As I've written before, the Web opened up a whole new way to waste time as well as save it. Below are a few of the best places to do one or the other. Not included are the obvious ones readers are likely to already know about, such as Wikipedia and WSJ.com, but a highly random list of places that amuse, entertain, and yes, even save time.
It's free, easy to use, and includes even relatively obscure countries like Malta. On November 20, you would've discovered that one euro cost you nearly $1.50.
The Wayback Machine
You think a Web page is only temporary? Here is an attempt to archive old Web pages. Plug in an address and see what a site looked like years ago. It's by no means complete, but it goes a long way toward proving that digital information can last just as long as paper.
Getting help on a Microsoft product can be a chore. Here's a place to ask questions of fellow users. Even if you can't solve your problem, it may help to know others are facing the same issue.
Getting a Passport
Some things are easier than they seem. Getting a passport is harder. In fact, there are special rules for minor children: It is difficult, but not impossible, to get a passport for a child without both parents present, for example. Before you waste your time at a passport center, get the info here.
The Boomer Initiative
This is the site of the organization formerly known as the American Association of Baby Boomers. If you have Boomer clients, this may help you understand them. If you're a Boomer, it can help you understand yourself.
The best parts of this investor site are the message boards for individual companies--especially the ones for thinly traded microcaps. It's unlikely you'll find anything useful, but by reading the comments of the hopeful and desperate, you can get a strong sense of what goes on in some investors' minds as they pointlessly chase rumors in search of returns.
You probably know most of these terms, but defining them clearly for a client can be a little tricky. This site always comes through. Use it yourself or send your clients there. It's especially helpful for those who keep getting alpha and beta confused.
Solve Initial Confusion
You may think that CFP is always a "certified financial planner," but in fact it can also be a "certified fitness professional." Plug in even the most obscure initials and quickly get a list of what they stand for.
Tech for Everyone
Think of it as a an online technology encyclopedia geared for the non-tech expert. It defines terms and provides links to tutorials.
Don't be limited by what you can tune into locally. Scores of radio stations broadcast over the Internet. Here's a handy guide to what's out there.
Everyone knows that Proctor & Gamble supported the Church of Satan, right? Seriously, it was a rumor some years back--completely unfounded--and the consumer giant was angry enough to sue the perpetrators. The Snopes Web site confirms or denies rumors and even has a special business section for when your clients call you in a panic.
Price Your Home
It's not perfect but it's fascinating nonetheless. Type in an address and get an estimate of a home's worth, plus data on nearby homes that are for sale or have recently been sold. As an added benefit, the site plots houses on a map of the neighborhood and also uses satellite photos so you can actually see the street where you live.
Phone and Address
There's nothing here you can't find elsewhere, but on this site you can find it all together: Six variations on the "white pages" to look up anyone in the United States, two reverse phone number directories, a reverse address directory, and three kinds of map services. If you can't find it here, you may have to hire a private eye.
Richard J. Koreto is editor in chief of Wealth Manager.