Three Steps to Taking Control of Your Investments
(Family Features) Investor optimism has steadily climbed since 2006, and more investors are managing their own investment portfolios, according to a recent study from investing firm Scottrade, Inc.
"Investors and traders are seeing the opportunities in the market, and they are able to take action," said Kim Wells, Scottrade's executive director of product development and chief marketing officer. "More resources and online trading tools are available to help them find openings to build their portfolios and reach financial success."
For the growing number of self-directed investors entering the market, here are three steps to take to manage a portfolio.
Gauge Accessibility Needs
Those who self-direct their investments tend to check their portfolio and log into their accounts more frequently. According to a survey commissioned by investing firm Scottrade, Inc., most investors (59 percent) check their investments at least once a week and a quarter of them log in on a monthly basis.
Every investor and trader has different needs, and it's important to identify how to interact with the investment company.
- Want to be able to walk into a branch? Not all investment firms operate a branch network, or only have a handful of offices, while others have local offices across the country.
- Need to call someone after market hours? Many investment firms operate call centers to handle customer questions.
- Trading on the go? Investment firms have evolved to meet the needs of investors and traders by expanding their availability to include mobile apps. The majority (60 percent) of investors who own a smartphone report using them for banking and investment transactions and related needs, such as checking account information, according to the Scottrade study.
- Want to interact with the firm on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube? Find a firm that provides the opportunities to connect via social media platforms.
By prioritizing needs and comparing the various offerings at investment firms, self-directed investors will be better equipped to find the right firm with which to partner.
Research Your Resources
Explore an investment firm's online resources. Whether pre- or post-log in, most online research tools, such as those at Scottrade, are available free of charge. More than one-third of investors say they taught themselves how to invest by using online investment education tools.
- Learn what research tools each investment firm offers. Make sure real-time information is available to track a portfolio with charts and news. Learn about customizable features within each account and set up a system to easily see relevant information and take advantage of market momentum.
- Look for market calendars that present expected activity (such as initial public offerings, earnings reports, dividends, etc.) in ways that are easy to understand.
- Check for on-demand webcasts and live webinars to educate investors and traders on a variety of topics that interest them and meet their trading experience levels.
- Engage in an online trading community. These virtual groups bring investors and traders together, allowing them to swap investment strategies and learn from like-minded people. Most communities are also moderated by an investment firm with professionals who can answer investment-related questions and provide customer support.
Many find investing fun with general optimism among investors reaching a three-year high, according to the Scottrade study. Self-directed investors' confidence has strengthened as the Internet has made information about the markets, rules and guidelines more accessible.
Yet while online trading saves investors and traders time and money, it does not take the homework out of making investment decisions. Before making a trade, investors need to understand the risks of each investment and the goals of their portfolios.
With the right tools at hand and by partnering with a reputable investment firm that meets individual needs, self-directed investors can take charge of their investments with confidence. To learn more about self-directed investing, visit www.scottrade.com and find more information on the Scottrade 2011 American Investor Study.