In these gloomy economic times, we could all use a little more love -- especially in our portfolios. So in honor of Valentine's Day, we popped four questions to a roundtable of Foolish writers. Here are their responses, full of investing ideas that are easy to fall for, with or without a little help from Cupid. Start a fire, cozy up on the couch with a box of chocolates, put on some Barry White, and prepare to fall in love with Foolish investing all over again.
What was your greatest stock romance?
Dan Caplinger: I met Starbucks
Rick Aristotle Munarriz: Disney was the first stock I ever owned. It was a present from my girlfriend at the time, who knew how obsessed I was with all things Disney. Even though I was in business school back then, I never really had an interest in the stock market. That single share of Disney got me tracking the company's performance, and awakened me to Wall Street. I still own the stock. I still have the girlfriend. She's been my wife for 18 years.
Tim Beyers: I first met Akamai in the late '90s, and by 2003, I was hooked. I began posting about it at Fool.com regularly, before I was hired as a regular contributor in December of that year.
The model intrigued me. Though still unprofitable when I bought shares in March 2004, Akamai was an early pioneer of Web content delivery, and its products -- servers -- carried a fixed cost that boasted a very long life. The math suggested that, once infrastructure spending normalized, cash would flow freely and in abundance. It has.
Increased competition has taken a bite out of my returns, but in aggregate, I'm still up more than 40% during an awful period for stocks. In contrast, the S&P 500 SPDR is down close to 17% since the day I first purchased shares of Akamai. (Sigh.)
What one stock broke your heart?
Caplinger: Growing up in Houston, I loved Diamond Shamrock, so when Valero Energy
Munarriz: I can't believe I still have shares of Select Comfort in my portfolio. I bought the stock after buying the company's Sleep Number air-chambered mattress. I should have sold once the company stopped raising its guidance, as it routinely did during its heyday. I can only blame myself. I still love the bed; I just hate the stock.
Beyers: Jeff Bezos had me at "recommendations for you!" But his heart was in his business, not the stock. Soon after I bought Amazon
It wasn't personal, and we weren't exclusive. But I took it personally anyway and sold my shares in the single digits, near an all-time low for the stock. Had I held, I'd own a market-beater today.
The experience taught me two valuable lessons. First, buy when others are selling. Amazon was an interesting business, but terribly overhyped when I bought. Second, hold till the underlying business conditions change. Amazon wasn't deteriorating when I sold; it was getting stronger.
Which red-hot stock are you crazy about right now?
Caplinger: I typically have a fancy for quirky stocks, ones you don't necessarily hear about all the time. But with companies in one of my favorite vacation spots -- Las Vegas -- hitting the skids, I've got my eye on a looker: Wynn Resorts. Sure, it's an all-or-nothing bet on whether the gambling mecca -- and others like it around the world -- can survive the global recession. With shares trading at five-year lows, though, I'm finding it harder to resist the allure of rolling the dice and seeing whether they come up sevens.
Munarriz: I have owned Netflix
Beyers: I'd wear an "I Heart Google
Almost anything can be boiled down to a search problem. What's the most important breaking news? Go to Google News. Where's the restaurant I'm taking my wife? Google Maps, please. How do I beat cancer? G-Scan me, please. OK, that last one is a joke -- but you get the picture.
Critics will say that Google has had its share of failures, and they're right. But they're also missing the point. Failure happens; what matters is how you manage failure. At Google, the culture encourages small failures in order to score billion-dollar victories. It's the Rule Breakers investing philosophy, taken as corporate mantra.
If you could pick one stock to grow old with, what would it be?
Caplinger: Trophy stocks are one thing, but for the long haul, you need a company that'll still be around for decades to come. That's why I like Microsoft
Munarriz: I'm going to go with a pick that will turn heads: Baidu.com
Beyers: I'll take Google. I know it's a one-trick pony to some, but the Web is emerging as the new platform, and no one dominates the Web like Google. I don't see that changing. Now, where's my T-shirt?