Then you might consider a free account with Morningstar.
Morningstar is recognized and the authority on mutual funds both for everyday investors as well as investing professionals. They’re a Chicago-based investment news company that provides stock market analysis; equity, mutual fund, and ETF research, ratings, and picks; portfolio tools; and option, hedge fund, IRA, 401(k) and 529 plan research.
I’ve used Morningstar to research investments both personally and professionally during my days writing for SmartMoney Magazine, so I’m happy to recommend them. (Full disclosure, I am also an affiliate, so if you create a free account I get a small amount in my online tip jar; thank you if you choose to support me in this way!)
Obviously there are hundreds of Websites that provide stock quotes and investing commentary, and certainly you want to soak up a variety of opinions and determine what you agree with — specifically when you’re beginning to invest. But if you look closely, pay attention to where many investing writers get their data — particularly about mutual funds. More often than not, the data comes from Morningstar.
For no other reason, Morningstar has an abundance of information right in one place that you can use to research funds and stocks and make an informed decision before you invest.
With a free account, you can get access to most of the research you need as a beginning investor. Morningstar earns revenue from a combination of ads on their free accounts and by selling ad-free subscriptions to professional investors.
Researching mutual funds with Morningstar
The following screenshot is a Morningstar Quote page for the popular Vanguard Total Stock Market Index mutual fund. This information — all free — is why I love Morningstar.
On a mutual fund quote page you can very quickly get pertinent information (aside from today’s price) like the expense ratio, turnover, and minimum investment. Morningstar also rates mutual funds between one and five stars. Personally I don’t put that much weight in these rankings, but if a fund has less than three stars I’ll take a closer look before I invest.
The next best thing about being a Free morningstar member is the portfolio tracking tool which allows me to save my existing investments — as well as hypothetical holdings — and get quick updates of all of them in one place.