The hardest part of trying to invest is simply figuring out a good place to start. Some companies you might be familiar with — Subway restaurant, for instance, or the candy maker Mars — might not even be publicly traded and don’t have stock for you to buy. Other brands you are familiar with are so entangled in subsidiaries it can get confusing.
The good news is that a quick search in Google or Wikipedia will let you know the stock name and ticker symbol behind a given company or brand if you have some ideas of your own.
Do you have a favorite gadget, like your Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPad or Amazon (AMZN) Kindle, that you think everyone is going to own? Do you have a favorite restaurant or clothing store that always is crowded? Did you read about an innovative new medical product that you think has potential? Then find out if it’s an “investable” idea by tracking down the company behind those products or services.
No Idea? No Problem!
If you’re not confident enough in your own observations just yet, don’t worry. There’s a very engaged universe of investors just like you who offer free commentary on the Internet. Some of these guys will be trying to sell something, like a money management service, and many will make bad calls. But their musings are a great place to start — as long as you take what you read with a grain of salt, and promise to go through the next nine items on this checklist!
Here’s how I see it: Rather than see online stock commentary as a magical treasure map, you should view the financial media as a far less glamorous metal detector. It’s not as precise as “X marks the spot,” but when you hear a lot of beeping, it’s worth digging around. Sometimes you’re just stuck with a tin can — but you never know what you might find.
The rest of this book will teach you how to dig and sift the sand. But these five sites are a great place to start because they offer plenty of opinions and commentary beyond your typical grind of data-driven news items:
InvestorPlace.com: You are here — and this is my site. I designed it to be light on financial news and heavy on opinion. InvestorPlace.com specializes in “actionable” stories, meant to give investors trading ideas and not just information to chew over. The site aims to talk about what the headlines mean, not just regurgitate Reuters or Associated Press headlines you can find just about everywhere these days. (Check out my latest stock picks here)
Fool.com: The Motley Fool is one of the oldest media outlets for stock picks. Investing commentary sometimes requires you to register your email address to keep reading, but the ideas still are free and valuable.
MarketWatch.com/trading-deck: MarketWatch has long been part of the financial news business. But in 2011, it launched a dedicated section just for trading ideas. The “Trading Deck” also gives you actionable ideas beyond the typical news feed.
SeekingAlpha.com: Seeking Alpha has perhaps the largest group of investors and contributors out there, offering tons of trading ideas. It’s social, it’s easy to search and it has decent ideas. The bad news is that contributors get paid per click, so sometimes good headlines can lead you to disappointing articles … but that’s true for 99% of websites, financial or otherwise.
TheStreet: There’s a lot of news here, but also some good commentary from well-known advisors like stock personality Jim Cramer. Also part of TheStreet family of websites is Stockpickr.com, which focuses more on trading ideas and stock picks.
There are a host of other sites out there, too, so this is not a complete list. But skim these sites for starters — daily if you can, since the market moves fast. It’s also worthwhile to keep an investing mind-set as you follow your favorite “hard news” outlet. For instance, did you see that report saying oil prices are going up? Well, maybe it’s worth taking a look at oil stocks!
Always keep in mind my metal detector analogy in this first step. The goal is not to find a clear path to buried treasure, but just to follow the beeps and see where they lead us. We have plenty of digging ahead of us — but it’s crucial that we’re not just picking a spot at random to start our research.
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