America's new hobby may be investing-and today billions of dollars are being poured into publicly traded equities and mutual funds. The good news is, the Web is an ideal tool for tracking what's happening on Main Street and Wall Street. With a few key strokes you can check out what's up with any stock or mutual fund. Click some more and you'll find in-depth analyses of listed companies. Whether you're crafting a sales pitch or just wanting to find out how solvent a potential customer is, all the info you need can be found, free of charge, for any company that trades on the major exchanges.
Case in point: Log on to Quicken (www.quicken.com), enter a public company's name, and you're greeted with a menu of information-the current stock price, performance charts, analyst reports, a corporate profile, message boards, SEC filings and anything else you desire. For more details, check out the analyst reports issued by the major brokerages-most cost between $5 and $30. But with so much quality information available for free from outfits like Multex Investors (http://quicken.multexinvestor.com/home.asp), why even use the credit card?
MSN's MoneyCentral (http://moneycentral.msn.com/home.asp) is another site to visit. You'll find the usual mix of stock prices, reports and filings, built on MSNBC's information. Or try Raging Bull (www.ragingbull.com), where lively message boards are the main draw. You can also enroll in The Motley Fool's (www.fool.com) Fool's School for a primer on investing strategies. If you click around, you'll find quotes, reports and more.
Investment tumbles are still inevitable. But, at least when it comes to building your portfolio, the Web now lets you use the tools once reserved for big boys.
To contact Robert McGarvey, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.