To be a good investor you need to be receptive. Good information is where you find it. But be skeptical of predictions.
Second, you will find that the costliness of information does not necessarily reflect its value. Much of the best material you will get is free.
Your primary sources of investment information are two: New York Stock Exchange member firms and the companies in which you are interested.
Your brokerage firm will provide accurate, up-to-date material, free for the asking. The increase in the number of new investors has launched many firms on broad-scale informational programs. Most of them have weekly market letters, monthly or quarterly surveys, analyses of individual stocks or industries. (A recent tabulation shows that some 296 member firms now issue about 30,700 market letters, 15,500 pieces of sales literature, and 1,800 special reports a stack of paper some 38 feet high and weighing around 975 pounds!)
The weekly letter is usually the work of a senior analyst whose job is to move around and tap professional opinion on current market trends, or to conduct field investigations of new developments in companies or industries. It is conversational, newsy, and necessarily not very exhaustive. The monthly and quarterly surveys are more thoroughgoing, but the editorial and production time involved in putting them together makes them something less than up-to-the-minute. These usually compare performances, indicate trends, and carry ratings or opinions of various groups of stocks. You can get on the mailing list for these items very easily.
On request, your broker will also send you fact sheets on individual companies you may be interested in. These usually cover the basic elements of the company's financial history: its capitalization, its earnings and dividend records, and the prices at which its stock has sold.
On request, too, you may get rather more elaborate studies of companies or industries, the range depending mostly on the versatility of your brokerage firm's research department.
Finally, your broker should have booklets on specialized ventures, such as the Monthly Investment Plan, investment clubs, or commodity trading.
Corporations are also very much aware of investor interest these days, and most of them are happy to send you annual reports, quarterly statements, stocks prospectuses, or other information, if requested. These are frequently more ample than your broker can provide; annual reports contain balance sheets, consolidated income statements, and earnings records going back 10 or even 20 years, as well as general factual information on the company's activities.
It must be remembered that companies are naturally prejudiced in favor of their own business interests, and are inclined to put their best foot forward. This does not mean that their information cannot be trusted, but simply that an annual report, for instance, which is management's accounting of its stewardship to stockholders, will put the company in the best light. It is possible that there will be an overenthusiastic view of its performance or prospects.
Secondary sources coming easily to hand, are ordinary newspapers some 600 of which now print daily stock tables and general-circulation magazines dealing with business and finance. These have the virtue of non-involvement with the financial community as such, and possibly a broader perspective on the news. On the other hand, they may lack some of the information readily found in more specialized financial publications.