That’s the question that I receive from readers more often than any other — and my response is always disappointing, because I don’t and can’t really have one.
And the real answer is getting to be a bit of an overused question here at Gumshoe HQ — a big “what do you think?” for the masses of Gumshoedom — but it’s at the core of what we’re trying to do.
OK, so most of what I spend my time at is sifting through investment newsletter teasers and finding the truth (and sometimes the gem) that’s buried beneath the pile of, well, fertilizer. But we’re really all about people getting more fully informed, putting some of the hype aside, and making their own choices and sharing opinions — no newsletter is going to manage your portfolio for you, or make you rich, or turn around a sagging financial life.
But lots of them can help. I’m not anti-newsletter, I don’t think the folks who put out these missives every day or week or month are criminals or shysters … with some exceptions, of course — most of them, at least those from the major publishers that we see most often, are really trying to come up with good recommendations and helpful commentary. I don’t like the hype-filled promises of wealth that fill their ads, because I think those boasts and promises are what stick with people even as the more sensible and nuanced commentary that fills most of the actual newsletter issues is skimmed over or quickly forgotten by many investors. The big promises are what catch our attention, and they remain there in the lizard brain at our core, giving hope for ridiculously flashy financial salvation without work, research, patience, saving, discipline or sacrifice … or luck.
So when we look past the overpromising and the large type that promises 20% dividends or 800% gains, which letters do people actually end up finding most useful (and hopefully profitable)? Is it the background or education that these letters provide, or the udpates on their portfolios, or the unearthing of heretofore unknown investment opportunities or particularly nimble skill in picking buy and sell points for stocks or options? Or is it just the reassurance of having someone in your inbox each week, advising you to stay the course even if the headlines are freaking you out?
I can’t tell you that — I don’t subscribe to these ad-hyping newsletters that I write about, partly because there are too damn many of them, but mostly because it wouldn’t be very fair or sporting as I try to dissect their ads and unearth their “secret” ideas with the help of the Mighty, Mighty Thinkolator.
But your fellow readers can tell you — that’s why, in addition to sharing the teaser picks we unveil, we collect reader reviews of newsletters and allow for lots of free and open commenting on our articles. And we collate and average those reviews to give rankings of the newsletters — not rankings based on my opinion or on any measure of actual portfolio performance, but rankings based on what subscribers actually think of the letter.
The subscriber reviews section of the site is accessible many ways, you can go under one of the Strategies and Sectors options in the green bar and see the top letters for mining and commodity stocks, for example (along with any recent articles we’ve written on that topic), or you can simply go to the “By Ranking” page to see the top rated overall letters, or to the alphabetical listing to see every newsletter on which we’ve collected at least one review or written an article.
We haven’t been calling the reviews to your attention much of late, so for many of these newsletters the subscriber reviews have gotten a bit stale — they might reflect a surge of pessimism from 2009, for example, or a particularly good few months from 2008 or 2011 that made folks love a letter … so we need your help.
If you’ve ever subscribed to a newsletter, please review it for us.
As we’ve seen from many, many comments in recent months, readers are overwhelmed by the number of letters, their crazy marketing aggressiveness, and their inability to keep up with dozens of email updates, so folks clearly want help in separating the wheat from the chaff. Can you help?
If you’ve subscribed to a newsletter, just click on it in the alphabetical listings or search by title (search box is in the green bar above) and on each newsletter page you should see a little box on the right side of the screen for submitting your opinion, thoughts, comments and a star ranking for a few different aspects of the newsletter experience as you see it. (You’ll have to log in to review the letter, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a free or paid member of the site but we had to institute logins to cut down on the overwhelming review spam that some newsletters were trying to flood us with. Please contact us if you have any trouble logging in).
Reviews are moderated to try to cut down on spam, so your review might not show up instantly. And though we add new letters and trading services frequently there are some newsletters in the cast of thousands that just aren’t in our system yet, so please contact us if you’d like to submit a review of a letter that you don’t yet see on the site and we’ll cheerfully add it.
And I’ve got an extra inducement for you today.
The person who submits the most thoughtful and helpful reviews over the next couple days will either get upgraded to a lifetime membership in the Stock Gumshoe Irregulars (a $200 value, if we do say so ourselves), or, if you’re already a lifer, I’ll send you or your favorite charity a check for $100. They can be positive or negative reviews, and you can submit one or two or a dozen or more, whatever you have time and inclination to share.
So please, think of the letters and services you find helpful and useful, and those that you’ve found frustrating and disappointing, and share your opinions with us. Not only will you be helping your fellow investors to sift through the fog, but you might even earn a little something for yourself. And while you’re at it, hop on over to the most recent plea for help from one of our valued readers and let them know what your top two or three newsletters are with a brief comment.
Thanks for participating in this great adventure, and thanks for reading and commenting and reviewing and sharing your experiences with the great Gumshoe community — you make my work a daily delight, and I do appreciate it.
Personal Capital is an advertiser with Stock Gumshoe, but Travis also uses it every day for his personal accounts and finds it invaluable. Here's what he said: "They offer a great (and genuinely FREE) 'second opinion' for your financial plan, but what I love most is their automated financial dashboard -- it will look at all your assets and debts, tally up your asset allocation, project where you'll be at retirement, and suggest ways to manage risk or improve returns. It's free, I think their free tools are great, and I think it's worth checking out -- you can do so here.