Here are some common mistakes many investors make. Know them and avoid them.
A profitable corporation can distribute profits in the form of dividends. In other words, each share gets a certain amount of money. While it’s great to get a dividend, it’s not wise to hunt them. So, the mistake that a lot of guys make is to buy a stock shortly before they expect it to pay a dividend.
While that sounds good, the problem is that the price they pay for the stock likely reflects the anticipated dividend. In other words, shopping for dividends means you’re overpaying.
What to do instead: It’s good to have dividend stocks in your portfolio, but they’re not the only way of making money. Instead, hold a diverse portfolio, knowing that some of your stocks will likely pay a dividend and others won’t for a very long time (if ever). If you do that, you’ll find that you’re one step further on the road to holding a collection of blue chips (which tend to pay dividends) and more speculative securities (which may be years away from profitability, despite increasing stock prices).
2- Buying a stock before an earnings report
An earnings report is like a quarterly scorecard from a company. But before that scorecard is released, market analysts spend their days making predictions. Most companies meet or beat expectations. The mistake, then, is taking an earnings report too seriously because meeting or beating earnings just isn’t news. So, if your strategy is to speculate based solely on earnings reports, you’ll be basing your predictions on accounting tricks.
What to do instead: Earnings reports have their place, but you want to use them as a signal. What should you be looking for? The company that doesn’t meet its earnings. Why?
Well, it may be a good investment, depending on why it didn’t make its earnings and what it can do to change that (you’ll have to investigate). But in the meantime, the stock price has likely gone down, which means there could be an opportunity for you.
3- Buying into the hype
Remember Pets.com? It was pretty much the poster child for hype in a boom market. In fact, there was so much hype around Pets.com that Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon.com) later confessed that investing in that company was one of his biggest mistakes. But what happened to Jeff happened to a lot of guys: They got carried away by the hype (and by a stock price that grew in leaps and bounds daily). In the end, the company was worth nothing.
What to do instead: It’s easy to tell you not to believe the hype. But that is, in essence, what a lot of guys should do. Few companies out there can live up to the hype, so you should take it with a grain of salt. When you see a rocketing stock price and all you hear is about this hot, new company, think to yourself that these are warning signs, not investment signs. Remember; living up to that kind of hype is a once-in-a-lifetime investment.
4- Assuming that if a stock price is low, it’s good to buy
Buy low, sell high, right? Well, maybe. Just because a stock price is low, doesn’t mean it’s a good buy. And, conversely, just because the price is high, doesn’t mean it’s a bad buy. The mistake is not knowing that “buy low; sell high” is really shorthand for “buy stocks that are undervalued and sell stocks that are overvalued.”
What to do instead: High and low are relative terms — $300 may seem like too much for a stock, whereas $3 might seem like a bargain. But you have to put the trade in context. Ask yourself if the company is under- or overvalued at its present price, based on market cap and P/E. That’s the mark of 6- Blindly following the lead of an anchor investor
Sometimes it’s easy to get the business page confused with the gossip column; after all, both do a ton of name dropping. A lot of guys make the mistake of following a big-name investor like Mark Cuban or Kirk Kerkorian.
The even bigger mistake is thinking that by copying them, you’re guaranteed a payday. First, there are no guarantees. Second, even if they are right, they haven’t told you their strategy, so you won’t know when to sell.
What to do instead: You should follow what some of these investors are doing (if only because they have the capital to move markets). But by follow I mean pay attention to, not copy. In short, know everything you can, but think for yourself.
5- Not cashing out & locking in your profit
At some point, you need to take profits. But when you take profits (sell), it can make all the difference. The truth is that there is no easy answer for this. Sadly, a lot of guys get a gambler’s mentality when it comes to profit taking. That’s the mistake. Or, they see a little bit of profit, and hit the panic button and sell too soon. That too is a mistake.
What to do instead: Look at the profits (rate of return) that are common to the sector. The key is to be realistic. What you need to do is stay disciplined and not get greedy or scared. Plan your profit taking as carefully as you plan your investing.
6- Not cutting your losses
Stocks move up and down. But sometimes a stock suffers a steady decline. Surprisingly, some guys see that happening and they root for their stock like it’s their favorite sports team. In other words, they become emotional. Day in and day out, they obsess over a declining stock price as they lose more and more money.
What to do instead: Short and sweet, sometimes you need to cut your losses. Success is a relative term when it comes to investing. Ideally, we think of success as how much you make. But sometimes success is about how little you lose. A smart investor not only knows when a stock is in a tailspin, he has the courage to let it go, so he can take his money elsewhere and start making it back.
7- Not doing your own research
Chances are that you have more than a few friends with their own ideas about investments. The mistake that most guys make is taking their friends’ advice at face value. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t trust your friends. They could be right. But copying them without questioning them is like giving away your money and hoping it comes back.
What to do instead: Find out where your friends get their information. If they have a broker that has made them a lot of money, ask for a referral. If they have their own strategy, ask them to teach you (it may not be the best strategy, but any worthwhile strategy should be able to hold up under the scrutiny of a student).
8- Gambling on penny stocks
With their low prices, penny stocks look like sexy investments. But there are two problems with such stocks. First, small prices typically mean smaller margins, so the transaction costs can eat you alive. Second, penny stocks are more susceptible to fraud and manipulation. While most penny stocks are legit, it’s an area where crooks ply their trade.
What to do instead: Penny stocks aren’t for green investors, despite their price. Why? Because to make money in penny stocks, you need resources. Furthermore, transaction fees are likely higher when you’re trading a high amount of stocks. Investing always means doing research, but you won’t read about penny stocks in the business section, so you’ll need the resources to dig a little deeper.
9- Being afraid to invest during bad times
For the most part, the economy moves in cycles. Boom years are followed by bust years. While you can’t seem to keep guys away from investing in boom years, it’s like pulling teeth to find investors in the bust years. Of course, there are more bargain investments in leaner times, so staying out of the market in those years can be a big mistake.
What to do instead: Remember this rule: economic downturn is an investment opportunity. While that doesn’t mean going all in when things turn south, it does mean that you should look at the market with a different eye. Don’t be discouraged when things are tough, and don’t follow the crowd.
10- Blindly following a broker
Do you have a friend who begins every sentence with, “my broker says…”? Well, so what? More than a few guys get burned by blindly following their broker’s advice. Is he an expert? Yes. Does he have an agenda? Quite possibly. Does he have the power to predict the future? Of course not.
What to do instead: You should listen to your broker. But you should also question him. Remember; at his core, he’s a salesman, so he’s trying to sell you something. Press him on details. Why is this stock the next great stock? Did he invest his own money in it?
11- Not staying on top of your investments
Some guys spend months doing research, setting up a diverse portfolio only to make their initial buys and go to sleep at the wheel. It’s puzzling, but it does happen. The trouble is that the market won’t call you before things change. As a result, a lot of guys wake up one day to find themselves busted.
What to do instead: It depends on the type of guy you are. If the trouble is that you’d like to follow your investments but you just don’t know how, you’ll want to take advantage of the tools offered by your brokerage house. All brokers offer them and they work like household accounting programs. On the other hand, if you’re just lazy (it happens), you probably shouldn’t be so active in the market: look for mutual funds where you’ll only have to review things on a quarterly basis.
12- Entirely selling a winner
When you make a profit, it’s only natural to want to sell and take that profit elsewhere. Conversely, a lot of guys look at their losses and hold onto them hoping they’ll get back to even. While those may seem like different problems, they have the same root cause: misallocating your money. While nothing is constant, the above strategy actually has you pulling away from winners and getting closer to losers, which doesn’t make any sense.
What to do instead: It’s okay to take a profit (in fact, it’s smart). But unless you think the bottom is going to fall out on your stock, don’t sell it all — hold on to some of the winner stock.
13- Trading too much
Being a trader or being active in the market doesn’t mean making a ton of trades. But some guys make trades the way the rest of us order drinks (pretty much without thinking). While they may know what they’re doing when it comes to the trade itself, what they’re missing are the transaction costs. Each trade has a commission fee and each trade has tax implications. So, if your profit margin is slim, chances are it will evaporate with fees and taxes.
What to do instead: Never let fees and taxes dictate your trading moves. If you have to change your position, do it. But don’t ignore fees and taxes, and don’t get trade happy.
14- Assuming that if you like the product, the stock is good
How often have you and your friends enjoyed a product (like a Krispy Kreme donut) and said that you should own stock in the company? Well, some guys incorrectly assume that a great product equals a great stock. But the truth is that there’s more to a good company than a good product.
What to do instead: Look at the product as a good starting point. Okay, you found the next big thing. Now do your homework. Learn everything you can about the company from its management team and its business plan to its stock performance. Then make your investment decision.
Make money by avoiding mistakes
In total, we discussed 14 common mistakes that investors make. Sadly, this is by no means an exhaustive list. The truth is that all guys make mistakes with their money. But what separates the winners from the losers are the guys who can apply what they’ve learned.
A mistake is bad in and of itself, but it is insurmountable if you don’t learn anything from it, because you’ll likely repeat it.