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Online Investing Hacks
By Bonnie Biafore
June 2004
More Info

How do these hacks stand up? Comment on a hack from the book by choosing the associated "Discuss" link below. You can also view the code from any of the hacks by clicking on the "Listing" or "Code" links. A number of hacks have been selected to be featured online in their entirety; you may view those hacks by clicking on the hack titles that are linked.

You can also download all the scripts and other files for this book here.

Jump to: Screening Investments  | Hacking Excel for Financial Analysis  | Collecting Financial Data  | Analyzing Company Fundamentals  | Technical Analysis  | Executing Trades  | Investing in Mutual Funds  | Managing Your Portfolio  | Financial Planning

Screening Investments

HACK
#1

Screen Savings Rates

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#2

Screen Fixed-Income Investments
Find the perfect individual bond for the income-producing portion of your portfolio with online bond screening tools
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#3

Screen Loan and Mortgage Rates
Getting a great loan or mortgage rate is one of the easiest ways to free up some serious cash to fund your investments
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#4

Fast and Free Stock Screening Tools
Narrowing the stock field down to a handful of attractive candidates is easy with many of the online stock screening tools
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#5

Build Industrial Strength-Stock Screens
When you have very exacting criteria for the stocks you want, define your own criteria with an industrial-strength screening tool
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#6

Weed Out Results

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Hacking Excel for Financial Analysis

HACK
#7

Download Data Using Excel Web Queries

[Discuss (2) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#8

Make Good and Bad Values Stand Out
In an Excel spreadsheet, you can highlight red flags and green-light results with formatting
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#9

Make Nested Functions Work in Excel
Getting nested functions to work is easy when you trick Excel features into mimicking functions and subroutines
[Discuss (8) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#10

Prevent Growth Calculations from Blowing Up
Excel's regression functions are great for calculating compound growth rates unless there's a zero or negative value in the mix; conditional statements prevent these values from destroying your calculations
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#11

Flexible Techniques for Referencing Data
A number of Excel functions can help you summarize data or retrieve specific values to use in a formula
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#12

Add Conditional Commentary
You can use the Excel IF function to display reminders or recommend appropriate steps to take based on the values for a company's financial results
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#13

Create Financial Charts in Excel

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Collecting Financial Data

HACK
#14

Download Mutual Fund Data

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#15

Choose Your Favorite Flavor of Data
Mixing financial data from different sources can lead to fiscal indigestion, so you should evaluate data differences and then stick to only one source for all your stock analyses
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#16

Obtain Price Quotes
You must know the going price for an investment so that you can make an informed decision to buy, sell, or hold
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#17

Download Historical Price Files
Historical prices are necessary if you're to successfully evaluate fundamental and technical measures for a stock
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#18

Download Financial Statements
Download financial statements to study financial ratios without tedious manual data entry
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#19

The Best Data for Free
Data that helps you evaluate investments doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg—or anything at all for that matter
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#20

The Best Data for a Fee
Some data is worth the price you pay for it, making it significantly easier to evaluate company performance
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#21

Download News
Business news is all over the Web and easy to obtain electronically; the trick is receiving what you need to know without reaching information overload
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#22

Locate the Competition
Before you can buy the best company in an industry, you must determine which companies represent the competition in that industry
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#23

Obtain Averages for an Industry and the Competition
Some web sites place industry average values next to a company's financial measures for convenient comparison; you can obtain averages for a company's direct competitors with carefully configured stock screen results
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#24

Create Alerts

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Analyzing Company Fundamentals

HACK
#25

Calculate Percentage Change for Growth and Return
It's basic math, but measuring the percentage change in price for a company is the first step to uncovering future winners
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#26

Calculate Compound Annual Rates of Growth
Compound annual growth rates are the key to comparing the growth rates of different investments
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#27

Calculate Price and Dividend Ratios
Calculate price and dividend ratios to help you figure out the current value of a stock
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#28

Calculate Additional Valuation Ratios
Finding good companies is only half the battle; buying them at the right price is the other. A number of valuation ratios help you figure out if the price is right
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#29

Calculate Financial Strength Ratios
Examine a company's financial strength to avoid the 98-pound weaklings that can wreck your portfolio performance
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#30

Calculate Management Effectiveness Ratios
Management effectiveness ratios tell you whether company management uses shareholders' equity and company assets to produce an acceptable rate of return
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#31

Calculate Turnover Ratios
Use turnover ratios to see if a company's management is using its assets effectively to generate profits
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#32

Calculate Profitability Ratios
Calculate and evaluate a company's profitability to determine its chances of future success
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#33

Compare Year-to-Year Results
Buy-and-hold investing doesn't mean buy-and-forget. Compare a company's performance to the same period a year ago to look for signs of trouble with its fundamentals
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#34

Compare Several Competitors to Identify the Strongest Candidate
A beauty pageant with only one contestant isn't likely to find the most talented or congenial individual. Likewise with stocks—before you invest, judge your candidate against several of its peers
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#35

Measure Earnings Predictability in Excel
Calculating R-Squared for a company's earnings is one way to measure stock quality and risk
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#36

Use Rational Values to Buy and Sell Wisely
By determining the rational value of stocks, improve your investment results by keeping emotions out of your buy and sell decisions
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#37

Are You Walking on the Wild Side?
Make sure that the investment return your portfolio is earning sufficient compensation for the risks you take
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#38

Use Ready-Made Fundamental Analysis Applications
Although short-term traders have dozens of technical analysis software programs from which to choose, long-term investors have only a few fundamental analysis applications that help evaluate stock fundamentals
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#39

Spot Hanky Panky with Cash Flow Analysis
Although it's no secret that some companies have cooked their books, you can spot signs of questionable bookkeeping before the results or subpoenas are served
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#40

Use Online Analysis Tools
Target strong contenders and weed out also-rans with a quick fundamental analysis of any stock using these web tools
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#41

Find the Best Free Excel Tools for Fundamental Analysis
If you don't want to coerce too many brain cells into building an analysis spreadsheet, you can find a few Excel tools for free
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#42

Find the Best Excel Tools for Fundamental Analysis for a Fee
If you're willing to spend money to make money, some stock analysis spreadsheets for a fee offer comprehensive analysis features that are worth the price
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#43

Analyze Real Estate Investment Trusts
Want a stake in real estate without the headaches of hands-on property management? Invest in real estate investment trusts (REITs)
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#44

Bank on Banks
Although you've probably used banking products and services such as checking accounts, savings accounts, and loans, do you know how banks make money and how to translate that into investment opportunity?
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#45

Steps to Building a Financial Analysis Template
A checklist of steps to perform and questions to ask can produce more consistent stock studies as well as better investment results
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Technical Analysis

HACK
#46

Use Line and Bar Charts
Line charts and bar charts help you focus on price changes
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#47

Light the Way with Candlestick Charts
Price patterns are easier to spot when you graph price movement with candlestick charts
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#48

Point and Figure Charts
Resistance, support, and the direction of price action are easy to identify in point and figure charts once you learn to interpret them
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#49

Look for Patterns in Technical Charts
Studying price charts for patterns helps you identify future price movements that you can translate into profits
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#50

What's Volume Got to Do with It?
Because most charts and indicators rely solely on price, trading volume can provide an independent confirmation or contradiction to the signals you see
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#51

How to Use Indicators and Oscillators
Indicators and oscillators are mathematical constructions based on price and volume that predict price movements
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#52

Support and Resistance
Knowing how to recognize and profit from levels of support and resistance can improve your trading success
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#53

The Best Tools for Technical Analysis
Technical analysis tools range from online tools that display charts and indicators to software applications that offer technical screening and trading strategies
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Executing Trades

HACK
#54

Pick the Right Type of Trade
Brokerage firms offer different types of trades or orders that you can use to limit the risk of buying and owning stocks
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#55

Execute After-Hours Trades
News can affect the stocks in your portfolio, even when the markets are closed. Some brokerage firms offer after-hours trading that enables you to buy and sell stocks, and possibly avert disaster—as long as you understand the risks
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#56

Sell Fractional Shares
Selling fractional shares isn't obvious when you place online orders. You must know how different brokerages handle fractional shares so you don't end up paying a big commission to dump a piddling investment
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#57

Build Your Own Mutual Funds
A few online brokerage services help you build a diversified portfolio of stocks that serves as a personalized mutual fund to reach your financial goals
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#58

Buy Bonds Online
Online trading for bonds isn't in the same league as online stock trading, but a few brokerage firms offer true electronic bond trading
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Investing in Mutual Funds

HACK
#59

Why Don't My Funds Perform as Well as Others?
Learn how mutual fund expenses cut into the money you make on your fund investments
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#60

Calculate the Damage of Mutual Fund Expenses
Calculate the hard cash you pay to own a fund to determine whether its expenses are worth the price
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#61

Analyze the Hidden Costs of Fund Turnover
When fund managers jump in and out of stock or bonds in search of quick profits, the fund companies pick your pocket for the cost for all those transactions
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#62

The Taxman Cometh for Your Fund Returns
Although taxes can chew through your mutual fund returns when you invest in a taxable account, the new tax law of 2003 can trim your tax bill
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#63

Evaluate Short-Term and Long-Term Returns
Examine mutual fund long-term returns and risk characteristics to avoid getting burned by funds on a momentary hot streak
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#64

Manage Interest Rate Risk with Bond Fund Duration
Use bond fund duration to find out whether your bond fund investments could tank if interest rates rise
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#65

Evaluate Mutual Funds
Check key fund measures to find funds that are likely to outperform the competition
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#66

The Best Mutual Fund Screens for Free
With over 14,000 funds to choose from, you can use help finding the ones that meet your needs
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#67

The Best Mutual Fund Screens for a Fee
Although free screens get the basic job done, turbo-charged mutual fund screens can improve your results and earn their subscription fee
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#68

Beware of the Closet Index Fund
Some actively managed mutual funds have portfolios that read like stock index funds, but their fees are higher
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#69

Spot Mutual Funds That Don't Play Fair
Some fund companies have betrayed your trust. Before you bail out of mutual funds completely, get a handle on what's happening, who did what to whom, and what you can do about it
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#70

Know When to Fold 'Em
Buying funds is easy—selling them when the time's right is the tricky part
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#71

Comparison-Shop for Mutual Funds
Picking the best mutual fund for your investment goals can not only increase your investment returns, but also reduce your portfolio maintenance efforts down the road
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#72

Compare Mutual Funds Online
If you don't have specific criteria you use to compare funds, an online fund comparison tool might meet your needs with far less work
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Managing Your Portfolio

HACK
#73

Build an Online Portfolio
Before you can use online portfolio tools to track your investments, allocate your assets, or rebalance your portfolio, you must create an online portfolio of your holdings
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#74

Asset Allocation: Less Risk on the Road to Returns
Allocating your money to different types of investments can reduce your investment risk while still producing gratifying investment returns
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#75

Keep Allocation in Line
Keeping your asset allocation on target means adjusting how much you own of each holding as investments grow or shrink
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#76

The Best Portfolio Management Tools for Free
Prevent unpleasant drops in your portfolio from the poor performance of one investment by analyzing and adjusting your portfolio diversification with free online portfolio management tools
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#77

The Best Portfolio Management Tools for a Fee
Free tools cover the basics, but you can conduct an in-depth examination of your portfolio with these for-fee portfolio management tools
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#78

Portfolio Management with Excel
A spreadsheet is a great aid for deciding what steps you need to take to manage your portfolio
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#79

Take the Sting Out of Portfolio Management
Buying stocks can be fun, but managing your portfolio can seem like drudgery unless you automate recurring tasks
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#80

Use Bonds in a Portfolio
Bonds are a great way to reduce risk and provide income—as long as you use them correctly
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#81

Calculate Investment Return Over Different Time Periods
By calculating the compound annual return you earned over different lengths of time, you can determine your portfolio performance
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#82

Compare Your Return to a Benchmark
Portfolio cash flows must be identical to compare the returns for your portfolio to a benchmark
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#83

Forecast Future Returns
The returns you might achieve using fundamental analysis depend on a company's earnings growth rate and the price you pay for the stock
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#84

Compare Returns for Alternative Investments
Converting different types of investment into the same form of compound-interest problem makes comparisons easy
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#85

Assess Portfolio Quality
In investing, quality not only can keep you out of trouble, but it can improve the returns you achieve as well
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#86

Flag Fundamental Sell Signals
The reasons to sell are often the opposite of why you bought
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Financial Planning

HACK
#87

Choose the Right Type of Account
The type of account that's right for you depends on the services you want, the returns you expect, and, in most cases, the taxes you would rather not pay
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#88

Choose an Online Broker
Online brokers offer the convenience of investing wearing your robe and slippers, but first you have to choose the right combination of services and costs
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#89

Pick the Best Broker for Your Trading Style
Commissions and fees can take a big bite out of your investment returns, so you should consider your typical trading patterns to determine the most cost-effective brokerage
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#90

Save Up for Something Good
By planning ahead and regularly saving money in the right types of investments, you can have the money you need when you need it
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#91

Up, Up, and Away: The Cost of College
With college costs soaring out of sight, putting your kid through college without putting yourself in the poorhouse requires some financial homework
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#92

Let Me Count the Ways to Save for College
Who says the government isn't on your side? Federal law and state savings programs provide liberal tax breaks and multiple ways to save for college
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#93

A College Savings Plan in Every State
Cut through the confusing array of Section 529 college savings plans by focusing on state tax breaks, investing options, and costs
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#94

Balance Risk and Return for College Costs
Building a college nest egg can take some time, which means that your investment strategy must change depending on where your child is on the road to college
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#95

When It's Time to Break the College Savings Piggy Bank
It takes some fancy footwork to tap college savings while maintaining your child's eligibility for financial aid, minimizing taxes on earnings, and simply making the money last
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#96

Save for Retirement While Still Enjoying Yourself
Online retirement planners help you find out if your current plan is working, and tell you what to do if it isn't
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#97

Juggle Multiple Objectives
When you're saving for goals that occur at different times, juggling money across different types of investments takes some planning
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#98

Get Out of Debt Before Debt Takes It Out of You
Running up too much debt can foil the best financial plans, so it pays to find out where you stand before you go too far
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#99

Find a Financial Planner
Financial planners come in all shapes and sizes, so do some homework to figure out what kind you need, what services you want, and whether it's worth the cost
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#100

Build a Ladder of Fixed-Income Investments
Building a CD ladder provides access to your money while limiting your exposure to interest rate and inflation changes
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]


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