Financial Planning

Best Investing Tools

Classic books, easy-to-use Web sites and newsletters that sizzle.

We pick useful tools to help you invest wisely. Find out the number-one investing portal, top-performing stock and fund newsletters, the best books, where to go for bond data and more.

Online tools and resources

BEST OVERALL ONLINE INVESTING SITEYahoo Finance Many have tried, but none has been able to match the depth and utility of Yahoo's investing portal (http://finance.yahoo.com). Type in a ticker symbol and you are instantly linked to virtually every public piece of information available about that particular stock. In fact, the strength of the Web site is its clean design and smart linking, which allow you to find what you need without getting lost -- or suffering intrusive ads.

BEST FREE STOCK SCREENERYahoo Finance Yahoo's screener (http://screener.finance.yahoo.com/
newscreener.html
) packs more than 150 criteria into an easy-to-use, downloadable tool that works on Windows- and Mac-based computers. The criteria cover all the bases, including profitability measures, balance-sheet data and income-statement numbers. Or, you can choose from 19 preset screens to find a selection of, say, large-company stocks that are cheap and growing.

BEST BOND INVESTING SITEInvestinginbonds.comThe Bond Market Association, a trade group, provides a useful guide to this sometimes inscrutable business. You'll find all the basics here, plus calculators to help you convert yields into prices and vice versa, a wealth of data and indexes categorized by market (municipal, government, corporate and mortgage), and timely price information on individual issues.

BEST FORUM TO CHAT WITH OTHER INVESTORSClearStation.com Stock message boards are essentially online hangouts where users hash over their favorite -- and not-so-favorite -- stocks. Postings can be insightful, but they can also be freewheeling and frivolous. ClearStation.com, run by E*Trade Financial, lets you search for posts by ticker symbol. A rating is assigned to the author of each post, based on what other users think of the author's picks and comments.

Books, newsletters and more

BEST INVESTING BOOK OF ALL TIMEThe Intelligent Investor Before Benjamin Graham, stock investing was about as scientific as astrology. Graham, who died in 1976, pioneered security analysis and propounded the notion that a stock's price should have some connection to the underlying company's actual worth. He condensed his vast knowledge into The Intelligent Investor, a book first published in 1949. Among his timeless suggestions: Seek to buy a stock at a price that is well below the company's intrinsic value. The Intelligent Investor dispenses timeless advice for less than $20. Now that's good value.

 

FIRST-PERSON PICK:
BEST INVESTING MOVIE

 

Other People's Money

A vocal faction here at Kiplinger's voted for "Trading Places," the classic commodities comedy with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. And Michael Douglas's Oscar-winning performance and "greed is good" tagline made 1987's "Wall Street" perhaps the most memorable cinematic portrayal of big-business morality.

But my choice is "Other People's Money," which offers a more nuanced and satisfying view of business. Danny DeVito, as corporate raider Lawrence "Larry the Liquidator" Garfield, is stereotypically ruthless and self-centered as he tries to take control of an old-line New England manufacturer of cable and wire. Gregory Peck, as CEO of the targeted company, is wonderfully caring and devoted to his longtime employees. But the company's a financial mess, and he's clueless about his obligations to shareholders.

So who's really the bad guy? Credit director Norman Jewison for avoiding a pat answer to that question while managing to offer up a Hollywood-style happy ending.

--David Landis

BEST COMTEMPORARY INVESTING BOOKCommon Sense on Mutual Funds Want to know just how hard it is for fund managers to beat the market? Pick up Common Sense on Mutual Funds, by John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group and creator of the first mutual fund designed to track Standard & Poor's 500-stock index. Bogle's 1999 manifesto laments that his pleas on behalf of low-cost index investing are "not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor." The ensuing years, though, have been marked by the rise of exchange-traded funds, which in many cases undercut the expenses of even traditional index funds. Bogle's cogent criticism deserves at least some of the credit.

BEST FUND NEWSLETTERSNoLoad Fund*X No-Load Fund Analyst For sheer performance, you can't do much better than buy the picks of NoLoad Fund*X, edited by Janet Brown. If you had followed Fund*X's advice over the past ten years, according to Mark Hulbert, the doyen of investment-letter judges, your fund portfolio would have returned a sizzling 18% annualized. Fund*X (www.fundx.com) costs $179 a year.

If it's education you seek, try the wonderfully erudite No-Load Fund Analyst. Editors Stephen Savage and Ken Gregory interview leading managers and assess their funds. The letter (www.nlfa.com) costs $600 a year.

BEST STOCK-PICKING NEWSLETTERThe Turnaround Letter George Putnam began a love affair with companies that flirt with bankruptcy in the late 1970s. Since 1986, his newsletter has been handicapping the odds that troubled companies will stage comebacks. Over the past 15 years, according to The Hulbert Financial Digest, the monthly letter's picks have returned an annualized 18%. The letter costs $195 a year. For a sample issue, visit www.TurnAroundLetter.com.

BEST INVESTING TV SHOWNightly Business Report This PBS stalwart is welcome relief from the manic pace of daytime business news shows. After the markets close, hosts Susie Gharib and Paul Kangas run down the day's top stories, dishing out key market statistics in digestible doses. In-depth pieces and interviews with newsmakers add much-needed perspective. It's a no-frills half-hour that goes down well with an evening cocktail.

BEST PLACE TO RUB ELBOWS WITH BIGWIGSMorningstar Investment Conference Each summer, the heavyweights of the mutual fund world -- such as Legg Mason's Bill Miller and Loomis Sayles's Dan Fuss -- descend on Chicago for a three-day powwow to talk stocks and investment strategy. Next year's conference will be held June 27 through June 29. Admission, which covers all the panels and meals, is $695. For details, call 866-839-9729.

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