While there might be some real benefits to leaving your stock account alone and not trading too much, it doesn't mean that you should forget about it. Keeping an eye on your account can help you ensure it is meeting your investment goals so you can make changes if necessary. Checking your stock accounts is usually easy, as many brokerage houses offer multiple different ways to get information about your holdings.
For many investors, going online is a good way to check stock accounts. Many brokerages offer extensive websites that let you see what is currently in your account as well as its value. Many will also link to additional information, making it easy for you to research your holdings from one place. Websites frequently let you do transactions so you can make any changes that you deem necessary on the spot while you are looking at your account.
Paper statements and reports aren't completely obsolete and have one key benefit: With a paper statement, you have an essentially incontrovertible record of what is in your account at the time of the statement. In the event that your brokerage experiences a computer glitch or you find a discrepancy, you may be able to use the statement to confirm your holdings. Also, if you are uncomfortable with using your computer to check your account, a paper statement does the trick. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, you should get a formal statement at least once per quarter.
Talk to a Broker
Whether you have a relationship with a specific broker or your investment firm has either a customer service phone number or an office where you can talk to a representative, you can usually get help from a live person with your stock brokerage account. Your firm can quote the contents of your account and answer your questions about it. The amount of advice you receive when talking with a broker or customer service rep can vary, though, depending on the expertise of the person you're talking to.
Beyond just checking to see what is in your account, it's also a good idea to see how your account is performing relative to other metrics. For instance, you can compare the growth of your account relative to a stock index. If you have money in a stock portfolio and it climbed 20 percent in a year where a roughly comparable index went up 12 percent, you're doing well. Another way to measure your account's performance is to look at what third-party research services have to say about the investments you own.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.