Financial Ratings Series | Reference eReviews, Nov. 1, 2018

Financial Ratings Series is a valuable resource for a variety of users. Those new to investing and finance will find this a clear, inviting guide, while more sophisticated users will appreciate the detail and currency.

Financial Ratings Series

Weiss Ratings & Grey House Publishing

CONTENT Reliable financial information is hard to find on the web. There’s plenty of advice everywhere, especially for those willing to pay for it, but it can be biased and expensive. Subscription databases fill this gap but are often narrowly focused or seem data-heavy. The Weiss Ratings Database offers a welcome middle ground, providing solid data, balanced coverage, and a broad scope of easy-to-use financial products.

The goal of the database is to offer “powerful new tools to protect your finances, invest wisely, grow your wealth, and learn more about your finances.” To that end, users will find ratings for stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, as well as banks, credit unions, insurers, and consumer guides on prescription drug plans, health savings accounts, eldercare options, managing debt, and starting a retirement savings plan. Users will get a one-­stop-shopping experience, with a full picture of the financial choices consumers make every day.

USABILITY It is clear from the database’s bright, inviting main page that its creators aim to please. The standard search box, at the top of the page, might be overlooked at first but is less immediately necessary owing to the tool bar links below it and the iconographic links in the middle.

Users can create personalized accounts where they can save as many financial products as they wish to monitor. Within the watch list, they can organize their followed items by category (mutual funds, stocks, etc.). They can also receive emails with updates to the data and any rating changes that come.

Updated regularly, the ratings range from A to E, with pluses and minuses, like a school report card. Ratings are based on each item’s asset ratios and risk vs. reward possibilities. A broad spectrum of users, from conservative investors to the more daring, will appreciate this information.

Users researching stocks will learn about the recent opening and closing prices, investment return trends, cash flow, and other information gleaned from daily reporting and recent SEC filings. The database also lays out the basic factors used for rating each stock, such as growth, efficiency, and volatility. Digging deeper via the tabs on the left hand side allows users to examine similar stocks, sector and industry comparisons, price and dividend history, and more.

Data on banks, credit unions, and insurance companies isn’t updated as frequently—understandable, as such institutions do not change as often as publicly traded companies. ­Nonetheless, data such as risk ratios, assets, and profitability paint an accurate portrait of each organization’s long-term stability. While the ratings for these institutions follow the same scale as for stocks and bonds, they are termed “safety ratings” rather than “investment ratings” like stocks and bonds. The organizations are rated on their long-term stability rather than their ability to generate profit.

Finally, those insured by Medicare who are looking for supplemental health insurance will find customized, highly detailed individual planners, based on a user’s age, gender, and geographic location (zip code). This is a great tool for senior library patrons bewildered by health-care choices.

There’s also a database of light, brief articles aimed at general readers. (These pieces are no substitute for resources that provide more scholarly, in-depth articles.) Also included are downloadable PDF books on topics such as 401(k)s, student loans, budgeting, and insurance. That they are easily portable and usable on reading devices of all kinds makes them a strong choice to expand a library’s e-book offerings. Finally, the real-time chat help is simple and responsive, with only a short lag between posting a question and receiving a response. Power users will appreciate the assistance.

PRICING Costs are based on population served. Libraries can subscribe to the whole platform, or can custom build a subscription package based on patrons’ needs.

VERDICT Financial Ratings Series is a valuable resource for a variety of users. Those new to investing and finance will find this a clear, inviting guide, while more sophisticated users will appreciate the detail and currency. Suitable for public libraries (especially those doing programming on financing) as well as academics and financial professionals.

Brett Rohlwing is Library Branch Manager, Milwaukee Public Library, Martin Luther King branch

This article was originally published in Library Journal's November 1, 2018, issue.

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