June 30, 2004
"Online Investing Hacks": How to Hack Your Portfolio for Fun and Profit
Sebastopol, CA--It's an all-too-common scene, played out in guest
rooms/home offices around the world: a would-be investor takes to
the computer keyboard, hoping a bit of technical proficiency can help
hard-earned savings to grow. A couple of keywords are typed into the
search engine...and then the sheer volume of data that comes pouring forth
makes any rational person power down and put off investing for another
day, or even turn the whole process over to a financial professional (not
that there's anything wrong with that). Wouldn't it be great to find a way
to stem that bewildering deluge of financial data? To sort out the web
sites and stats? To assemble that flood of information--which will only
continue to grow--into a sensible spreadsheet from the cost-effective
comfort of your own computer chair?
These questions occurred to award-winning financial author Bonnie Biafore.
"In 1990, I decided I needed to learn more about my investments," says
Biafore, "but I struggled with books that were poorly written, didn't
provide examples, and didn't address the questions I had about my
specific situation. I made every mistake there was." An admitted type-A
personality, Biafore doggedly began to compile and organize online
investing essentials. The result? Online Investing Hacks (O'Reilly, US
$24.95), a collection of 100 industrial-strength tools and techniques for
analyzing and managing online portfolios.
Investment skills and analysis are becoming critical, Biafore points out.
"People are more responsible for their finances than they were in the
past, but must choose from more complex options: dozens of account types,
hundreds of financial institutions, thousands of savings vehicles, stocks,
mutual funds, and other types of investments. The Internet provides
educational information and tools for the do-it-yourself investor, who
needs help understanding what is important and then weeding through the
overwhelming supply of online information."
Online Investing Hacks is far from an arid checklist of investment dos
and don'ts. A regular speaker on the investment club circuit, Biafore's
friendly prose mirrors her affable public-speaking style. "Many people are
struggling to manage their investments and want someone to explain the
intricacies of the stock market to them in plain words and give them tools
to make their job easier," Biafore says of her motivation for writing
Online Investing Hacks. "I have a knack for making complex topics seem
simpler and sometimes can even make them seem fun."
Biafore was careful to craft each hack as a manageable chunk of
information, meant to work as a standalone topic, so investors can pick
and choose as needed. The book combines straightforward explanations of
the important concepts with online tools for more generic decision-making.
It also goes one step further by demonstrating how to customize online
tools and Excel spreadsheets to fit specific investment requirements.
Divided into nine chapters, Online Investing Hacks groups tools and
topics into the most important areas:Screening Investments: test potential investments before giving them
Hacking Excel for Financial Analysis: learn the ins and outs of how Excel
can be used to gather, analyze, evaluate, and track investment data
Collecting Financial Data: make the most of information gathering
Analyzing Company Fundamentals: measure company performance for a
well-rounded view of investment opportunities
Technical Analysis: get to know the key players in the online investment
arena and build a nucleus of tried-and-true financial web sites
Executing Trades: buy and sell with a minimum of effort, overhead, and
Investing in Mutual Funds: understand mutual funds, stocks, and bonds and
where each fits into investment strategies
Portfolio Management: discover how to weed and feed an investment
portfolio for specific results
Financial Planning: connect the dots of goals and investments into a
solid financial plan
Online Investing Hacks includes timely and real-world information about
the mutual fund scandal, how to spot problems, and what to do about them.
It also provides some advice for analyzing companies for signs of
hanky-panky, using Enron and Worldcom as examples.
"We need more education, more information, and more assistance with our
financial lives, while companies work furiously to remove human
interaction from their customer service processes," concludes Biafore.
"Fortunately, the Web has grown to fill the gap. Financial information was
once expensive, hard to obtain, and available only to those who knew
enough to ask their brokers. Now, it's available to everyone, at all
hours of the day, and much of it is free."
Other books for managing online investing are either out of date, are for
beginners and don't go beyond the most basic advice, or are dull and
boring. Online Investing Hacks dives right into the latest techniques
and goes beyond the basics, providing readers with the tools to find joy
and satisfaction in hacking their own portfolio.
Online Investing Hacks
100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools
ISBN 0-596-00677-2, 300 pages, $24.95 US, $36.95 CA
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