How To Make Money in Investments

Some approaches work.  Some approaches do not work.

Strategies that beat the market

  1. Research, research, research: If you have the time, the inclination, and enough capital then you can make money by researching companies and investing accordingly.  Is there a new product that you think is underrated or overrated; do the balance sheets not reflect the current reality in a way that the market does not yet understand; etc.?  This is the only possible way to beat the markets.  However, be aware that transaction costs for investors with less than about $500 thousand of capital (2015 dollars) can wipe out (and then some) any advantages this approach might have.  The transaction costs from typically holding positions for less than a year can also wipe out the advanatages.

Strategies that meet the market

  1. Indexing: If you aren't going to try to beat the markets, your goal is to equal them.  This is best achieved by buying and holding low-expense, index-based mutual funds or exchange-traded funds.  Your choice of which funds is dictated only by their expense ratios and by your level of risk — how soon until you plan to retire, etc.?  For most investors this is, by far, the best approach.

Strategies that lag the market

  1. Go random: Choose companies by throwing darts at a board and buy shares of their stock using a discount broker.  You will get more volatility (ups and downs) and more transaction costs than with indexing, but on average you expect to do only a little worse than average.  Well, if you typically hold positions less than a year, the expenses will kill you and you will do significantly worse than average.
  2. Technical analysis: The stock just hit a three-month low, so I am buying, etc.  If ever there was a time that this worked, it does not work any more because of the billion-dollar players who make microsecond-speed transactions to capture any profit.  At present this is no better than the random approach; see above.
  3. Actively managed funds: If you didn't have to pay the manager, these could beat the markets, but you do have to pay the manager.  The manager wins but you do not.  Do not believe the hype about some managers consistently beating the market.  There are a number of reasons why this appears to be so.  Closing down the funds that lagged the market but not closing the ones that beat the market is one way to manufacture a good present-day portfolio.  There are other ways too.
  4. Trending: Your neighbor, sibling, or aunt's best friend says that gold (or mortgage-backed securities or whatever) has only gone up, up, up (or down, down, down) this past few months and that it is now headed for the sky.  Run, do not walk, away from these opportunities.

Copyright 2015, Lee Newberg.  All rights reserved.