Beginners' Portfolio: We Start a Watchlist

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This article is the latest in a series that aims to help novice investors with the stock market. To enjoy past articles in the series, please visit our full archive.

LONDON -- In recent weeks, I've been pondering which shares to invest in next, and we've had a few ideas -- but we've also reflected on the fact that we don't need to rush into anything and can take as much time as we like. In fact, as investors, we're always faced with a conflict between our desire to be fully invested so that our money is working to maximum benefit and our fear of hastily rushing into investments.

In addition, we're also faced with another dilemma -- between holding on for the long term and selling and buying something else. The Foolish message has always been that investing for the long term is by far the best approach, as it keeps trading charges to a minimum and reduces the temptation to lose money by following fad and fashion. In short, it's surprising how many short-term investors end up buying high and selling low -- the exact opposite of what we want to achieve.

Never sell?
So once we're fully invested, do we sell something so we can buy the latest hot stock? No, of course not. But at the same time, if we see something that really does look like a bargain, do we stubbornly let it get away because we're adamant about holding on to our current shares forever? No, that would be ideological nonsense.

What "long-term buy and hold" really means to me is that we should buy shares that we initially would wish to hold for the long term (though, even then, there's nothing wrong with the occasional short-term punt for a bit of fun, provided we understand that's what it is and don't do it too big or too often). But once they're bought, that doesn't mean we should stubbornly hang on to our current holdings through thick and thin.

Anyway, what I'm really talking about is setting up a watchlist of candidates that we can keep an eye on alongside our current holdings. It will achieve two purposes: first, to help us choose the final additions to our portfolio, and later, to keep a track of possible alternatives should fortunes shift. So what's going into it?

What to track
We've looked at general consumer goods suppliers, and though I think they're a bit expensive right now, we should keep an eye on them, so I'm putting Unilever (LSE: ULVR.L  ) into the list. I've also been looking at engineers lately, because I think the sector is generally undervalued. In fact, I've been considering adding BAE Systems (LSE: BA.L  ) to the portfolio for a little while, but the recent news of a possible merger with the pan-European corporation EADS, a constituent of the Euronext index listed in Frankfurt and Madrid, means that needs rethinking. But it can certainly go in the watchlist. I'm also quite impressed by Ricardo (LSE: RCDO.L  ) , which I looked at earlier today.

What else? Well, for long-term investors interested in dividend payouts, utilities are pretty safe payers, so I'm going to add United Utilities (LSE: UU.L  ) to the list. I actually don't think it matters a great deal which of the big ones we choose, as their valuations tend to follow each other, and having one in our watchlist will help us track the industry.

So here are the first few entries in our new watchlist.


Price (pence)

Forward P/E

Forward Dividend





BAE Systems








United Utilities




Can you see what I like about BAE? Anyway, that's just the first four, and we're not restricted in the number of companies we can keep an eye on. So we'll certainly be expanding this list. Please feel free to make your own suggestions below!

And in the meantime, a big part of the Beginner's Portfolio is based on a strategy of buying strong, dividend-paying shares, and Neil Woodford is an acknowledged expert on it. The free Motley Fool report "8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor" takes a look at some of his major holdings. Click here to get your free copy while it's still available.

Are you looking to profit from this uncertain economy? "10 Steps To Making A Million In The Market" is the very latest Motley Fool guide to help Britain invest. Better. We urge you to read the report today -- it's free.

More for beginners:

Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Unilever. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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