Howard Lindzon is a hedge fund manager and co-founder of StockTwits, a social microblogging service. Howard is also the author of The WallStrip Edge: Using Trends to Make Money.
If buy and hold ever lived, it died 20 months ago when the S&P 500 hit an all-time high above 1,560.
Of course, back then no one was asking the question, because they were thinking that buy and hold was the greatest thing ever -- and that guys like John Bogle were the messiah. It's always like that in the market -- people ask the right questions, but they ask them way too late. [Editor's note: You can read John Bogle's take on buy and hold by clicking here.]
The truth is, no one investment style ever lives or dies forever; they cycle in and out of favor. If you were a momentum investor in the 1990s, you made a fortune. If you were a short seller last year, you reaped while the supposed value crowd was getting slaughtered. So no matter how noble buy and hold, or value, sounds in the pitch, some element of market timing is inescapable.
In addition, contingent risk tolerance and money management are critical. What I mean by "contingent risk tolerance" is that you need to have an appetite that is appropriate to who you are and where you are in your life. If you are in your 50s and you don't have much more than you need to retire on and you are risking the majority of your hard-earned savings on highly speculative stocks, well, then that's just plain out of whack.
In fact, the one group throughout all of this mess that has not been skewered -- but who deserves it -- is the retail brokers. Some of these guys and gals (not all, of course) allowed and even encouraged their clients to maintain risk profiles far removed from any sense of prudence whatsoever. I don't think many of them fully understood how to assess appropriate risk tolerance to begin with. They were just being salesmen.
The other thing is money management. It's the most important thing, really, whether you are buying and holding for retirement from the time you are conceived or you day-trade a million-plus shares per session and always go home flat.
You need a discipline for exiting losers quickly or you will get shellacked by a few outsized losses that negate a ton of smaller winners ... and then some.
For more buy-and-hold Foolishness:
Howard Lindzon is a guest contributor to Fool.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.