Do it Yourself Investing
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Not too long ago I read an article in the New York Times about John McCaffee, the founder of the McCaffee anti virus Software Company. Quite surprisingly, given his corporate position, Mr., McCaffee WAS NOT into do it yourself investing. Although no longer associated with that company, Mr. McCaffee was and is a brilliant businessman and entrepreneur who, it seems, for a couple decades, could do no wrong in his business dealings.
Only a very short time ago Mr. McCaffee had a net worth of well over 100 million dollars. Today that net worth is about 4 million.
So what happened? Well one of the major reason’s for Mr. MacAfee’s problems was he made a very common mistake that many other wealthy people have made. Rather than practice do it yourself investing he turned investment decisions over to “financial experts” oftentimes people who call themselves brokers or financial advisers. In MacAfee’s case one of their recommendations was to put millions of dollars into bonds tied to Lehman Brothers.
Obviously Mr. McCaffee got bad advice and most people now know that Lehman Brothers was one of the first cards to fall in a financial deck that toppled a couple years ago. The resulting fallout brought the world economy to its knees and we are going to be digging out of the resulting mess for some time to come.
Mr. McCaffee also got burned in the real estate collapse as well. And I am certain he got a lot of advice on real estate also. It is likely he was told that real estate was an absolutely safe investment. Real estate prices cannot go down and increasing demand and increasing prices are almost a given.
This is the manure spread by financial advisors, brokers and people in government prior to the crash and 10s of millions of Americans, including Mr. McCaffee, bought into it.
Years ago I wrote a book, “How I Quit My Job and turned $6000 into a Half Million Trading”. (See Classic Trading Manuals)
Basically what I had done was to start with $6,000 of borrowed money and by taking about 10,000 individual trades, I realized well over 100% annual returns on my investments for six consecutive years before writing the book.
I am not trying to blow my own horn here, but this experience got me to thinking a lot about investments, risks and return as well as “expert opinion”. I was not an expert; I developed my basic plan on a yellow legal pad on a skiing trip. Understanding the plan required an understanding of 5th grade math. No I was not an expert.
I am not going to try to rewrite that book in this article, but there were four important noteworthy things I did that contributed to my success:
1) I ignored just about everybody’s advice and I developed my own strategies for trading. My strategies violated many sacred rules of trading financial instruments.
2) I never held on to anything more than three days. This kept me from being killed in the marketplace. If I bought something and it started going for the toilet, I was out of it while I still had some money. There is a lot of safety in trading the short term.
3) I traded a lot of different markets. There is also safety in diversification. Things can go bad with one or two things, but it is rare that things go wrong with everything. On one memorable day when all hell broke loose I lost $18,000 in bonds, but made $24,000 in stocks. Diversification saved my butt.
4) I did everything myself. I developed the strategies myself, I did the trading myself and everyday I counted the money myself.
Of all these strategies the most important is doing it yourself. I was once fired from a good job because my boss said I was too much of a “lone wolf”. But you have to be a lone wolf to be a good trader. Contrarians may make bad employees and bad spouses, but they make excellent investors. One of the truths of trading is that the markets tend to destroy the majority following conventional wisdom and reward the minority following contrarian thinking.
I travel a much less exciting road today regarding investing. I stick to stocks and I only buy them. I no longer short stocks; in the year 2010 probability clearly favors rising prices. But I still diversify and I presently take trading signals in 96 diverse stock markets. I do a lot of programming now, but my trading systems are not that much different from what I developed on a yellow legal pad on a skiing trip 25 years ago. That old stuff still works. And I still do not keep anything more than three days.
I have fun now is putting these trades up on a web site several times every day. I keep it low key and gear it to small investors. I do not make money everyday but I do make money the majority of days. As I write this I am still exceeding 100 % annual returns on my money invested. My web site is kind of my way of saying “in your face” to the kind of moronic advise that got John McCaffee in trouble.
In order to avoid investment pitfalls you must practice do it yourself investing. Simple logic is still a viable investment strategy and lone wolves still make money. Diversification really works. Short term trading is one of the most logical and easiest ways to increase profitability while reducing risk. If you want to get rich you must develop your own strategy, ignore the experts and DO IT YOURSELF!
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