To determine how healthy and promising a company is as a possible investment, you’ll need to do some digging into it. Here are some online resources that can help. If you’re computerless, consider reading “The Little Book That Beats the Market” by Joel Greenblatt or “The Little Book of Value Investing” by Christopher H. Browne (both Wiley, $20).
•The company’s own Web site. Look for links labeled “About Us,” “Corporate Information,” “Investor Relations,” etc., and try to read through at least the most recent annual report. Even a “Career Opportunities” section can give you insights into how heavily it’s hiring, what kind of people it needs, and what various employees do in their jobs. Search engines such as Google.com can help you find a company’s Web site.
•Online company data providers, such as http://quote.Fool.com and http://finance.yahoo.com. Financial statements that companies must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are available through such sites and also at www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml.
•Analyst research reports. Most major online brokerages (such as E*Trade, TD Ameritrade, Schwab, Fidelity, etc.) offer customers access to a range of Wall Street reports on loads of stocks. Learn more about sorting out brokerages at www.broker.fool.com.
Ask the Fool
Q: Where online can I find information on colleges and financial aid? — H.E., Philadelphia
A: The U.S. Department of Education ( www.ed.gov) offers a wealth of information on government student aid programs. Read its excellent handbook at http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/ publications/student_guide/index.html. The www.finaid.org Web site has the scoop on everything from scholarships to alerts on popular financial aid scams (type “scam” into the search box). At www.fastweb.com you can search a large scholarship database.
My dumbest investment
My worst investment by far was spending around $30,000 buying tools and equipment to set my second husband up in business with a woodworking shop so that he could sell lawn ornaments and small furniture items at flea markets. I never saw a dime out of the venture, and neighbors later said his “work” involved more going out fishing than anything else. We divorced, and he left the state with all the tools, etc. I ended up filing for bankruptcy. Instead of saying “I do,” I should have run the other way! — R.G., Port Charlotte, Fla.
The Fool Responds: Before merging your financial life with anyone, it’s worthwhile to make sure you have similar or compatible financial attitudes and habits. Along with discussing your dreams of the future, discuss your dollars. For more financial advice for couples, visit www.fool.com/personal-finance/retirement /2005/08/18/couple-up-and-save-cash.aspx or read Dayana Yochim’s “The Motley Fool’s Guide to Couples & Cash” (Motley Fool, $12.50).