INVESTING TOOLS WE RECOMMEND
#1 Below is the list of tools that Preston and Stig recommend based on their years of experience in financial markets.
#2 Share these great tools with your friends.
HOW DO YOU READ SO MANY BOOKS?
So many people ask us, how do you have time to read all of these books? The short answer is we don’t. That’s why we read books using an audio format. This means I can do two things at the same time – driving my car, doing dishes, working in the yard. The best way to read audio books is through Amazon’s Audible service.
Reading is hands-down the most important element to a person’s success. Further more, I find books to be much more important than “article reading”. The reason is it forces people to focus. In today’s day and age so many people have enormous distractors that make them bounce from one idea to the next. This is a dangerous environment because the knowledge people are acting on is skin-deep. Not having any substance beneath your understanding of the complex systems in this world means you might be making superficial decisions and potential mistakes in your thinking. At the end of the day, we want to answer this question: What are the fundamental attributes that give something its essence? Understanding the essence of complex systems allows individuals to be more creative, efficient, and productive. That’s why we read books.
We personally use an application called Audible to listen to our books. This program is the best because it provides the cheapest price and the largest inventory of books. Audibles is owned and operated by Amazon.com.
As a TIP user, if you sign-up for Audibles through this link, you will get a free book. If you don’t like the application, simply delete your account within 30 days and you won’t be charged a thing. We recently read the book, Thinking Fast and Slow. The book cost $40 to own the audio CD. If you use our link, you can download it for free with no obligation.
Enjoy this tremendous tool – it’s been the most valuable asset in our entire toolbox.
WHICH BROKER SHOULD YOU USE?
So I actually use two different brokers because there are advantages and disadvantages for the way I have things set-up. To start, a broker is nothing more than a company that conducts trades on your behalf. I encourage people to separate their research tools from their broker(s). I personally find the recommendations from stockbrokers to be grossly plagued in self-interest. As you might suspect, a broker has an interest in selling you on their company’s mutual funds or highest commission products. You’ll want to avoid this trap. A knowledgeable investor needs to think for themselves and do their own homework. Since I don’t need the broker’s analytical tools, and subsequent high fees, I recommend the following.
MY BROKER FOR PERSONAL USE
I strongly recommend Ally Invest (also known as TradeKing). The reason Ally Invest works well for me is because I want my frictional costs (or transactional costs) to be an absolute minimum. Although I don’t conduct a lot of trades a year (usually about 20 a year), those costs can really add up. Since most brokers charge about $10 a trade, that means I would spend $200 a year just on trading costs. Now, let’s imagine you’re like most investors and you trade a lot more than I do. For example, the typical day trader might buy and sell once a day during the 252 trading days in the year. That means they would conduct 504 trades in a year. Without much analysis, you can see that this behavior would cost the “investor” $5,040! That’s a lot of money. It’s very difficult to have any kind of returns when all the money is going to the broker.
Ally Invest‘s personal trading accounts have no set-up fees. No annual fees, and they only charge $4.95 per trade. They’ll even refund you $150 for fees associated with switching-over to their service if you use this Investor’s Podcast link. So in short, I only spend about $99 a year conducting all of my trades. For the day trader, they would save about $2,545.20 a year with TradeKing if they were making 1 trade a day.
MY BROKER FOR CORPORATE USE
I recommend Scottrade. So I have a second broker because I also have a trading account within my business, The Pylon Holding Company. I don’t use TradeKing here because with corporate accounts, they charge a $200 annual fee and also a $250 start-up fee. It’s important to note that TradeKing does not assess these fees for personal accounts; only corporate accounts. As a result, I have a corporate trading account with Scottrade because they have no initial sign-up fee and no annual fees. Now the slight downside is that their trading costs are slightly higher, at $7.00 a trade. Since I only do about 20 trades per year, Scottrade offers a better value for my corporate account. (Cost per year is approximately $140; whereas TradeKing would have been $340 with the fees for being a corporation).
INVESTORS OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES
Since I live in the US, I do not have an account with Firstrade. I’m highlighting them to our international listeners because they have fantastic terms, conditions, and fees. Firstrade is compatable for most international investors, and their fee is only $6.95 per trade (and there’s no start up fees, annual fees, or costs when you wire your funds). I strongly recommend Firstrade for new investors as there is $0 minimum deposit, and you have access to a free live support chat to guide you through the process. Right now Firstrade is offering 100 commission free trades to new sign-ups if you use this Investor’s Podcast link and deposit at least $5,000. The offer is valid for new US customers as well.
HOW I CONDUCT RESEARCH AND WHY
USE A CHECKLIST As a former attack helicopter pilot (click here if you want to see a funny video of me on Comedy Central), there was nothing more important than my checklist. With investing, I look at things the exact same way. In fact, it’s not just me, Mohnish Pabria, Guy Spier, and countless other multi-million dollar investors do the same thing. Before I conduct any stock purchase, I reference my one page checklist and ensure each criteria is met. It might sound elementary, but it’s a great way for me to mitigate any undue risks. Here’s a link to download our checklist , but you’ll need to sign-up for our mailing list to get it.
FOR ANALYSIS: MORNINGSTAR
My primary tool for research is MorningStar. I like MorningStar for four main reasons:
- Their information and financial tools are accurate
- The layout of their site is intuitive and very useful
- Their CFA writers are very good and they use DCF models to determine Intrinsic Value.
- MorningStar doesn’t have the financial planner bias
For starters, I think that MorningStar’s executive, Pat Dorsey, is one of the best investors out there, and he has constructed the site in a manner that makes sense. Read Dorsey’s book and you’ll quickly agree. Without a membership (using the site for free), you can really gain a lot of information and conduct fantastic research. I find that MorningStar’s numbers are the most accurate – many websites like Google or MSN Money have countless mistakes.
Should you pay for a Premium Account? So that’s a tough one. I really think it depends on how serious you are and how much you plan on investing. I personally have a premium account with MorningStar because I think they provide enormous value to my financial decisions each month. With a premium account, you get access to MorningStar’s Certified Financial Analysts CFAs (the Jedi Knights of accounting). I find their exclusive reports very accurate and I use their reports to back-up my own intrinsic value calculations and risk assessments. Just so you know, getting a CFA is extremely difficult and very few people have one – most people in the finance industry have a CFP – Chartered Financial Planner (a completely different certification). The reports by the MorningStar CFAs often highlight risks that I missed in my own cursory reviews. The reports provide an intrinsic value estimate (or fair Value Estimate), and a buy/sell price range. I find their assessments to be accurate and based on Discount Cash Flow (DCF) models that are relative to the current estimated returns on the S&P 500. Another thing I particularly like is the Economic Moat discussion that each report provides. When you talk about Warren Buffett and the importance of competitive advantage, you’ll quickly realize this is one of his most important variables because it determines the company’s ability to sustain future business and margins. In the premium reports, the CFA’s have an entire section that addresses the “Economic Moat” or competitive advantage of each business. In short, these analysts are dedicated to individual companies and immerse themselves in the company’s performance. Most importantly, they aren’t trying to sell you on any particular fund or stock that serves their own self-interest (like many CFPs at large brokerage firms). Unfortunately, the reports are only available to premium members. Since the service cost $199 a year, I’m sure many people might be hesitant to try it out. Hey, it beats the heck out of a Bloomberg Terminal ($30,000 a year!). Regardless of the price, if you use this link, you can try it out, 14 days for free. If you’re on the fence after 14 days, simply cancel it. This way you reduce your risk (of $199 annually), and you get a feel for the value it might add to your investment decisions.
FOR CURRENT EVENTS: REAL VISION TV
This is a question we often get: “How do you stay so current and get great ideas for investing?” With so much information flowing through the media at 30-second increments (or as some say – 30 second pitches), it’s really hard to know what’s noise versus valuable information. This is why we are huge fans and subscribers of Real Vision TV. This is a service that conducts 30 – 60 minute full-length interviews with the titans of finance. This service is very different from the typical business news channels for three main reasons.
#1 – The individuals conducting the interviews are two former hedge fund managers that are extremely knowledgeable. They ask intelligent and informed questions that get to the critical variables of a specific trade or investment. By the way, they actually let the guests speak and answer complex questions! (Very different than the generic questions and constant interruptions of typical journalists)
#2 – The interviews are real, full-length discussion, not a quick segment to capture headlines and clicks to sell advertising. It will feel like you are eavesdropping on a conversation you’re not suppose to have access to. The site comes out with five new full-length discussions every week. I typically watch a new interview during the night of every weekday. This has expanded my level of understanding and breadth of knowledge to exponential levels.
#3 – The individuals being interviewed manage substantial sums of money. In most cases the guests on the show manage hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions. I would say this is the most compelling reason to join the service because the quality of guests is superior to anything I have ever seen.
*Note: The service has a superior application for your smart phone so you can download the videos via Wifi at home and watch them remotely at anytime. This works great to minimize your cellular data usage and provides a better opportunity to capture all the amazing content at more convenient times in your busy schedule/long commute.
As a TIP user you can get a 7-day trial for free using the bonus code “TIP” (short for The Investors Podcast) and even get a 10% discount. If you don’t like the service simply delete your account within the trial period without any cost to you at all.
WHICH ACCOUNTING SYSTEM DO YOU USE FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Having worked as a freelancer, a consultant, and now a small business owner, I always have the same problems with my accounting. It takes a lot of time! And truth be told, it’s really not that fun. Now, it would definitely be a stretch to call accounting using Freshbooks’ software “fun,” but one thing is certain – I’ve never used anything that handles my invoices and accounting easier.
The reason why both Preston and I use Freshbooks is that creating an invoice is basically just like jotting down a few words in a predefined template in Word. The system then automatically sends out the invoice to the client, either via email or snail mail. The cool thing is that what you see on your screen is what the client will see. Therefore, you don’t need to send emails to yourself or print out documents to double-check your work. Another concern that I really appreciate Freshbooks solving is working with international clients. The system handles currencies and payment systems in more than 120 countries.
Freshbooks only charges from $15 a month, but we’ve made a special deal for the listeners of The Investor’s Podcast. If you use the bonus code “TIP” under the “How did you hear about us” section, you can test if Freshbooks is for you for free for 30 days. No credit is required and you can cancel anytime. Before you sign up, please feel free to check out my video below, which shows you both how to use Freshbooks and how to sign up.