“Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there’s no more music in them.” Louis Armstrong
When we retire, particularly if we retire early, we will need to manage our finances more carefully than ever before. Lacking a steady paycheck, we need to ensure that we have adequate income to meet daily needs, and that our assets will last throughout our lifetimes. This involves careful portfolio management: keeping track of our assets, ensuring that our investments are appropriate, and projecting future needs.
Traditionally, retirees with assets to manage had to turn to a financial planner or other professional for expert advice on portfolio management. However, there are now a wealth of tools available on the Internet that allow retirees and other investors to reliably track their investments. Many of these sites provide information about stocks, bonds, and other investments, and, best of all, many of them are free.
Google Internet Investment Tool
Google Finance is one such website that offers online financial news and advice, and that allows you to track your own personal financial data. Googlefinance offers a great deal of information about the stock market and individual stocks, mutual funds, companies, and more; the website focuses on North American markets, and is free to users.
The website is easy to use. If you don’t already have a Google financial login and password, you need to create one; if you already use Google’s email service, you can use the same login and password to access Google Finance. A menu bar at the top left of your screen will provide links to various Google services; if “Finance” does not appear on the first menu bar, click “more” and select “Finance” from among the remaining selections.
The opening screen of Google Finance provides a market summary, with various stories about current market activity. There is a menu at the left that takes you to other areas of the website; “News” provides a listing of articles about the general markets, from a variety of online sources. And, at the bottom, “Google Domestic Trends” provides information about specific market sectors (in the United States.)
The meat of the website is in “Portfolios”: Here you can create your own personal portfolio of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment products that you already own or would like to track. To add an item to your portfolio, you need to know the ticker symbol; if you’re not sure what that is, you can key in the full name of the security or fund in the “Get Quotes” box at the top, and the ticker symbol will appear beside the full name. As soon as you have entered your item, various information about that item will appear — current price and recent changes, an overview, past performance, links to relevant news articles, and more. All of this information will help you determine whether the investment still belongs in your portfolio, or whether you should buy more.
You can continue to add items, or remove them; and Google allows you to create several different portfolios, if you wish to keep parts of your portfolio separate or create sample portfolios for comparison purposes.
Finally, Google Finance provides a stock screener; if you are searching for stocks with certain criteria, you can define those criteria and Google will provide you with a list of stocks that meet them. This will help you select stocks that are most suitable for your needs.
Google Groups offers a discussion forum for users of Google Finance; you can post your comments or questions, or follow other discussion threads about topics of interest to you. You should remember that, as with all online discussion forums, comments posted by other users are not necessarily reliable; you can get general information, and in time will get a feel for posts that you can trust versus posts that may be exaggerated or bogus. Also, the discussion forum is monitored by Google employees, who will delete inappropriate comments and who will also post their own responses to technical issues. A response by a Google monitor is always identified as such.
There is much more that you can do at Google Finance if you dig deeper into the website. You can compare stocks, by tracking the performance of individual securities simultaneously. You can create custom charts. You look ahead, by getting after-hours stock quotes for certain companies, and you can look back, researching 40 years of archived stock activity.
If you have a portfolio of stocks and funds that you rely on to provide your retirement nest egg or a retirement income stream, and you need an easy way to track your holdings, Google Finance is one website that can help you.