It was an accident. At least that's what you tell yourself as life's tether comes undone on that stock you once figured would make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. It has sunk, and with it your money, hopes and self-esteem.
You can reflect on the experience, and it's painful at first. Like the battered stock itself, looking back appears worthless. Beyond the benefit of a tax-loss write-off, what's the point, right? Well, not exactly. The journey is not complete. The stock may have been vanquished, but there are five lessons yet to be learned. With apologies in advance to Mitch Albom, they will just happen to be doled out by five people who played a part in the stock's existence in your portfolio.
The name seems unfamiliar at first. You can't exactly place the face because there is no face to place. He's little more than a boxy bolt of pixilated brightness. You squint your eyes and then it all comes back to you: the chatroom!
yeppers, it was me that nite!!!
Yes, it was nanoboy409 who introduced that sinking stone of a stock into your life. You begin to tense up. What were you doing there anyway? Trolling around in an unmoderated investing chatroom is like opening up a kissing booth at a lip sore convention. It was just asking for trouble. When nano mentioned a hot stock that was about "2 fly 2 d moon" you tuned in. You jotted down the ticker symbol. You never got an explanation as to the fundamentals behind the company, or even the catalyst that would fuel its galactic trek.
y did u trust me???
You bought in the next day. Truth be told, you actually acquired the same shares that your buddy nano was cashing out on after the stock popped higher on the hype. Inside, anger and relief battle it out and ultimately neutralize your emotional state. Why did you trust that random voice?
In the earliest days of Fooldom we actually had a chatroom on Time Warner's
This one, you do remember. She packed a booming voice inside her slender, smiling frame. Days after buying in, wondering why the stock wasn't going anywhere, she was a guest analyst on a popular personal finance show. Much to your surprise she was raving about your stock.
Well, I had my reasons.
She most certainly did. The highly leveraged company that you had bought into needed money. Ann worked for an investment banker that was angling to secure dibs on underwriting a secondary offering. That may have been apparent to you had you taken the time to study the company's balance sheet. It's easier than you think.
Isn't it ironic? The stocks that we talk about the most are often the same ones who need a helping hand the most.
Even more ironic is that Ann's company eventually passed on pursuing the underwriting opportunity. Even a cursory glance at the stock's sorry state of affairs -- with bloating inventory and receivables -- was enough to scare most institutional investors away. The lesson here? Talking heads on TV are just that. While the mighty General Electric
The deep breaths. The impatient tapping on the other end of the line. It's your broker, Benjamin Sells. He had no problem with your speculative purchase, even if it meant selling shares in a company he had recommended a week earlier. Yet, he also came back a few days later, urging you to move that money into an entirely different stock. When your stock tanked, he was the first to tell you "I told you so!" You agreed. However, there were some other things that he never got around to telling you.
It's a good thing that you didn't remember my other suggestion. I mean, I'll bet it didn't fare much better than your own woof-woof stock.
Benjamin's regrets are different than yours. He laments not selling you a high-load mutual fund instead. He's bummed that you ran out of money. He could have made a few more commissionable trades off of you.
As the world churns, bub. As the world churns.
Benjamin's lesson is obvious. We have an excellent Broker Center that will help you choose the ideal discount brokerage firm for your needs. The dependency on a full-service broker never weaned you off the reliance of blindly accepting investing advice. It's why nano and Ann sounded so convincing.
CEO Lee Rensie
You don't know the fourth person. He's stocky. His elegance appears faded. Maybe it's the wrinkled Armani suit, the disheveled comb-over, or the chipped clear fingernail polish. No. You don't know him at all. You probably should have. He was the CEO who ran the company you invested in to the ground.
Well, I wouldn't say "run" to the ground. I can't remember the last time I laced up my sneakers and went out for a jog.
Lee soiled his company's reputation for quality. While his knack for cost-cutting should have won over thrift-minded believers it proved to be a hypocritical stance when his chummy compensation committee awarded him large sums of salary bonuses and options which he quickly cashed out of.
I was only looking out for the shareholders. Well, one of them anyway.
Until he was charged, of course. But that's little compensation to you. The lesson here? Know your management.
You stare at a rippling puddle of water until you make out your own reflection. Yes, you are the fifth person but there's no inner voice telling you what you should learn. As the ripples subside it's looking more and more like you but there's no one around to guide you. The chatroom hypester, the agenda-cuffed analyst, the self-interested broker, and the greedy executive have all moved on to warmer climates. It's just you and it feels unfamiliar yet strangely empowering.
That's it! You are the teacher and the student. You are your own lesson. While no investor is an island -- and we have plenty of newsletters, publications, and free online content to inspire you -- you are ultimately the boss of you.
Your ego and your pocketbook will recover. You will be armed with the fortune of misfortune, as a souring experience is often the best way to avoid making the same mistakes the next time around. In a sea of voices, yours will be the loudest in your head. In your heart.
There are five people you meet in finance. You saved the best for last.
Rick Aristotle Munarriz did read Albom's book. He found it simple and syrupy but ultimately inspirationally rewarding and uplifting. It even inspired Rick to scribe The Five People You Meet at 7-Eleven. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.