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What I've Learned After 37 Years 01/09/17

What I've Learned After 37 Years

    When I made a bit of money on the sale of the regional magazine we started publishing in 1969, I looked for a reliable investment where I could put to good use the proceeds from the sale. That was a chore! I ended up buying some treasuries (in 1980 they were yielding unprecedented amounts), I bought a vacation home, and set aside some money to start another business.

    After all these years-and even though the business I started was a financial publication for women, which should have given me a heads up--I still haven’t discovered an absolutely reliable way to put money to work (especially if you are also concerned about maintaining the value of the underlying security).

    However, there are a few lessons I’ve learned since my quest began in the early 1980s, the most important of which is that time and patience are an investors most important assets.

    To succeed as an investor, you need to have a long-term outlook. As the legendary value investor, Benjamin Graham said: "In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine."


    It starts with saving

    It is not easy to save. But, if you don’t, it’s likely that you won’t have anything to put to work for you.


    Perhaps, it’s best to acknowledge that saving is really difficult. Doing whatever it is you want to do today is much more compelling than saving for something in the future, which seems like a long way off. After all, it’s not unreasonable to upgrade to the latest smartphone. It takes wisdom to put off immediate pleasure. And, generally, wisdom comes with age. Yet your fortune depends mainly on time--and time is in limited supply when you have age. So the earlier you learn this lesson, the better.

    And ends with discipline.


    Successful investing demands discipline. That is, discipline to continue to adhere to your predetermined strategy even when every fiber of your being is demanding that you allow your emotions to dictate.

    A disciplined approach to investing will force you to ignore what other people are doing. You won’t change courses based on short-term events. You will be committed to the companies you own and hold them forever or until the underlying business is no longer what you admired in the first place. Instead of reacting to market conditions, you will make a considered judgment before you take any action.

    Time and again we see the volume of transactions spike at what will turn out to be a market bottom—or a market top!

    Of course, it is understandable that you will feel concern when you see the market price of your stock decline sharply. You will want to get out before the stock price fully collapses and the company goes bankrupt. Whether those concerns are realistic is not the point. Your concern is to preserve whatever is left. While that is possibly a reasonable way to react, it is also probably not going to be a successful move for you as an investor.

    Successful investing means sticking with your long-term objectives even when you are sorely tempted to do otherwise. History shows that most investors buy high and sell low, which is certainly not in their best interest. With so much noise from the financial media, both novice and professionals are likely to fall victim to their emotions and stray from their discipline precisely when they need discipline most. On the other hand, successful investors are able to take advantage of the opportunity provided by these less disciplined investors. These are the few (probably they are among the 1%!) who have the financial wherewithal and stamina to withstand the loud and consistent advice of the pundits and market commentators.


    If you’ve been reading my articles, you’ve noticed that I favor DRIP investing. DRIPs make it easier for even the smallest investor to establish a disciplined approach to investing.

    Investing through DRIPs can make regular systematic saving automatic and it can make it more difficult to react emotionally to market conditions (panic selling and irrational exuberant buying). DRIP investing, utilizing dollar-cost averaging, is a strategy that accomplishes all of that and more.

    The beauty investing through a DRIP is simplicity. DRIP investing is based on investing dollar amounts—not buying share amounts. You decide how many dollars you intend to invest on a schedule that you set up in advance. By investing a fixed number of dollars on a regular basis, regardless of the share price, you end up buying more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when they are high, which is the classic goal for investors.

    With DRIPs, you buy and you keep buying. Each month or each quarter or each year, you add to your holdings, by making a certain dollar-amount investment and reinvesting your dividends.


    No matter what happens to the economy, you keep adding to your positions. This takes the emotion out of your investing decisions.


    With DRIP investing, you’re not trying to out-guess the market, hoping to move in at the bottom and get out at the top. (Market timers usually enrich their brokers and the IRS more than themselves.)


    There are nearly 1,300 dividend-paying companies that offer the opportunity to buy shares directly through their DRIP. Many of them do not charge commissions or fees and will set up schedules to withdraw funds from your bank account to automatically fund your DRIP account in order to regularly buy additional shares (or fractions of shares depending on the price of the stock) on the company investment dates.


    Here is a 10-stock DRIP portfolio that could stand as a core portfolio for those who are seeking to get rich slowly, while minimizing the risk of falling prey to their emotions while they build wealth over the long term (you can click on any company name in the list to find out the specifics of the company’s plan).


    Hormel Foods (HRL)

    RPM International (RPM)

    Altria Group (MO)

    3M Company (MMM)

    Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

    PepsiCo Inc. (PEP)

    NextEra Energy (NEE)

    Costco Wholesale (COST)

    Comcast (CMCSA)

    Union Pacific (UNP)