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Take Your Pick

To get sound advice from a financial newsletter, you've got to choose the right one.

If you want in-depth information on investments, try subscribing to a financial newsletter. Easier said than done--there are thousands to choose from.

J. David Stewart, founder of the 3-year-old financial newsletter Stewart Report, offers these guidelines:

*Evaluate the content:

1. Does the newsletter provide thorough research on investing, or a potpourri of information on lots of topics? For busy entrepreneurs, focus is key.

2. Does it target ultra-knowledgeable investors or neophytes? If you don't fit in with its readers, you'll either be in over your head or bored.

3. The overall investment strategy should be clearly stated, and there should be a section that looks at how past recommendations have fared--both good and bad.

4. Check the credentials of the newsletter analyst or organization. This, as well as current information on their accomplishments, should appear in each issue.

*Evaluate external factors:

1. Look at the credibility and track record of the analyst or organization publishing the newsletter. Does the featured analyst have enough experience in the financial community?

2. Does the newsletter offer alternative delivery methods? "In some places, you don't want to rely on the [U.S. Postal Service] because by the time you get it, the news might be old," says Stewart. Those sent via e-mail, priority mail or fax offer more timely information.

3. Find out the size of the subscriber base; if it's too large, a buy recommendation could artificially inflate an investment.

4. Does the newsletter give updates on investment recommendations between issues? This is particularly important with less-frequent publications.

While these guidelines can help you choose a good newsletter, Stewart says one other element must be considered: you. "Investors must be educated about what to look for in themselves," says Stewart. "When you take the broker out of the picture, people sometimes make mistakes in the areas of asset allocation and suitability [of a stock for their portfolio]."

That's why while newsletters may offer you in-depth information, they're no substitute for a financial planner.

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Take Your Pick.

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