Even the most experienced investors need a little stock advice from time to time, and finding a source to rely on for advice and information about stocks can be more difficult than it sounds. When it comes to your money, it's never wise to take chances, so knowing what advice to trust and what to ignore is crucial to making smart investments.
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Despite the advancements in modern technology, many investors still prefer to seek advice from financial advisers, who offer investors professional experience and training, according to Mike Binger, senior portfolio manager for Gradient Investments, LLC.
Binger says financial advisers are trained to assess your financial needs and risk profiles, and have experience dealing with individual strategic financial planning needs.
The best way to ensure that a financial adviser is reliable is to check his or her track record and make sure he or she is objective.
"If the source is a successful money manager like Warren Buffet or a well-established mutual fund manager then that is a plus," says Mark Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Stock Research and creator of Chaikin Power Tools. "If the source is your brother in law -- not so good."
Oftentimes, stock tips are written by someone with a vested interest in the performance of the stock, or even the company itself. That's why it's always wise to view a disclosure statement to find out who's doling out the advice. To avoid reading colored information, it's always a good idea to check with such reputable companies as Standard & Poor's and Moody's, which consistently provide unbiased information.
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"The ratings agencies rate equity securities that would be difficult for an individual to perform due diligence on their own," explains Binger. "They most likely have access to management within the firm they are rating."
Another advantage is that these ratings agencies are also independent, Binger notes, as they don't have investment banks that could provide a conflict of interest that may be in place at large Wall Street firms.
Unfortunately, since analysts in these larger firms sometimes get information at the same time it is disseminated to the public, their advice can occasionally be somewhat redundant. "They see bad or good data and adjust the rating. ... The price of the stock most likely will already completely reflect the news flow," he says.
Online resources can offer up-to-date advice for investors, but there is also a wealth of unreliable and misleading information. Some more unscrupulous sites may use sensationalist headlines or advice in an attempt to draw a larger audience, while others might only give brief synopses of reports that can overlook crucial details.
But with a little effort, investors can still find plenty of great advice on stock-picking websites; it's important to find the most reputable sites and ask the right questions. If someone offers you stock advice, searching through their previous posts and predictions to see how many of them were accurate will help you decide whether to take it or not.