to the category this year are Seeking Alpha and StockTwits. The former is an aggregator of financial blogs, newsletters and other financial commentary. The latter is a Twitter-based website.
Many websites automatically adapt to the device you are accessing them on, whether it is a PC, an iPad or a smartphone. Some websites also offer apps for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. The quality of these apps varies widely, however, and in our experience, they often lack all of the content or features available on a website. There are some apps worth downloading, however, and you can find out what they are here.
Finally, you will see boxes throughout the guide listing our favorite resources on AAII.com and the Internet resources that the AAII staff personally use. The third-party resources we personally use are not necessarily “Best of the Web” picks, but they are websites and tools we find to be very useful.
The guide presents the top sites by category, with information about the features we find particularly useful and how to find the content and tools within each site.
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 (ETF) 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 mostly free websites to seek out information that cannot be found by merely analyzing financial statements.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) 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 much insight into a how a company performed over the past quarter and what management thinks may happen in the future. (To find transcripts, enter a stock’s ticker in the search box to call up the quote page and then click on the “Transcripts” link below the price chart.) I mostly ignore the articles submitted by contributing authors and posted on Seeking Alpha, however, since their quality varies widely. The website may prompt you to register; if so, registration is free.
On its quote pages, Barron’s links to not only its own articles, but also articles from The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires and MarketWatch. The format makes it very easy to scan through all headlines from all four sources without having go to different websites or sort through headlines from other sources. A subscription is required to read the actual articles from Barron’s and The Wall Street Journal.
CNNMoney does a good job of aggregating news articles from a variety of credible sources. Equally important, it excludes much, but not all, of the fluff and repetitive articles that now appear on other websites. I now use CNNMoney’s portfolio tool for monitoring all of the stocks I follow.
Even though I am a value investor, I like to 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.
Investor Relations Websites
To locate, type the company’s name plus “investor relations” in a search engine such as Google.
Often overlooked, the investor relations section of a company’s website can offer a large amount of information. Though each website is different, it is not uncommon to find presentations, annual reports, dividend history, historical press releases and a calendar of upcoming events. —Charles Rotblut, CFA, vice president at AAII and AAII Journal editor
—Charles Rotblut, CFA, vice president at AAII and editor of the AAII Journal editor
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. Feedly is a news aggregator that allows me to organize my feeds and read my news items on a number of platforms—computer Web browser, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire, etc. Feedly keeps track of the articles that I have read, so if I go through the news items on my phone with the Feedly app in the morning, only freshly posted articles will be displayed when I access the Feedly website on my computer in the afternoon. Feedly allows me to scan headlines, read articles, save stories for later access or share news through email links or social networking postings. Some of the feeds that I am currently following include AAII.com, CNNMoney.com, ChicagoBusiness.com, ChicagoTribune.com, Engadget.com, Lifehacker.com, Morningstar.com and The Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com).
Market Pulse – WSJ.com
I have a digital subscription to The Wall Street Journal and have complete access to the full content on the Web and through their apps that work well on the iPad and Kindle Fire. I make use of WSJ’s Markets Pulse feature, which provides streaming coverage of the news impacting the markets. Major market indexes and an overview of issues moving the markets are presented on one side of the page, while headlines from the wide array of sections covered by The Wall Street Journal are posted to the other side of the page. New stories are time-stamped and added to the top of the list. It is easy to expand upon a given headline and read the full story without leaving the Web page. Markets Pulse also works on tablets and smartphones.
The CNBC website allows me to watch CNBC TV on my computer or iPad 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). It is the primary phone app I use to track the stocks in my portfolio.
Many websites also offer helpful emails that push information to my inbox. For example, I get a daily email from Seeking Alpha that lists the daily price action and news headlines for each of my holdings from my portfolios.
Discount Brokerage Research
I have accounts at two discount brokers that offer research on stocks and mutual funds from third-party services. I generally find it useful to get a second opinion on a stock before I buy or sell the security. While the research offerings differ from broker to broker, most top discount brokers give their customers free access to research reports from companies such as Morningstar, Thomson Reuters and Standard & Poor’s.
—John Bajkowski, AAII 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/BloombergNews 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
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. Outside of tracking performance, however, the site lacks sophisticated portfolio analysis tools and functionality. But it is available to users for free and has apps that can be installed on smartphones and tablets.
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. The site does a good job of highlighting breaking news at the very top.
The Economist’s focus is much more international, providing a great change of pace from the normal financial websites; it mixes world politics with business and economics. The website also features science and technology news and provides a section dedicated to global culture. Mostly, though, I like scrolling through the headlines since they are often vastly different than those presented at domestic financial news outlets.
— Joe Lan, CFA, assistant financial analyst at AAII
I find this to be 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.
This is my go-to site for company news. I like how the site breaks things down by “premium” outlets, including WSJ.com, Barron’s, TheStreet.com, and Seeking Alpha, as well as by company press releases. That way I can get “unfiltered” news about a company as well as that with an analytical slant.
—Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, AAII senior financial analyst and Computerized Investingeditor
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.
—Charles Rotblut, CFA
AAII Asset Allocation Models
AAII’s asset allocation models are a great guide for individual investors who want to diversify their investments across different asset classes. The guide presents suggested weightings for asset classes based on your personal risk tolerance. It also shows the historical return and standard deviation for the various asset allocations.
—Joe Lan, 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 more than 60 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.
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 Local Chapters
There’s always a lot going on at the AAII local chapters, and the Chapters area is a great place for members to find out who’s speaking where. You can locate a chapter near you through the main page’s listing by state or click on the Chapter Map. The Chapter Calendar is a comprehensive list of all meetings and can be sorted by date, chapter or speaker. If you are not receiving meeting announcements by mail or email, you can view and download the meeting details online. Questions about how the chapters are run are addressed in the Chapter FAQs page.