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When it comes to investing, you’re not exactly plying with Monopoly money: Your cash is real. And brokers, analysts, and financial advisors are waiting online, ready to influence what you do with the capital you’ve worked so hard to accumulate, while financial Websites can be a convenient place to learn about investing, you should always evaluate a site’s worthiness before letting it influence your financial future.
“One good sign of a respectable site is a track record,” says the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Ronald C. Long, a district administrator in Philadelphia. “A reliable site has probably come from a brick-and-mortar investment firm or advisory service; that’s not necessarily the case, but it’s a good start.”
He also offers the following pointers to help you decide which sites offer valuable and reliable information:
1. What’s the catch? “If the site itself is focused on selling it may be all right, but may [also] be going after the money in your pocket,” says Long. “That’s not a crime, but something to factor into your assessment.”
2.Watch the language. Watch out for terms such as “risk-free,” “guaranteed,” or “make big money.” Those terms are pretty much nonexistent investing.
3. Be wary of foreigners. “Offshore sites should be less useful to the U.S. ivestor,” says Long, particularly if they’re encouraging you to send your money without knowing where or to whom it’s going
Features such as wireless trading, free research, and 24-seven customer service support are only a few of the perks you get when you sign up with Ameritrade. Visitors can open a basic cash account with as little as $1,000. The site also offers portfolio-allocation tools and analysis on premium memberships. Trades start at $8 for as few as 100 shares or as many as 10,000.
With tools such as ShareBuilder and the Black Stock Index, blackenterprise.com offers a wealth of information for novice and seasoned investors. Produced by BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine, the site provides news and features to help investors make educated choices about their finances. Visitors can also set up a Myblackenterprise.com start page to get the latest news and information instantly.
Blackstocks.com Inc., a subsidiary of Strategic Interactive Media Inc., is a small business that encourages African Americans to accumulate wealth and get involved in the stock market. The site’s Black Index features Black Funds, Black Companies, and Market Recap. Explore areas for the old, young advanced investor; read about retirement issue, small business resources, investment clubs, and professional organizations.
CNNfn reports on events and issues that affect the financial markets, and its Website keeps you in the loop top news (deals and debuts, technology, and the economy), markets (bonds and their rates, earnings estimates, IPOs, Wall Street research), world business, and small business information. The Company Search feature lets you drill 24 industry categories so you can grab just the headlines you need.
DATEK ONLINE (www.datek.com)
An easy-to-use interface, low transaction fees, and no minimum purchase make Datek Online an attractive place to trade stocks online. Datek offers NYSE, AMEX, Options, mutual funds, Nasdaq,