Where to go for advice you can trust

Before betting the farm on some hot new investment, head to these Web communities.

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By Joe Light, Ismat Sarah Mangla and Pat Regnier

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NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- Where on the Web can you find people talking about stock picks? Same place you find Lindsay Lohan gossip and goofy pictures of cats: pretty much everywhere.

There's even a gaggle of new Facebooklike social-networking sites, such as CakeFinancial.com and the communities at online brokers Zecco.com and TradeKing.com, that let users link their personal profiles to their brokerage accounts so that others can see and talk about what they own.

The technology is neat, but it doesn't solve the basic problem with stock chatter: If most pros can't beat the market, what makes you think "GOOGfella4" knows anything special?

And talking a lot about stocks has a way of encouraging you to trade more, which will make you poorer.

The best advice - in print, online or in conversation - is about long-term strategy, not stock picks.

And that's where the "Boglehead" message boards shine. The Bogleheads got their start as an online community for fans of Vanguard funds at the Morningstar Web site, and they attracted a dedicated following that includes some top financial planners.

They've since set up a bigger, independent forum at Diehards.org.

This isn't a place only for Vanguard account holders. It's for anyone who wants to know more about Vanguard founder Jack Bogle's eminently sensible investment philosophy: Keep your costs low, don't chase performance, focus on asset allocation rather than stock picking, and invest early and often.

Trying to make sense of your 401(k) plan's options? Post them on the board and you'll get ideas for building a simple, low-cost portfolio.

Want advice on trading currencies? The Bogleheads will politely talk you out of it. Yes, it's free advice from people you don't know, so take it with the appropriate grain of salt. But you could pay big bucks for far, far worse ideas.

For serious, long-term thinking from investment pros, check out the monthly commentaries from leading bond investor Bill Gross at Pimco.com, strategist Michael Mauboussin's quirky newsletter about investment thinking and psychology at leggmason.com/funds and the online journal from asset-allocation expert Bill Bernstein at EfficientFrontier.com.

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