Make Money Like a Pro: 3 Top Investment Tools
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By Reyna Gobel,
The Fiscal Times
February 15, 2012

When it comes to your investments, you don’t need a degree in know where you stand and how to plan for your future. There are now dozens of online tools to help you dissect the information in a clear, understandable way – and some of them don't cost a dime. We picked three of the best free online tools to help you graduate from investment newbie to pro. XBRL Data in Use, Forcastix and Calcbench all use data from SEC filings to organize the information in interesting and accessible ways.

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1. XBRL Data
Let’s say you’re thinking about investing in a company that manufactures pharmaceuticals. Start by visiting XBRL Data in Use. You’ll notice the clickable pie chart in the center showing the breakdown of the U.S. economy. You can click on manufacturing and then on pharmaceuticals to get the overall picture, or if you look to the left, you’ll notice a few drop down task bars.

Click the calendar year button instead of fiscal year (each company may have a different standard for fiscal year reporting), and select the third quarter of 2011 since it's the last quarter with full data. Then from the concept bar, select revenue.  Select manufacturing from the division dropdown and pharmaceutical preparations from the industry dropdown.

In the center of the screen, you’ll have a new chart with major pharmaceutical companies and their percentage of the industry's revenue. On the far right hand side are bar charts with each company’s last four full years of revenue with a green line that represents the industry weighted average. Let’s look at Allergan Inc. Scroll to Allergan and click years underneath the chart. Allergan (AGN) performs well year after year. To research a bit further, change your concept selection to Research & Development. What would any manufacturer be worth without developing new products? Now, a new chart appears comparing pharmaceutical companies based on Research & Development. If you look to the right AGN’s bar chart on Research & Development shows they’re consistently spending money in this area.