As a Florida Marlins baseball fan, I've had some jubilant highs over the years. I was there for opening day in 1993, for Game One of the 1997 World Series, and again for Game Five of the 2003 World Series. The team won every time.
In sports, you can't have your highs without your lows, and the Marlins and I have certainly suffered through plenty of those. The talent purge of 1998, denying the squad a fighting chance to defend their title, stings to this day. We now have the "market correction" of 2005, which has seen most of the team's key players move to new franchises over the past week.
The argument goes that the Marlins would be fine if the team only had its own baseball stadium. But even with a diamond to call its own, the team would never support the kind of payroll being batted around by teams like the Yankees, Mets, or Red Sox.
The owners gave it a shot, producing a winning product with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, but now the team is dead-set on being the cheapest club in town. Remember Max and Leo from The Producers, who realized that there's more money to be made in producing a Broadway flop than a smash hit? Life is imitating art with the Marlins; though their ranks are being decimated, they're still likely to turn a profit thanks to revenue-sharing deals.
Owners and politicos are duking it out in South Florida over what went wrong -- and how the situation can be salvaged before the carnage gets worse -- but fire sales are corporate realities. Maybe -- just maybe -- your portfolio can use a little fire sale too.
Where there's smoke, there's an overpriced equity
Where do you start picking the players you're going fling onto the trading exchange's bidding block? If you're trading in a taxable account, you have more than a few things to consider. Will you be selling at a gain or at a loss? Is it going to be a short-term or long-term situation? Do you need to offset sizable realized gains with some turkeys in your portfolio, or do you have a hot stock that you want to unload, but would prefer to move the tax liability to 2006?
If you came here with those questions ... well, I'm afraid won't be covering them this time. Our Tax Center provides just that kind of shoulder to lean on. I'm here to discuss two more basic questions that always seem to be on the mind of any investor once a stock has been bought:
- What do I sell?
- When do I sell it?
The Marlins knew what they wanted to unload. Any player earning more than six figures next year was as good as toast. When to sell? No time like the present. I hate to condone the team's strategy, but it does make sense for personal portfolios. If you have an overpriced stock on your hands -- or one that just isn't getting the job done -- go ahead and just rip that bandage in one swift moment. Unless there are taxable implications, there's no need to lose sleep over a stock that you just don't feel confident in holding.
If you own a stock like Google
When turkeys fly
What about the duds in your portfolio? Unless you're a disciplined investor with strict selling guidelines, or live on trailing stop-losses, you're going to have some real stinkers in your portfolio from time to time.
Maybe you're holding on to shares of Blockbuster
What are you waiting for in these cases? You made a mistake. Accept it, learn from it, and dump it. Everybody does it. Ask Warren Buffett what it was like to own an airline stock. Ask Motley Fool Stock Advisor why it held on to Krispy Kreme
We all make mistakes. That's the point. I've had some real stinkers, and as bad as I've felt about buying in, there's always a sense of relief when those clunkers are no longer reddening my list of holdings.
So belt out Auld Lang Syne in a few weeks and mean it. Out with the old if it doesn't fit you, in with the new if it does. If the stocks are simply taking up space in your portfolio until you find a better place for the money, get going. Pick up a copy of Stocks 2006 and dig into a dozen reasons to make the move.
Yes, make the move. I'm hoping my Marlins don't make "the move" if that means leaving town. However, in the end, I understand the circumstances. You need to run a viable business. You need to stock a viable portfolio.
You're up to bat now. Swing away with gusto.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz was also at the last game of the 2005 Marlins season. He didn't realize at the time, as the game crept into extra innings, that he would be staring at a practically new lineup come 2006. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.