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Sometimes, all it takes to become famous is to get just one market call right. What sets apart truly successful investors, however, is their ability to shift gears as market conditions change and continue to find ways to reap profits from their portfolios. It's tough to keep an open mind about your investing philosophy, but if you can, you'll be able to take advantage of whatever situations you face and more effectively protect your assets when times get tough.
Changing your mind
In the latest edition of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter, Foolish fund expert Amanda Kish takes a close look at the struggling economic environment. Noting how several economic indicators are flashing warning signs of a possible double-dip recession, Kish looks at how some of the money managers she tracks are planning to make money despite the potential for a long period of slow or no growth.
One such manager is John Paulson, who is famous for having made huge financial bets against the mortgage securities market. After the housing bubble's collapse, the investments Paulson made panned out in pay dirt. Yet what's most remarkable about Paulson's success is that in searching for smart investment opportunities, he turned to the same industry he bet against previously.
In particular, Paulson recently counted JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup (NYSE: C ) , and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) among the biggest holdings in his hedge fund. He also recently added Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) to the mix, arguing that all of these financial institutions are perfectly placed to benefit from even the modest economic recovery that appears to be on the way. In other words, no matter how astute his bearish call was a few years back, Paulson has moved on and started to adapt to new conditions.
There's no doubt that it takes determination to turn away from a strategy that made you billions. But being able to evaluate investment opportunities with an objective mind is a skill you'll need if you want to avoid seeing hard-earned paper profits go up in smoke when the investing climate changes.
Rolling with the punches
Not all money managers are able to change gears when their investment strategies go bad. Take Bill Miller, for instance, of Legg Mason Value Trust fame. His fund went an amazing 15 consecutive years of beating the S&P 500, taking full advantage of bull markets while limiting its losses when the tech bubble burst.
But Miller's streak came to an end in 2006, and he's struggled ever since to regain his lost success. Suffering a devastating 55% loss during 2008, Miller's value strategy didn't work with Sears Holdings (Nasdaq: SHLD ) or Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) , both of which failed to rebound even close to the amount of their losses. Even this year, utility AES (NYSE: AES ) and now scandal-ridden Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) haven't restored Miller's market-beating reputation.
It's true that sticking with a winning strategy through tough times can be smart in the long run. But if you can anticipate how markets will change, you can gain an even bigger edge by finding ways to adapt to them.
Look both ways
That's why great investors never stop trying to learn. Whether it's poring through annual reports like Warren Buffett does or exploring the latest exchange-traded fund, you can only gain by looking into new investing strategies and finding out more about the companies that interest you.
The resources at the Fool's Rule Your Retirement service can help you in your ongoing quest for knowledge. In addition to Amanda's commentary, you'll find tips on financial planning, understanding deflation, and how real estate investments can help you fill out your portfolio. Best of all, we offer those resources free of charge to new subscribers for 30 days, with no further obligation.
The key, though, is that even when the economy is slow and the overall stock market stays flat, you can still make money. By staying vigilant about learning about investing, you'll be better able to pinpoint the specific investments that will perform the best.
See more about turning your hard-earned savings into retirement riches. The experts at Rule Your Retirement can show you the way, and a 30-day free trial is just a click away.
Tune in every Monday and Wednesday for Dan's columns on retirement, investing, and personal finance.