A pessimist would say that my portfolio is half empty.

And even though I tend to be an optimist, I remember where my discount brokerage account stood a year ago... so I see my portfolio as half empty.  

What does make me feel better is that any new money we put into the market will be buying stocks at these half-empty prices. Not everything is priced as a bargain, but the market panic is certainly presenting us individual opportunities that could once again have our portfolios overflowing.

In short, this is that dare-to-be-great moment we investors dream of.

How so?
Greatness is born out of despair:

  • When you look at lists of the top-ranked American presidents, three consistently rise to the top: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Why? Because they successfully faced major challenges. The first birthed a fledgling country, the second ensured that the country wasn't torn in half, and the third presided over our biggest financial crisis ever.
  • Think of the person you admire the most. Dollars to donuts, you admire this person because of how he or she overcomes adversity.
  • The adage says that the best time to buy is when there's "blood in the streets" -- not when there's "sunshine on your shoulders."

I could go on, but you get the idea. Tough times are the breeding ground of opportunity.

And tough times are what we have. The pop of the housing bubble has caused a credit crunch that the government is flailing to fix. The stock market has been chopped in half. Companies that were perceived as rock-solid are threatening bankruptcy if they don't get a bailout. Of course, the economists and experts who once regaled us with nuggets like "housing prices never fall" are envisioning calamity for the foreseeable future. All of these developments have caused consumer confidence to plummet to historically low levels.

I don't know when we'll get out of this financial crisis. I don't pretend to be able to call the market bottom. But I do know this: The investing legends of this generation will be made now. And they'll have some things in common:

  • They won't listen to the pundits.
  • They will buy when others sell (and vice versa).
  • They will be mocked until they are revered.
  • They won't be reactionary -- they'll have a plan and principles.

A place to start
As a starting point, let's focus on the first two bullet points. What are the Wall Street pundits shunning right now? As you are probably aware, it's rare for the Streeters to make sell recommendations. "Hold" is Wall Street's polite way of saying "Sell," so I went trolling for companies that have consensus hold ratings but strong fundamentals -- reasonable profit margins, positive expected growth, and good interest coverage.

Here are 10 such names.


Net Income Margin

1-Year EPS Growth Estimate

Interest Coverage




8 times




14 times

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)



12 times




49 times

Public Storage (NYSE:PSA)



16 times

Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB)



24 times

AutoZone (NYSE:AZO)



9 times

Chipotle (NYSE:CMG)




Automatic Data Processing (NASDAQ:ADP)



38 times




5 times

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Whether your goal is as simple as retiring a few years earlier or as far-reaching as becoming an investing legend, this is the time to be carefully daring. Wall Street dislikes these companies, but it takes more than just being contrarian to make an investing legend. You also have to be right, so remember those final two bullet points I mentioned earlier -- planning and principles. In short, it'll take time and research to separate the legend-makers from the retirement-takers.

The Fool's co-founders, Tom and David Gardner, already have their plan and principles in place. They look for companies with strong fundamentals that are poised to manage this economy and continue growing for years to come. In fact, their research has led them to recommend two of the 10 companies above in their Stock Advisor newsletter. You can see their views on these two, as well as all of their other recommendations, for free with a 30-day trial. There's no obligation to subscribe. 

Anand Chokkavelu inspires the uninspired (and wonders whether anyone will get the reference he just made). He owns shares of Chipotle. Procter & Gamble is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Chipotle is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems and Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Biogen Idec and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble and Chipotle and has a disclosure policy.