New Year’s Investing Resolutions
As we exit 2010 and enter 2011, many people go through the annual ritual of making personal New Year’s resolutions. Here is a list of go-to resolutions if you haven’t made one, or are having trouble coming up with one.
1) Lose weight
2) Spend More Time with Family & Friends
3) Quit Smoking
4) Quit Drinking
5) Enjoy Life More
6) Save Money & Get Out of Debt
7) Learn Something New
8) Help Others
9) Get Organized
10) Travel More
I have a few on the list above that I would like to work on, but when it comes to investing, there are a few other resolutions I am looking to make or maintain in 2011:
1) Don’t be a Hog. The last few years have produced excellent returns, but we all know that pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered. Cashing the register and banking some of my gains can be frustrating when positions charge higher, but sticking to a disciplined approach pays off handsomely in the long-run and helps navigate through the volatile times.
2) Follow Crash Litmus Test. Only buy what you would confidently purchase at lower prices. Sure, company or industry fundamentals can change over time, but for the vast majority of the time, companies and industries do not undergo paradigm shifts. Even though there are a 1,001 bombs that get launched daily, explaining why the world is coming to an end, I do my best to block out the useless noise and stick to the numbers and facts.
3) Remove Name Creep. It’s easy to fall in love with every new stock that walks by, but limiting the number requires a conviction discipline that pays off in the long run. Academic research and practical experience dictate diversification can be achieved without spreading yourself too thin. As Warren Buffett says, “I prefer to keep all my eggs in one basket and watch that basket closely.”
4) Tirelessly Turn Stones. I love my portfolio right now, but I know there are unique opportunities out there that can improve my results, if I take the time and make the effort.
5. Don’t Rush Into Tips. I’ve purchased or shorted securities recommended by respected investors, but it is important to do your own homework first. Even if these ideas work in the short-run, tips usually fall into loose hands and get punted at the worst times. Perform adequate due diligence to strengthen the roots of your thesis for volatile times.
6. Don’t Get Drunk on Story Stocks. There is never a shortage of great ideas, but many of them carry hefty price tags and have high expectations baked into future earnings growth estimates. Even if great stories exist in abundance, there is a shortage of great managers that can profit from great ideas. Associated high prices can however quickly turn a great story into a sad story – once excessively high expectations are not met, prices eventually will collapse.
7. Build Contingency Plan for Overconfidence. It’s important to have an exit strategy or contingency plan in place if things do not play out as planned. Overconfidence can be the pitfall for many investors, and this is not surprising when factoring in how highly people generally feel about themselves. Most believe they are better than average drivers, parents, and have superior intuition. This same overconfidence may not harm you in the real world, but in the financial markets, overconfidence can result in a woodshed beating. Confidence will not kill your portfolio, but arrogant confidence will.
8. Stick to Knitting. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I do my best to stay away from my blind spots. As legendary baseball player Ted Williams discussed in his book The Science of Hitting, players are much better off by patiently waiting for the fat pitch in the sweet spot of the strike zone before swinging. Finding your sweet spot and not venturing out of your circle of competence is just as important in the investing world as it is in baseball hitting.
9. Trade Less. Trading is fun and exciting, but paying commissions on top of bid-ask spreads, impact costs, and other fees removes some of the enjoyment. Trading is a necessary evil to make profits, but requires the trader to be right twice – once on the sale, and another time on the purchase. Even if you are right on both sides of the trade, chances are the fees, taxes, commissions, and impact costs will remove most if not all of the profits.
10. Learn from Mistakes. Unfortunately, 2011 will be another year that I will not remain mistake-free. Conveniently forgetting investment mistakes is a great rationalization mechanism, but forever sweeping blunders under the rug without learning from them will not make you a better investor.
If you are able to set aside some of those Bonbons and pay off those credit card balances, then maybe you can join me and take on an investing resolution or two. Don’t worry, like all resolutions, you always have the option of making the resolution without following through!
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.