How to Find the Stocks That Will Make You Rich

As measured by my returns over the past three months, I'm a terrible investor. And as measured by their play over the last 15 minutes of Sunday's game against Stephen Curry, three referees, and an arena of Davidson fans, my beloved Georgetown Hoyas are a terrible basketball team.

But three months of investing matter even less than 15 minutes of basketball. In truth, the Hoyas had a strong year this year, three great years before that, and they have Greg Monroe, the nation's top high school player, ready to suit up next year. John Thompson III is building a program for the long term.

As for my investments, I'm building a portfolio for the long term, and current volatility is giving me the opportunity to buy shares of some outrageously cheap stocks.

What works most of the time does not work all of the time
Of course, you could be a wisenheimer like my dad, who points out that these "outrageously cheap" stocks have only gotten cheaper recently. And that's true.

But since I can't time the market in the short term, I build for the long term.

That means buying stakes in businesses that will grow and profit for decades to come. And if the share prices of these companies fall while the quality of the business remains the same, well, that's a great time to buy more.

Don't get me wrong
Now, if you could time the market, you would have made some incredible money recently. Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC  ) doubled in a day earlier this week on the news that JPMorgan Chase  (NYSE: JPM  ) was revising its takeover offer for the company. Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE  ) rocketed more than 50% over the past week following word that regulators would ease it and its sister company Fannie Mae's (NYSE: FNM  ) capital surplus requirements.

And while there are people out there who predicted and profited from these moves, there are others who bet against a revised takeover offer or government action on the capital-surplus issue -- and lost a boatload of money.

In other words, it's impossible to make a career by flipping a coin.

The better way
There is, however, a long list of great investors -- Warren Buffett, Bill Miller, Chuck Akre, et al. -- who have gotten rich by buying stakes in great businesses such as Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) , (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , and Simpson Manufacturing (NYSE: SSD  ) , respectively, and letting those stakes compound for years.

Not only is this a proven and successful investment strategy, but it has the added benefit of keeping taxes and transaction costs to a minimum.

That makes it an ideal strategy for the individual investor. Yet one nagging question remains: How does one reliably identify great businesses?

The treasure map, courtesy of ... Hahvahd
A recent article from Harvard Business Review and instructs executives in "10 Ways to Create Shareholder Value." It's an admirable list that every business leader should read. After all, I was shocked to find that "80% of executives would intentionally limit critical R&D spending just to meet quarterly earnings benchmarks."

That kind of short-term focus is the antithesis of a great business, which is why this article isn't just required reading for executives -- it's required reading for investors, too. The 10 ways companies create shareholder value are the 10 traits outside investors should seek in order to identify great companies.

Great companies focus on the long term, return cash to investors via dividends and buybacks, have leaders with ownership stakes, and file clear, reliable, and transparent documents with the SEC.

It's like looking in a mirror
These are precisely the kind of companies we pick for our Motley Fool Hidden Gems small-cap service, but we include an 11th criterion: valuation. And after nearly five years of recommending stocks, our picks are more than 24 percentage points ahead of the market on average.

You can take a look at all of our research and recommendations, including our top picks for new money now, by joining Hidden Gems free for 30 days. There is no obligation to subscribe.

Tim Hanson does not own shares of any company mentioned. JPMorgan is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Coca-Cola is an Inside Value pick. is a Stock Advisor selection. Simpson Manufacturing is a Hidden Gems recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy thanks Jon, Roy, Pat, and Tyler for a great run.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (80)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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 April 04, 2008, at 4:10 PM, wtm6000 wrote:

    I don't remember the article's title being answered in the article. It said what I should do; but, not how to do it....

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2008, at 7:01 PM, chrisfine wrote:

    At the very bottom of the report are the 4 items - quoted here as follows:

    "does not own shares of any company mentioned. JPMorgan is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Coca-Cola is an Inside Value pick. is a Stock Advisor selection. Simpson Manufacturing is a Hidden Gems recommendation."

Add your comment.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 609012, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/24/2016 2:35:55 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,223.85 78.14 0.43%
S&P 500 2,150.33 9.17 0.43%
NASD 5,303.77 46.37 0.88%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/24/2016 2:20 PM
AMZN $834.92 Up +15.93 +1.95% CAPS Rating: ****
BSC.DL $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
ELEMENTS Benjamin… CAPS Rating: No stars
FMCC $1.68 Up +0.02 +1.20%
Freddie Mac CAPS Rating: ***
FNMA $1.75 Up +0.01 +0.29%
Fannie Mae CAPS Rating: ***
JPM $68.89 Up +0.40 +0.58%
JPMorgan Chase CAPS Rating: ****
KO $42.61 Up +0.48 +1.13%
Coca-Cola CAPS Rating: ****
SSD $43.00 Up +0.06 +0.14%
Simpson Manufactur… CAPS Rating: ***