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A Few Tools to Help You Invest

A Few Tools to Help You Invest

    Online tools make just about everything easier, including investing. No matter how far you’ve gotten in your investing efforts, there’s a tool or two that can help you out. I’ve listed out a few of the tools I’ve come to rely on below — and I hope you’ll add any you use in the comments.

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    Google Finance

    I rely on Google Finance for quite a few aspects of investing. I’m a big believer in checking out any hot stock tip myself, and Google Finance is one of the easiest ways to do just that. It’s got all the standard information about a stock, as well as one of the more up-to-date news streams for each stock. I particularly like the ability to save multiple portfolios — not only do I use Google Finance to track my own portfolio every day, I use it to keep an eye on a couple of other stocks that I either need a reminder not to buy (a lot of those hot stock tips wind up in that category) or a few investments I’m planning to make in the near future.

    TreasuryDirect

    Treasury securities, including bonds, have become incredibly easy to buy online. The U.S. Treasury maintains its own site — TreasuryDirect — where you can set up an account, link it to the bank account of your choice and pick up treasury bills, notes and bonds with a simple click. Even better, the interest you receive from these treasury securities is automatically deposited right back into the same bank account you used for your initial purchase. The site even includes calculators and other resources for investing in treasury securities, generally considered one of the most stable investments available.

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    Sharebuilder

    Sharebuilder allows you to buy stocks in fractional amounts, making it much easier to invest. It’s not exactly a new concept — Direct Purchase Plans and Direct Reinvestment Plans (known as DRIPs) provide the opportunity to buy smaller portions of a company than a single share. However, most DRIPs have certain requirements that can make them harder to use: you often already need to own a certain amount of stock in a company to get started. With Sharebuilder, as long as you have money, you can buy as much — or as little — stock as you want.

    The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

    I consider the SEC’s website to be an advanced investment tool. Personally, I don’t use it all that often — but there is an amazing amount of information available if you’re willing to sift through it. All publicly traded companies are required to file a number of different documents with the SEC and almost all of those filings are available online. The system has a bit of a learning curve, but you can get annual reports, information on a company’s securities and far more without a filter of news reporting or public relations spin.

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    Tip’d

    Tip’d is a site that recently left beta: I’ve been keeping an eye on it and, as far as keeping track of information that could affect your investments, it’s fairly useful. It’s a social media site and you can vote stories up or down. There’s a pretty wide variety of stories included on the site, but if you’re trying learn as much as you can about the market before making an investment, Tip’d is a good starting point.

    Inner8

    Another site that adds social elements to investing is Inner8. It’s still in beta, but this site has quite a few useful tools for investors. Site members have the opportunity to recommend specific stocks — as well as recommend against particular stock picks. You can also keep close track of any fellow investor that you feel has a particularly good grasp on investments: you can see how accurate a person’s predictions are and receive updates as soon as they make a new prediction. Inner8 also provides the standard information on specific stocks, like forecasts, trading information and news updates. This site was built by members of the team that established E*TRADE and the two sites work well together. I don’t recommend one online brokerage over another, but E*TRADE has one of the longest histories of such companies and is worth looking at when you consider such options. Ameritrade is another well-known option for trading online.

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    Getting Started With Investments

    Between these tools and this week’s introduction to various types of investments (part 1 and part 2), you’ve got the basic information to start researching investments. While I won’t offer up any investment advice — the right investment for me may be completely wrong for you — I would say that there are plenty of opportunities out there, even though the stock market and other investments have taken a beating lately. In fact, there are a few deals out there because of the current economic crunch. Much of this information could be used to maximize your 401(k)’s or IRA’s potential, if you’ve already set up a plan for retirement savings.

    You’ve got several options as far as next steps go. In general, knowing as much as you can about an investment before you actually risk your money is a good idea. However, if you aren’t interested or able to learn as much as you’d like before investing, you can always consult a professional. There are brokerages everywhere and all of them are happy to help you invest your money.

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    Last Updated on March 31, 2020

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why We Procrastinate After All?

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    Is Procrastination Bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How Bad Procrastination Can Be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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    Procrastination, a Technical Failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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