Why the free tools on your broker's website aren't good enough

If you already have an ISA or SIPP account, you'll have access to your broker's free website. This probably provides a lot of investment data about funds and shares and will also let you see how your investments are doing.

Why subscribe to SharePad or ShareScope when you can get all that for free?

But let's consider how useful your broker's website really is. Let's start with your portfolio. How has each holding performed today? How has your portfolio performed over the last 12 months? Since the beginning of the year? Can you easily find this information out? More than likely, the answer is no.

And what about individual investments? When it comes to choosing new investments, does your broker just recommend funds? How often do they recommend individual stocks? Do you know why your broker is recommending a particular fund? Can you easily find the best-performing funds in each sector over the long-term - say ten years? Can you compare the performance and costs of these funds with equivalent investment trusts or lower-cost tracker funds (ETFs)? If not, how do you know how good your broker's recommended funds are?

If you do own individual shares, how is each company doing? Are the shares relatively expensive at the moment, in which case they might be headed for a fall; or relatively cheap in which case you might consider buying some more? Can your dividend-paying shares afford to pay your next dividend?

If you can't answer these questions, you can't choose and manage your investments very effectively.

Your broker's website is no more than a set of static fact sheets. You can't usefully compare one investment with another.

So why doesn't your broker's website help more? It's because they would rather you bought their recommended funds.

Successful investing is about comparison. Comparing one investment against another, against its sector peers, against its own history. Without the ability to compare investments you are simply taking the word of the person or organisation making the recommendation.

This is where SharePad comes in.

I spent thirteen years earning a living as a professional investment analyst. I couldn't believe how good SharePad and ShareScope were when I came across them; how much information they give the private investor access to. Within a matter of minutes, I can know a company's financial performance for the last twenty years, how the stock market has priced its shares during that time and what its future profits are expected to be. I've had a picture of the company painted for me.

It allows me to do other things as well.

I can see how many shares the directors own and whether they have been buying or selling recently. I can read the latest financial news and stock market chatter about the company and check when the next dividend will be paid or the next announcement is due. In short, I don't have to go anywhere else to learn about a company and its shares. Instead of slaving away for hours, SharePad has done all the hard work and calculations for me. It is my own personal stock market analyst.

Once you've set up your portfolio you can monitor it in SharePad. You can apply lots of clever tools to it to keep you informed and make sure that it is doing what you want it to do. And you don't need to be at home or in an office to keep an eye on things. As long as you have an internet connection, you can check out your portfolio on your tablet device or receive alerts on your smartphone wherever you are in the world.

SharePad is not just about shares either. It gives information on investment funds, bonds, commodities and lots of economic data. If you want to chart data and put it into a document or presentation for your fellow investors you can do that. You can email it to your friends if you like.

Put it this way, if I was a professional investment analyst today, I would want to use SharePad for everything. It gives you, the private investor, everything you need to get better results - for an extremely modest price. Professional investors can pay tens of thousands of pounds per year for tools of this quality.

I use SharePad to manage my pension and ISA investments and am constantly amazed at what it will do. I think it's something that every investor should use.

However, with SharePad you will get more than just a piece of clever investment software. The problem with lots of software is that no-one really tells you how to use it. We don't want SharePad users to feel that they've been left to fend for themselves.

With my Step-by-Step Guide to Investment Analysis, I show you how to get the most from SharePad. I'll be using my experience to teach you how to understand company finances, how to value shares and how to practice certain types of investing. I'll be telling you what to look out for and how you can avoid simple mistakes.

You don't need to have SharePad in order to learn from this guide but you will need SharePad if you want to put it into practice.

I am happy to tell you that almost every aspect of my investment strategy has been revolutionised since I signed up...

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