Course 509: 20 Stock-Investing Tips
Tips 1-5
In this course
1 Introduction
2 Tips 1-5
3 Tips 6-10
4 Tips 11-15
5 Tips 16-20
6 The Bottom Line

1. Keep It Simple.
Keeping it simple in investing is not stupid. Seventeenth-century philosopher Blaise Pascal once said, "All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone." This aptly describes the investing process.

Those who trade too often, focus on irrelevant data points, or try to predict the unpredictable are likely to encounter some unpleasant surprises when investing. By keeping it simple--focusing on companies with economic moats, requiring a margin of safety when buying, and investing with a long-term horizon--you can greatly enhance your odds of success.

2. Have the Proper Expectations.
Are you getting into stocks with the expectation that quick riches soon await? Hate to be a wet blanket, but unless you are extremely lucky, you will not double your money in the next year investing in stocks. Such returns generally cannot be achieved unless you take on a great deal of risk by, for instance, buying extensively on margin or taking a flier on a chancy security. At this point, you have crossed the line from investing into speculating.

Though stocks have historically been the highest-return asset class, this still means returns in the 10%-12% range. These returns have also come with a great deal of volatility. (See Lesson 103 for more.) If you don't have the proper expectations for the returns and volatility you will experience when investing in stocks, irrational behavior--taking on exorbitant risk in get-rich-quick strategies, trading too much, swearing off stocks forever because of a short-term loss--may ensue.

3. Be Prepared to Hold for a Long Time.
In the short term, stocks tend to be volatile, bouncing around every which way on the back of Mr. Market's knee-jerk reactions to news as it hits. Trying to predict the market's short-term movements is not only impossible, it's maddening. It is helpful to remember what Benjamin Graham said: In the short run, the market is like a voting machine--tallying up which firms are popular and unpopular. But in the long run, the market is like a weighing machine--assessing the substance of a company.

Yet all too many investors are still focused on the popularity contests that happen every day, and then grow frustrated as the stocks of their companies--which may have sound and growing businesses--do not move. Be patient, and keep your focus on a company's fundamental performance. In time, the market will recognize and properly value the cash flows that your businesses produce.

4. Tune Out the Noise.
There are many media outlets competing for investors' attention, and most of them center on presenting and justifying daily price movements of various markets. This means lots of prices--stock prices, oil prices, money prices, frozen orange juice concentrate prices--accompanied by lots of guesses about why prices changed. Unfortunately, the price changes rarely represent any real change in value. Rather, they merely represent volatility, which is inherent to any open market. Tuning out this noise will not only give you more time, it will help you focus on what's important to your investing success--the performance of the companies you own.

Likewise, just as you won't become a better baseball player by just staring at statistical sheets, your investing skills will not improve by only looking at stock prices or charts. Athletes improve by practicing and hitting the gym; investors improve by getting to know more about their companies and the world around them.

5. Behave Like an Owner.
We'll say it again--stocks are not merely things to be traded, they represent ownership interests in companies. If you are buying businesses, it makes sense to act like a business owner. This means reading and analyzing financial statements on a regular basis, weighing the competitive strengths of businesses, making predictions about future trends, as well as having conviction and not acting impulsively.

Next: Tips 6-10 >>


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