If stocks are included in your investment portfolio, you may be searching for an easy and efficient way to track your stocks.
It can be beneficial to stay informed about news that may impact the financial health and performance of your stock holdings so you can make more informed investing decisions.
What to Know Before You Start Tracking
There are several different ways you can go about tracking your stocks.
One of the simplest is to subscribe to financial and investing magazines and websites such as Money, Forbes, Barron’s, Kiplinger’s, Investor’s Business Daily and Bloomberg Businessweek.
These resources contain valuable information and reporting about publicly traded companies that can help you determine which direction their stock might be headed in the future. Some of them allow you to set up alerts letting you know when any market news is published about a stock that you’re tracking.
Similarly, you can also track stocks by listening to investing podcasts. A few popular investing podcasts are The Investor’s Podcast Network, The Stacking Benjamins Show, Invest Like the Best with Patrick O’Shaughnessy, and Sound Investing with Paul Merriman.
Another way to track stocks is to participate in the company’s quarterly earnings calls. During these calls, the company’s CEO, CFO, and other financial leaders talk about its quarterly financial results in detail. Pay especially close attention to the Q&A portion where financial analysts ask leaders detailed questions (you might even be able to ask a question yourself). Earnings calls typically take place several hours after the earnings announcement is made in a press release.
The issuing company’s website is yet another valuable resource for tracking a stock. Most public companies’ sites contain an investor relations section with a wealth of detailed investor information such as fact sheets, videos, slide shows, financial reports and historical stock information. This is also where you’ll find the date and time for the earnings call.
Some smaller public companies will even respond directly to your inquiries. Call or email the investor relations department with your specific question — you might even get to speak directly with a company executive.
Also take time to read the issuing company’s annual report. These are usually published in April and contain detailed information about every aspect of a company’s financial performance over the past year, as well as a preview of the upcoming year. In particular, look closely at the president’s letter at the beginning of the report — it often contains nuggets that you won’t find anywhere else.
Tracking Stock Investments Online
One of the best ways to track stocks online is to set up an online portfolio tracker. Some of these trackers include tools that allow you to insert the number of shares you bought and the price you paid. The tool then uses current stock quotes to update the value of your stock holdings and portfolio on a near-real-time basis.
Be sure to check out Personal Capital’s free Investment Checkup tool. This technology enables you to monitor the performance of your stock holdings, assess your level of risk tolerance, view a target asset allocation based on your risk and investing time horizon, and compare your current portfolio allocation to your ideal target allocation.
Most online portfolio trackers also include links to recent company news, articles and blogs that mention stocks you hold, historical share prices and the company’s SEC filings. You may also be able to set up email or text alerts to let you know about breaking news affecting your stock holdings.
Investor bulletin boards are another way to track your stock investments online. This is where investors gather virtually to share thoughts and opinions, ask questions and observe what others are saying about the stock. Remember, however, that most of these online bulletin boards are open for anyone to post on and you don’t always know who is saying what or how knowledgeable or authoritative they are. So it’s smart to be skeptical and take some of what you read on online bulletin boards with a grain of salt.
Tracking Stock Investments Using Software
If you prefer to track your stock holdings using software loaded onto your personal computer, you can still do this as well. Desktop software often includes features that aren’t available from online portfolio trackers. A few popular stock tracking software programs are:
- QuickBooks: This traditional accounting software program is the stock tracking software program of choice for many sophisticated investors, especially those who are comfortable with using generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, to analyze stocks. The program is available online in several different tiers and price points, as well as via software you can load onto your PC.
- Fund Manager: This software program mirrors the capabilities of the stock tracking tools used by many professional investors. Available in three different tiers — Personal, Professional and Advisor — Fund Manager offers extensive reports, powerful graphing, technical analysis, capital gain calculations and more.
Tracking Stock Investments Using Spreadsheets
Customized spreadsheets can give you the most control over your stock tracking. A couple of popular stock tracking spreadsheets are:
- Google Spreadsheets: This free online spreadsheet program automatically updates information from publicly available investment sources like Yahoo! Finance. Unlike software loaded onto your PC, you can access your spreadsheets anytime from anywhere since they’re online.
- Microsoft Excel: This commonly used spreadsheet program can be helpful when it comes to tracking the cost basis of stocks, calculating aggregate dividend income and creating a dividend schedule. It is limited, however, when it comes to importing real-time stock quotes.
Which is Best for You?
Spend some time researching and investigating the various stock tracking methods to decide which one is best for you. You might even want to take some of them for a test drive by downloading or purchasing a software or spreadsheet program or setting up an online portfolio tracker.
If you’re ready to get started, sign up for Personal Capital’s free, online financial tools. You can aggregate all of your financial accounts, including your brokerage, in order to see your complete net worth in one place.
With the investment checkup, you can analyze your holdings and uncover hidden fees.
Personal Capital compensates Don Sadler (“Author”) for providing the content contained in this blog post. Compensation not to exceed $500. Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation. The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money. Third party links are provided solely as a convenience and do not imply an affiliation, endorsement or approval by Personal Capital of the contents on such third party websites.