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?
Akamai, Baidu.com, and Google are Rule Breakers picks. Amazon.com, Disney, Netflix, and Starbucks are Stock Advisor recommendations. Disney, Starbucks, and Microsoft are Inside Value selections. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks.
Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz owns shares of Disney, Select Comfort, and Netflix. Fool contributor Dan Caplinger loves to check out the beauties in his portfolio, which includes shares of Starbucks and SPDRs. Fool contributor Tim Beyers owns shares of Akamai and Google, and -- in case you hadn't noticed -- only wants a Google shirt for Valentine's Day. The Fool's disclosure policy plans to spend Valentine's Day cozying up to Fool.com.