What is a stock portfolio tracker?

Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 MarketBeat Staff

Summary - The digital revolution has created marvelous, and immediate, access to information. When it comes to our day-to-day lives, we are rapidly approaching the place where there truly is an app for just about everything. Craving your favorite fast food and want at-home delivery?  Check. Need to pay a bill at 2:00 in the morning? Check. Do you need to set the roster for your fantasy sports team? Check.

Unfortunately, while it’s easy to track the status of our latest Amazon purchase from our couch, some investors do not use their smartphone (i.e. computer) to consolidate and track their investment accounts. But that is changing. One of the reasons for this is the development of free stock portfolio trackers that allow investors to load all their individual stock holdings, IRAs, mutual funds, etc. into one convenient tool that gives them a snapshot of their overall portfolio in real time. In many cases, the tracking software allows you to upload a spreadsheet that you may have already created.

Online portfolio trackers offer many benefits of consolidating an investor’s investments – that may be held at different brokerage accounts – into one digital location. This also provides an investor with a convenient way to manage their asset allocation as well as to get a view of their stock or fund’s performance on an annual or quarterly basis. Some trackers even provide the ability to customize the time period for a more curated experience. And, of course, most – if not all – portfolio trackers can be accessed via a mobile app which can typically be accessed on both iOS and Android devices.

Having access to your portfolio in real time and at any hour of the day has advantages, but seeing the capital gains, and losses, also means that investors need to have the discipline to allow their portfolio tracker to be what it is intended to be (i.e. a snapshot of their holdings at a given point in time). A portfolio tracker does not take the place of an investment strategy and the advice of portfolio managers or financial advisors.

While many stock portfolio trackers have very similar features, there are some distinct differences. The Google Finance Portfolio tracker was considered the gold standard among free online portfolio trackers. However, while investors can still access the Portfolio tool as part of a paid service, Google has removed the Portfolio feature from their free service offering. Fortunately, there are still some excellent, free tools available. One of which is our own MarketBeat stock tracker that you can access when you become a subscriber to either our free service or one of our premium services.

Introduction

Equity investors frequently have a portfolio that includes individual stocks, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Their portfolio may be housed at multiple brokerage firms and some may be tax-advantaged accounts such as 401(k) plans or Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). With that in mind, many investors look for a way to view all their investments in one place. This is the role of a portfolio tracker. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what a stock portfolio tracker is and review both the benefits and the limitations of a tracker. We’ll also take a look at why having immediate and 24/7 access to their portfolio’s performance presents some risks for investors.

What is a stock portfolio tracker?

A portfolio tracker is an online tool that takes the place of manual spreadsheets and paper statements by giving investors up-to-the-minute information on all of the investments that make up their portfolio.

What are the benefits of a portfolio tracker?

Aside from being able to perform investment tracking in one place at any time, one of the key benefits of a portfolio tracker is to monitor asset allocation. Even experienced investors can get into a set-it-and-forget-it mindset when it comes to their portfolio. However, when the stock market goes through a period of volatility – as it frequently does – it doesn't take much for a portfolio to get out of balance. A portfolio tracker keeps a running track of all the investments that an investor has in their portfolio, making it easy to see when it’s time to rebalance your portfolio. Remember, asset allocation is not only about keeping your portfolio divided among equities, bonds, and cash. It also means being diversified within each asset class. This means that if one of your individual stock holdings is taking up a disproportionate amount of your portfolio, it may be time for some rebalancing by taking some profit and buying another stock that is either on your watch list or already in your portfolio but underweighted.

Another benefit to online portfolio tracking is that for some, the tracking software will automatically calculate dividends and stock splits and include them in your portfolio’s total return calculations.

Yet another benefit of having an online stock portfolio tracker is that most are supported by a mobile app that is available for iOS and Android devices. This means that investors will always have the ability to monitor and analyze their investments.

What should investors be concerned about when using a stock portfolio tracker?

The answer is really two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, having the ability to monitor your investments on a daily, even hourly, the basis is empowering. The bad part is it can lead to investors making emotional decisions. Emotion is the enemy of every good investment strategy. The market has bad days and experienced investors know the key to weathering the storms is to have a plan and stick to that plan. Making trades too frequently is rarely part of a solid investment plan unless you are a day trader.

On the other hand, access to too much information can lead to analysis paralysis. We simply become overwhelmed by the amount of data there is to absorb and it prevents us from taking any action. However, there are times when we have to realize when to cut our losses and other times when technical indicators tell us that it’s time to take some profit – even if we may have to leave some money on the table.

What is the best stock portfolio tracker?

For many years, the Google Finance Portfolio tracker was considered the gold standard among free online portfolio trackers. However, while investors can still access the Portfolio tool as part of a paid service, Google has removed the Portfolio feature from their free service offering. Google still offers a way to track your portfolio through its Google Finance tool, but the offering is not as robust as their previous tool. 

When choosing a stock portfolio tracker, investors should consider convenience. Most stock trackers have very similar features. After all, the tracking software that drives the back end of a stock portfolio tracker does not allow for many variations. Most of the differences between the trackers are reflected in the user interface (UI) which can be a matter of investor preference (i.e. how do they prefer to view the information).

For many investors, a user experience means that the site offers them a customized, almost curated experience for their holdings – as well as for investments they have on their watch list. 

MarketBeat offers a robust stock portfolio tracker where users can add any assets (including stocks on their watch lists). Subscribers to the free service can only add up to five holdings. However, MarketBeat Daily Premium and MarketBeat All-Access subscribers can add unlimited holdings. Whether subscribers use the free or paid service, they have a one-stop source for monitoring their portfolio including the latest headline news, a calendar of events relative to the stocks or funds they hold, the latest analyst ratings and insider trades, earnings information, SEC filings, and any relevant social media posts.

The MarketBeat interface is intuitive and easy to use. Once investors are logged in, it’s easy to add or remove holdings and a menu of tabs directs investors to the exact information they are looking for.

And while many portfolio trackers have come on the scene in recent years, Yahoo Finance is still one of the “old school” trackers that are preferred by some investors. With their MyPortfolio tool, investors can link their account from different brokerage firms and, like Google, many investors already have a Yahoo account and can use the same login information for their portfolio as they do for their fantasy football league.

Other free trackers that receive positive reviews include Sharesight and Personal Capital. The question for many investors will come down to what they want to get from their portfolio tracker. In some cases, less is more, particularly for investors who tend to react emotionally to the ups and downs of the stock market.

What are the limitations of a portfolio tracker?

Even the best stock portfolio tracker is not a substitute for a knowledgeable financial advisor. Many portfolio trackers provide some advisory services – usually for a fee – however, investment management can be complicated and knowing how your stock portfolio fits into your overall wealth management goals is where a financial advisor comes into play. A portfolio tracker can feed into an investing mindset in which investors become “prisoners of the moment”. Having an experienced professional to serve as your portfolio manager can provide the necessary checks and balances that keep you on track for your financial goals. Remember, even the best stock portfolio tracker is an agnostic snapshot of what has already taken place. It’s up to you, as an investor, to assign a meaning to what has happened.

The final word on stock portfolio trackers

In our connected world, stock portfolio management is easier than ever with free online stock portfolio trackers. In addition to containing virtually all the information you could want about your stocks in one place, many of these accounts have a mobile app that allows you to monitor your investments on both iOS and Android devices. Many of these portfolio trackers share common features. For many investors, the best stock portfolio tracker is one that is a convenient, one-stop resource and has an easy-to-use interface. One of the many benefits of a portfolio tracker is the ability to make decisions about asset allocation without having to wait for a quarterly or annual statement from your broker or fund manager. However, online portfolio managers – and access to immediate information – do come with some cautions. Some trackers can provide comparison information and other tools that can give novice investors too much information which can lead to either analysis paralysis or a temptation to make excessive trades – both of which go against the idea of developing a sound investment strategy and sticking to it.

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