Christmas goodies for the active investor

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The Independent Online
STUCK FOR what to put on your Christmas list or wondering what to buy the investor in your family? With crystal balls and time machines hard to come by at this time of year, what else might make a good present?

The typical investor wants to save time and make money. Hours can be wasted monitoring performance and company figures, and much time can be saved by software programs or Internet services, from a basic spreadsheet to a complicated daily price feed. But is it necessary to buy anything?

There are so many free services available you can set up a portfolio on the Internet, have it automatically updated and include a warning system which phones you when the price of a holding hits a ceiling or floor you specified.

If you are not already on the Internet, make sure a modem is on your Christmas list. For those already online, phone vouchers could be useful, although many Internet-widows (and widowers) say a second phone line saves the sanity of the entire household.

Many brokers' customers are struggling with service problems. When you are panicking on the phone trying to place a deal, you don't have time to set up a account with another broker. Why not get this done for Christmas?

Certain services have a one-off upfront charge, so setting up a new account could be a useful present. But if you are buying for someone else, check service statistics and make sure the ongoing costs are reasonable.

There are many investment magazines on the subject of investing, usually more for the layman. But the information is likely to be outdated by the time it hits the newsagent.

If your budget is higher, investment seminars are an idea. Many are US-oriented but they can give you new angles on share valuations and buy/sell opportunities. Tony Robbins' "Wealth Mastery" is a good example.

If you want to develop your own sources of information, get a website in your name. This can cost from pounds 30 and allows you to set up a bulletin board with investment topics you control, to help your research and save time.

If you create links to other relevant sites you might even earn a few pennies in commission.

You may have shares you want to transfer to the investor in your family and you should be aware of two crucial facts: first, it takes time to process the transfer forms (only 10 days left till Christmas) and second, you could generate a capital gains tax liability, unless it is a spouse to spouse transfer.

Finally, if your loved one is likely to view the prospect of parting with actual cash with pain, you can always pretend - with a computer game such as "Wall Street Tycoon" you can play the market, suffer the highs and lows, and still invest your savings in more Christmas puddings.