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Financial Focus/Are You Taking Advantage Of Online Account Access?

Not too many years ago, if you wanted to see how your investments were doing, you had to wait for your monthly or quarterly statement. But that was then - this is now. Today, you can jump on the Internet and view your investment accounts. By tracking these accounts online, you can do a better job of managing them - and that can help make you a better, smarter investor.

Of course, the information available to you on your computer depends on the company with which you invest. Some firms offer more “bells and whistles” than others, and you may have to wade through some unnecessary screens to get what you want. However, here are some items that commonly appear online - along with suggestions on how to use them:

* Account summary - You should be able to get a high-level view of your account balances and total value. Your account summary may include investments, savings, lines of credit, mortgages or other accounts. Most services allow you to “drill down” into each account for details on each holding within the account, such as current price and number of shares.

* Recent account activity - You can use the information found in this section to verify recent purchases and sales. By monitoring your transactions regularly, you’ll identify the pattern of your investment moves, which, in turn, will help keep you aware of the effects of your decisions. When you know what you’re buying and selling, and how frequently you’re making these transactions, you’ll be able to see if you’re following your stated investment strategy.

* Historical information - Online account access services are a great source for historical statements and previous account transactions. You also may have access to important records, such as what you originally paid for an investment. This type of information can be valuable when you’re calculating the taxes that may be due when you sell securities.

If you’ve got a particularly comprehensive online account service, you may be able to get a variety of other useful features, such as headline news, daily market commentary, investment research and even educational information. Depending on how much time you’re willing to commit to these items, you may find that they can help inform you about your investments and the wider financial world.

Ultimately, your online account access can be a great tool to help you manage your investments. In fact, you may even want to go over some of this information with your investment professional. By doing so, you may find it easier to understand his or her recommendations.

Despite all the advantages you’ll find with online access, you don’t necessarily want to visit your accounts too frequently. If you dwell too often on the day-to-day changes in your account balance, you might lose sight of the big picture - and that could lead you to make ill-advised decisions.

So, use your account access wisely - and judiciously. Log on and see where you’ve been, where you’re at - and where you may be going.

This article was submitted by the financial representatives of Edward Jones in Hagerstown: Greg Garner AAMS, 301-733-9465; Dave Walker, 301-766-7300; Joan Bowers, 240-420-8514; John R. Pullaro, 301-824-7726 and Todd Streett, 717-762-0911.

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