This Is Why You'll Never Be a Great Investor

Recently, something heartbreaking happened: While crammed into a middle seat on a flight from Denver to D.C., I realized that I may never become a great investor.

Tired from a long week, and bored out of my mind, I ignored the more sensible reading material I'd brought along and picked up the in-flight magazine. Before long, I stumbled across an advertisement -- and a troubling fact.

Wasted opportunities
"Over 92% of people who own exercise equipment and 88% of people who own health club memberships do not exercise," the ad stated. The more I read that line, the less possible it seemed. But to be honest, at my own gym, only about one-third of the people even look like they've ever been inside a gym.

I guess going through the motions makes them feel good about themselves. But why would so many people spend money and then not even pretend to exercise?

Four words that opened my eyes
At one point, all of these people had an "I can do it" moment: a brief burst of inspiration brought on by a friend, a personal trainer, or even an infomercial. They came to believe that with a little effort, they could truly get in shape. I should know -- I'm one of them.

Now, I've gone to the gym fairly regularly for years, and I get my fair share of exercise. But have I ever really reached my loftiest fitness goals? Nope.

Is that because I'm lazy, or I'm undisciplined, or I just don't have the genes for it? Sure, a lack of discipline or even genetics might be good reasons. But the real reason lies in four heartbreaking words ...

"I don't have time"
Time is our most precious resource, and lack of it is the No. 1 reason people don't go to the gym ... or travel the world ... or, well, you name it. It could also be the reason you never become a great investor, or make the kind of money you want in the stock market.

Becoming a master investor takes an almost impossible amount of time. Warren Buffett began his investing career at 10, and he's been practicing for hours a day ever since. Obviously, he's spent his time well.

But what about those of us who don't have the time it takes to become great investors or uncover life-changing investments? Heck, what about those of us who barely have time to keep up with the stocks we already own?

Take you, for example
Suppose you own a balanced portfolio consisting of the following widely followed, blue-chip stocks. Well, here's just some of the reading you should be doing to keep up with them:

Stock

No. of Pages in
Most Recent 10-K

No. of Articles on Yahoo! Finance
So Far This Week

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  )

91

180

General Electric (NYSE: GE  )

203

245

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  )

120

92

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  )

428

163

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  )

115

96

ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  )

125

103

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  )

223

70

Total:

1,305

949

In other words, you should be reading roughly 1,305 pages of annual reports and 949 articles per week just to keep up with the stocks you already own, let alone find new ones that could make you rich.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know you probably want to be a master investor -- just like I want to be in excellent shape. But I don't have time to read 1,305 pages of SEC filings and 949 articles per week. Do you?

Is there any hope?
Absolutely. Though investing is a hobby for most of us, devoting an hour or two a week to your portfolio will give you a huge advantage as you build your long-term wealth.

Unlike the in-flight ad I saw, which dubiously promoted a $14,000-plus machine that provided a total-body workout in four minutes a day, I can't promise that successful investing will be easy.

However, if you're looking for a shortcut to becoming a better investor, consider the newest offering from Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner. It's called Motley Fool Pro, and it gives passionate, yet time-strapped investors an all-access pass to follow along as David Gardner and his partner Jeff Fischer use their proprietary Motley Fool CAPS community-intelligence platform to invest $1 million of The Motley Fool's own money in long and short positions, options, and ETFs.

The ultimate payoff
While you won't become a master investor without a serious investment of your time, Motley Fool Pro can save you time, and it could help you make money in up, down, and roller-coaster markets like the one we're in today.

If you're tired of just going through the motions, and you're ready to start reaching your investment goals, I urge you to learn more about Motley Fool Pro right now. Just click here.

This article was first published May 16, 2008. It has been updated.

Austin Edwards doesn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. Johnson & Johnson is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation, and Pfizer is a former recommendation. Intel, Microsoft, and Pfizer are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. The Fool owns shares of Intel as well as covered calls on Intel. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 21, 2009, at 6:08 PM, gene2u wrote:

    You had me rapt until you started promoting Motley Fool Pro. Then I felt duped.

  • Report this Comment On March 22, 2009, at 1:33 PM, SusanGrisanti wrote:

    One way to understand a problem is to use reverse thinking~ Warren Buffett is in OK shape, but he obviously doesn't go to the gym several times a week, Because he doesn't have time! He has chosen to focus his time on investments & making money, as his Main focus. Which is why he is the Tiger Woods of investing. Tiger Woods has chosen to focus his time on golf, which is how he became Tiger Woods. I don't expect my guitar students to become full time pro guitarists like me, because I know the Time & Sleepless Nights I invested for decades to become a full time pro guitarist. Occasionally one of my guitar students will spurt with inspiration to become pro, but over about a year their will to do it will break down & they will quit. Over 5,000 students later, none has sustained pro level more than a few months. My most hopeful prospect pro student is now pursuing a degree in Civil Engineering....

    I don't have time to go to the gym, because I have to focus on being a pro guitarist, so I excercise several times a week in my apt with music on the CD player....I get decent results with very little time & money invested....

    What we're really talking about here is focus...& the need for more than 24 hours in a day....

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2009, at 11:36 AM, pondee619 wrote:

    "You had me rapt until you started promoting Motley Fool Pro. Then I felt duped"

    All the articles on these pages are just ads for their paid subscriptions. They are all followed by the try this newsletter for free, after giving us your card #. Get multiple subscriptions, get the whole story. A multitude of picks per month, buy them all, beat the market.

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