Investor Information on
the Web -- How do you judge quality?
AMES, Iowa – In today’s Internet world, there are
numerous Web sites with the words investing, money, or finances
in their titles, but how do you know which ones are reliable?
A study conducted by Consumer Reports’ Webwatch showed
that viewers are more apt to evaluate a Web site on its visual
appeal such as color and layout than on its content. “This
is not a good way to decide if information is trustworthy,” says
Pat Swanson, CFP® and families specialist with Iowa State
University (ISU) Extension’s Invest Wisely Project (www.extension.iastate.edu/investwisely).
“A better way to evaluate a Web site is to look at its
address, its URL. This will tell you about the sponsor or creator
of the site,” Swanson explains. “Site names ending
in .edu are educational; .org is used in web addresses of organizations;
.gov are government sites; .com are commercial sites. Here are
seven non-commercial Web sites that I use on a regular basis.
I have authored some of the materials on the two Extension Web
The Investor Protection Trust (IPT)’s Web site (www.investorprotection.org)
provides independent, objective information needed by consumers
to make informed investment decisions. The IPT serves as an independent
source of non-commercial investor education materials. There
are a number of booklets on their Web site , such as “Mutual
Funds: Maybe All You’ll Ever Need.”
FINRA is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Its function
is to regulate securities firms and stockbrokers. As a not-for-profit
financial resource, FINRA offers unbiased information on its
Web site (www.finra.org)
on a full range of issues that affect your money and investments.
For example, FINRA recently issued an investor alert urging homeowners
to carefully weigh their options before obtaining a reverse mortgage.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (www.sec.gov)
is the governmental agency that oversees and regulates the securities
markets in the United States. The SEC also provides information
to help the consumer invest wisely. For example, its mutual fund
cost calculator can help you compare the costs of different mutual
funds and understand the impact fees and expenses can have over
The Iowa Insurance Division administers Iowa securities laws.
It provides consumer alerts and educational materials on its
Web site (www.investsmartiowa.gov).
Iowa State University Extension (www.extension.iastate.edu/finances)
provides unbiased, research-based information and education to
help Iowans of all ages make better investment decisions. For
example, there is a series of retirement planning fact sheets
that can help you identify retirement goals and invest to achieve
A new educational partnership, eXtension (www.extension.org),
combines the efforts of more than 70 land grant universities
to provide a one-stop shop to access the best educational materials
that are developed by Extension across the nation. Personal finance
is one of the topics on eXtension’s Web site. The viewer
can learn about everything from investing, retirement, and estate
planning to organizing your household records and teaching children
about money. Other features include frequently asked questions,
ask an expert, news and upcoming events, and online calculation
serves as the federal government’s one-stop shop for financial
literacy and education programs and information. Links to financial
information are provided by many reputable educational and governmental
“The web has dramatically increased the amount of financial
information at the finger tips of consumers—a real plus.
The challenge is to sort out trustworthy sites with unbiased
and accurate information,” Swanson says.
The ISU Extension Invest Wisely Project provides a series of
newspaper, radio, and web resources for investors. It is funded
by a grant from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT). The IPT
is a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Since
1993 the IPT has worked with the States to provide the independent,
objective investor education needed by all Americans to make
informed investment decisions. www.investorprotection.org.
The ISU Extension Invest Wisely
Project provides a series of newspaper, radio, and web resources
for investors. It is funded by a grant from the Investor
Protection Trust (IPT). The IPT is a nonprofit organization
devoted to investor education. Since 1993 the IPT has
worked with the States to provide the independent, objective
investor education needed by all Americans to make informed
investment decisions. www.investorprotection.org.