There's a magical aura to the number seven -- seven days of creation, seven Rule Breaker holdings, and seven minutes in heaven. The seven deadly sins -- pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth -- have been around a long time but, contrary to popular belief, there's no mention of them as a unit in the Bible.
The first literary reference to these seven no-nos was written between 1265 and 1274 by St. Thomas Aquinas, in the second section of his Summa Totius Theologiae, wherein he philosophized that the deadliest aspect of any one sin is its potential to lead to all others.
Developing success and wealth can lead to these seven hidden traps. As Foolish investors intent on prosperity, we need to follow the yellow-brick road of long-term investing and avoid deadly detours. By circumventing the seven snares, our successes won't leave us quicker than they came.
When investors get lucky by stumbling on a stock whose price goes immediately to the moon, they risk developing an erroneous belief in their ability to defy gravity. Fools who bought Celera Genomics (NYSE: CRA) without fully understanding the company's mission were prone to such delusions of anti-gravity grandeur as the stock soared to a price of $252. It fell back to earth, all right, accelerating faster than the 32 feet per second per second at which physical bodies plummet. Think of it as Newtonian Investing.
If a long-term vision guided your Celera purchase, that visit to the stratosphere may have rendered you giddy. Experienced investors, however, know a momentum run when they see one, and ride the helium train patiently as the company settles back to earth where the classical laws of markets and physics operate.
Don't let over-zealous pride overstate your accomplishments. Nobody -- and that includes market "gurus" -- knows everything or makes the right choices all the time.
Envy, the resentment of another's good fortune, is dangerous. Desiring others' riches or portfolios saps life-affirming energy.
People reach different levels of success at different times, and yours will indeed come if you are patient, honest, and resourceful.
If you feel the other man's portfolio is somehow greener, evaluate the efforts that generated those terrific results. As the old saying goes, "The only person worth envying is the person who doesn't envy."
While the stock market is a veritable feast of choices waiting to be gobbled up, beware of consuming more than what's necessary, or you may end up hopelessly spinning in a whirlpool of information. We recommend a portfolio of 8-15 stocks. Remember, as a partial owner of these businesses, you'll need to digest company information on a quarterly basis. Man has not created an antacid strong enough for information indigestion.
Lust is the self-destructive drive for pleasure, hopelessly out of proportion to its pay-off. Think penny stocks that must be bought today. Stuff up your ears like Odysseus to resist the seductive sirens of hype, who lure innocent investors into having the hots for huge quantities of cheap issues. If you have $5,000 to invest, which sounds better -- owning 5,000 shares of a $1 stock or 50 shares of a $100 stock?
In this case, bigger (holdings) just sound better, but quality of the company is more important than quantity.
Don't let lust for easy riches betray your goals of long-term investing. To paraphrase a classic rock song, "If you want to be wealthy for the rest of your life, don't make a penny stock your wife."
"Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them -- and then you destroy yourself." -- Richard Nixon
Has a company you owned ever reported stellar earnings, only to be punished by the market the morning after? If so, it's easy to become enraged at the uncontrollable forces that defy logic. The anger you feel may lead you towards irrational, impulsive decisions, like selling a great company you had every intention of holding. Walk it off; don't sell it off.
When a stock makes you angry, dig deeper into the company's fundamentals and re-analyze why you bought the stock in the first place.
Is there a Scrooge living deep inside you who hoards your investing gains and hatches plots to make more, more, and more? If there is, it's important to combat the desires for excessive wealth, and consider giving something back to the community as a way of expressing thanks for your good fortune.
Here in Fooldom, we do those via our Foolanthropy efforts. Sharing a small piece of your success will bring rewards of a nature that money can't touch. Try it, you'll like it.
Don't be lazy and fall under the spell of Newton's Law of Inertia. MacArthur Foundation Genius Award recipient Matthew Rabin theorized that procrastination by those seeking immediate gratification jeopardizes an investor's plans for a healthy, happy retirement.
Avoid falling into the trap of sloth by being realistic about the time and energy you can delegate towards investing. Our 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly offers investing methods with varying time commitments, and one will be suitable for you.