Reading Financial Reports For Dummies
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When you're thinking of buying a stock, you want to quickly be able to determine how that stock is performing compared to others on the stock market. But you can't read financial reports in a vacuum. To assess how well a company is doing, you must compare it to other similar companies, as well as to its overall industry.

Hundreds of websites out there can help you research stocks. Here are three must-haves as you plan and then manage your stock portfolio.

The best free tool for benchmarking on the web is With this website, you can compare company and industry performance based on the key line items of an income statement, as well as get a quick overview of the key financial ratios based on particular industry.

You can find industry benchmark reports, profitability risk data, and other useful industry statistics for more than 250 industries. You can get industry-average income statements to compare to the companies you're researching and determine whether their performance levels match that of the industry.

You can even do this benchmarking based on the size of the company by entering annual sales. This info enables you to compare the financial results for companies to the industry results of companies of the same size.

All you need to do is enter the annual sales for the size of company you want to benchmark and then drill down the lists to the type of industry you want to research.


TCalc has an excellent collection of all types. Two key categories of calculators for investors are the Investment Calculators and Retirement Calculators, but you'll also find others that can assist in personal financial decision making.

Some of the most useful tools include a calculator that helps you determine your investment or portfolio yield. You can also find a calculator to help you determine whether to choose a traditional or Roth IRA for your retirement savings, as well as a helpful retirement longevity calculator.

When it comes time to decide when to buy or sell a stock, timing the entry or exit points requires you to use stock charts. One of the best free stock chart websites is If you're not familiar with using stock charts for decision making, you can find some excellent accompanying online education information to help you learn more about the different types of charts and how to use them.

In addition to building charts for specific companies, has a great collection of performance charts already built for you. Some particularly useful ones include the performance chart for the major U.S. market averages and the S&P sector ETFs chart. The sector chart helps you quickly see which industries are heading up and ones are going down.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Lita Epstein, who earned her MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, enjoys helping people develop good financial, investing and tax-planning skills.
While getting her MBA, Lita worked as a teaching assistant for the financial accounting department and ran the accounting lab. After completing her MBA, she managed finances for a small nonprofit organization and for the facilities management section of a large medical clinic.
She designs and teaches online courses on topics such as investing for retirement, getting ready for tax time and finance and investing for women. She’s written over 20 books including Reading Financial Reports For Dummies and Trading For Dummies.
Lita was the content director for a financial services Web site,, and managed the Web site, Investing for Women. As a Congressional press secretary, Lita gained firsthand knowledge about how to work within and around the Federal bureaucracy, which gives her great insight into how government programs work. In the past, Lita has been a daily newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and fundraiser for the international activities of former President Jimmy Carter through The Carter Center.

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