As Shakespeare hinted in As You Like It, too much of a good thing can be, well, not so good. When it comes to information about investing, it seems, truer words were never spoken. Data, charts and stock tips abound on the internet. Many books and—ahem—magazines offer a ton of investing advice, too—enough for rookies to master the basics of investing and for old hands to hone their skills. The problem is, the flood of material makes it difficult to separate the good, the useless and the stuff that’s flat-out dangerous to your wealth.
How do you sort through the jumble of voices to find the advice that’s most appropriate for you? The key is to make sure your investing philosophy meshes with that of the source you’re reading. Focus on finding a suitable source or two. “Too many voices can be a problem,” says Dan Wiener, editor of the Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors. “It can get confusing.”
We polled advisers, professional stock pickers and bond specialists to find the best investing tools, newsletters, websites and journals. Some of our favorites are free; you’ll have to pay for others. We’ve organized our favorites by topic: stocks; mutual funds and exchange-traded funds; bonds; and market commentary and more.
Stocks. Unfortunately, identifying newsletters with records of superior recommendations got harder with the demise in early 2016 of the Hulbert Financial Digest, which tracked the results of investing letters. Editor Mark Hulbert says the digest’s long-term records through January 2016 remain valid. But any performance data beyond that date comes from the letters themselves and has not been independently verified.
If you’re building a stock portfolio, check out Morningstar’s StockInvestor ($42.95 per quarter or $135 per year). Its “Tortoise” and “Hare” portfolios are the highlights of the monthly newsletter. The portfolios are created by a Morningstar division that manages client portfolios using the same Hare and Tortoise strategies. The newsletter’s Tortoise portfolio, which at last word held 18 companies, led by Berkshire Hathaway and Lowe’s, returned 7.3% annualized over the past 10 years, compared with 6.7% annualized for Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. (All returns are through October 31 unless otherwise noted.)
Morningstar’s DividendInvestor newsletter ($59.95 quarterly, $189 for one year) is also appealing. Its Dividend Select portfolio yields 4.0%, and over the past 10 years it outpaced the S&P 500 by an average of 2.1 percentage points per year.
Dividend.com (premium membership $149 per year) is geared toward investors looking for income. To compile its list of “best” dividend stocks (there are currently 20), it uses a proprietary formula to rank stocks by such factors as the number of years a company has paid a dividend, the frequency of dividend hikes, and the likelihood that the firm will continue to pay and boost its payout. Use the list as a starting point for picking stocks; it is not designed to be a portfolio.
Reality Shares’ DivCon is another good—and free—source of ideas for dividend payers. Reality Shares, a sponsor of ETFs, rates 1,200 dividend stocks on a scale of one (dividend cuts are imminent) to five (hikes are imminent).
Before the internet and the deluge of information it brought forth, the bible for stock research was the Value Line Investment Survey. The survey—known in the old days for thick binders filled with one-page reports on some 1,700 stocks rated 1 (best) to 5 (worst) for timeliness—still exists but mostly online. The website also contains tools for charting, screening and building watch lists. Value Line offers an array of digital subscriptions, from $199 per year to $795 per year. The more you spend, the more data and research you get.