On October 20, 2007, I woke up and liquidated my entire share portfolio. If you look at the graph of what the market was doing, you'd think I was crazy, things were still looking up (it usually is before it goes over the cliff). Over half my net assets were invested in stocks. I collected my profits, sat back and waited.
The decision was instant. I worried some time after, at how quickly I made the decision. A quick call to my wife to tell her we were getting out, and that was that.
No prolonged anguish, research or advice saying 'hey it's time to get out.' In fact there were no signs of an imminent crash. Everyone still talked about how great the markets were. In fact, I was getting stock tips from just about everyone.
Although the decision was instant, none of the experience and research behind it was.
Recently I read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, I now understand that these decisions are quickly made, but require long periods of learning. Here are some habits I've practiced since I was young, which helped me piece together the facts behind my intuition.
1. I've been reading the business news daily since I was 15.
2. I've been reading about successful investors and business managers since I was 15
3. I've been watching and working with the actual businesses behind the 'stocks' for years. Watching the successful ones, and the not so successful ones at work. Walking the floors of businesses gives you a whole new perspective on who you trust with your money.
4. I've studied and watched economic theory in action for years. Including as part of a degree majoring in finance and accounting.
With this information, I realised back in October that the U.S economy was going into a recession, businesses were finding it difficult to find cheap financing and that the reported losses from the sub prime credit crunch had yet to be totally exposed (and reporting season was coming up...)
Here are some tips for investing:
1. Don't buy into the market, buy into a company. Make sure you would invest into these guys long term, even if you're only going in short term. If you can, try to see if you can spend an hour walking around the company's office, interview employees, check out their bathrooms. Knock on the walls. This might seem odd, but it will really change your perspective on how companies are run. If not, make a trip to their lobby, or call them up and see what their receptionists are like.
2. Pay attention to the news, even if it's just browsing the top 5 headlines everyday. I'm sure you do it with blogs and the Sunday paper, why not with those thousands of dollars you've invested?
3. When everyone is running one way... poke your head up and make damn sure they aren't running over the cliff. Don't be the lemming.
4. The title comes from a tip I heard once, when the bell boy starts giving you stock market tips. Run. That was just before the dot com bust, and it's what happened 6 months ago.
5. Trust your own judgment. If you keep trusting everyone else, you end up just like everyone else. Do you want to be the 80% of people in the 80/20 rule? or the 20% of people with 80% of the wealth?
6. It's not magic.
If you have sharp sight, use it: but, as the poets say, add wise judgment
Marcus Aurelius - Meditations
picture credit: reuters - The graph is a three year chart of the australian stock exchange.