Invest Tenaciously… Like a Patriot

To beat the stock market, you have to stay in the game. Even when it looks as if you’re badly losing.

This month’s winning Super Bowl performance by the New England Patriots mimicked last year’s stock market behavior. After falling far behind in the first quarter, they both came roaring back in the second half to post big scores to the astonishment of just about everyone watching.

But that’s where the analogy ends. Unless you’re a professional gambler, one of the players, or a team owner, the outcome of a football game shouldn’t affect your wealth. However, anyone hoping to become financially independent probably has a stake in the stock market, since most 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) invest in mutual funds and/or individual stocks.

That being the case, it’s surprising to me how little effort most people put into managing their portfolios. The future value of those accounts exert a direct correlation on their standard of living in retirement. But sad to say, most folks would rather watch reruns of Game of Thrones than spend an hour or two monitoring their investments.

Some believe there’s no point, because they find the stock market’s behavior random and impossible to predict. Others feel the stock market is a rigged game, designed to benefit a small number of Wall Street insiders while siphoning money out of the pockets of everyone else.

Those sentiments are understandable, but irrelevant. To be sure, much of the stock market’s movement is irrational, and most certainly there are a few folks on the inside getting rich by beating the rest of us to the punch. But neither of those truths should dissuade you from investing, since the combined effect of both is inconsequential to accumulating considerable wealth in stocks over time.

Random behavior doesn’t necessarily equate to adverse results, provided you don’t allow it to influence your behavior. If you flip a coin 100 times, it will most likely come up heads 50 times and tails 50 times, or something close to that. Therefore, betting on the outcome of each individual coin toss could help or hurt you in the short term, but either result isn’t indicative of the presence or absence of skill.

What randomness does equate to is volatility, which works in both directions and evens out over the long run. Short-term traders are directly impacted by the daily machinations of the stock market, but long-term investors view negative volatility as a buying opportunity, and positive volatility as an opportunity to raise capital by selling fully priced holdings. The upshot is that volatility is desirable to investors who know how to use it to their advantage.

Tracking corporate insiders has become a cottage industry on Wall Street, from the assumption that mirroring their actions will increase the odds of success. But insiders rarely buy or sell stocks based on their opinion of how it is likely to perform in the near term. In most cases they sell their own company’s stock to diversify their portfolios so they don’t have too much wealth tied up in one stock, just as any rational person would do.

Also, if having access to the type of “inside information” that floats around Wall Street was really that much of an advantage, you’d expect to see actively managed mutual funds beat passively managed index funds on a regular basis. The opposite is the case. Only a small minority of actively managed funds outperform their benchmark indexes, while the majority consistently do worse. According to a USA Today survey, two-thirds of actively managed large-caps stock funds performed worse than the S&P 500 Index in 2015.

I haven’t yet seen the results for 2016, but my hunch is an even larger number of fund managers underperformed the index given how many of them moved heavily into cash heading into the November presidential election. I’m proud to report that our Personal Finance Growth Portfolio beat the S&P 500 Index last year by nearly three percentage points, which equates to a 30% advantage over the return of the index.

To generate that degree of outperformance, well-heeled investors pay huge fees to big-shot advisors to manage their accounts. But you can get top-tier guidance for a full year, for less than the price of a single share of Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), which happens to be one of our best performing stocks in 2016.

How can you achieve high performance for a low cost? By subscribing to Personal Finance.

Thousands of subscribers have been with us for decades… and their phone calls and letters attest to the fortunes they’ve accumulated along the way. Like the tenacious New England Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl, our readers didn’t give up early. They remained focused on the long-term result, just as you should, too.


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