Last week, I argued that copying the strategies of Kenny Gorelick -- known better as Grammy-winning saxophonist and millionaire stock trader Kenny G -- might be bad for your wealth.
I'm standing by that story. But as is usually the case in situations like this, there's also more to it. Gorelick has enjoyed spectacular successes in his investing, largely to due to behavior I find to be quite Foolish.
Trading vs. investing
We'll get into what's working for him in a minute. First, let's address what I mean by "Foolish" behavior. In this case I'm referring to a buy-and-hold style where you select stocks you know, or would enjoy studying, and purchase with the intent of never selling. This doesn't mean you won't sell. Rather, the idea is to stay invested as long as possible to enjoy the fruits of long-term compounding and lower capital gains tax rates.
Holding for the long term is easier, and generally, more profitable. Just ask Warren Buffett. Arguably the world's greatest investor, Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A)(NYSE:BRK-B) has a history of buying and hanging onto huge positions in staple stocks such as Coca-Cola. Decades of producing better than 20% average returns speaks to the viability of this strategy.
Active traders can achieve huge returns too, but at a cost. For an extreme example, take a look at this experiment from my Foolish colleague Chuck Saletta. What had been a double on paper fell to a 20% net return after accounting for taxes and transaction fees.
You'll have bad days, too
Now imagine what happens when you aren't winning consistently. In that scenario, fees and taxes don't just eat into your returns but also your net worth. Your broker gets rich while you go broke.
Gorelick has avoided that fate, fortunately, though I'm certain he's paid more than his share of high-rent commissions. What impresses me is how he's managed to structure his investing in a way that maximizes gains while minimizing losses.
According to a Reuters profile, Gorelick has at least two accounts. One managed by a professional high-net worth advisor and another for his stock trading. Losses in the latter won't impact the former. In Gorelick's case, a bet on biotech Dendreon at around $35 per share turned sour almost immediately. He sold at about $5 a share; the stock trades for less than $1 a share as of this writing. "I have a good batting average but I'm definitely not perfect," Gorelick told Reuters.
The good news? With these four Foolish money habits, he doesn't need to be:
1. Sticking with winners over the long haul is a sure path to market-beating returns. Gorelick was fortunate to get in on Starbucks stock pre-IPO. That he hasn't simply sold out of the stock in the decades since speaks volumes about his patience, a necessary ingredient for long-term investing success. Hanging on to shares of the coffee king for a 12,000% gain has allowed Gorelick to score a Buffet-like win.
2. Community intelligence can pay off. In 2010, Gorelick took the advice of a friend who'd been a successful stock picker and purchased shares of PotashCorp for a split-adjusted $30 per share. He sold for about double a year later, Reuters reports. The lesson? Tapping into a pulsing community of experts can do your portfolio a world of good. (Our own Fool-powered investor intelligence database -- the free-to-use Motley Fool CAPS -- scores stocks based on ratings from our most prolific stock pickers. Try it here.)
3. Having a plan is important. Gorelick isn't merely trading stocks or "playing the market." Rather, the Reuters article paints the picture of a man whose intent is to supplement income at an uncertain time in the music market. A very Foolish plan, in my view.
4. Your portfolio doesn't need to be huge. Gorelick holds about 30 names in his portfolio, and he's made about as much from stocks as he has music over the past decade. Most of us won't make make tens of millions from our investments. But isn't it comforting to know that you don't need track hundreds or even thousands of names to profit? Owning a stake in 15-30 companies is all most of us need to get exposure to the stock market while remaining properly diversified.
Every investor has strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots that must be accounted for in developing a strategy. In Gorelick's case, I'd argue that active trading is a weakness but that he's more than accounted for the volatility by hanging onto a known winner (i.e., Starbucks), reducing his intellectual risk by keeping his portfolio small (i.e., 30 positions or less), and by using community intelligence and keeping to a plan.
You don't need to play the market like Kenny G to beat the market. But if you do, be sure to mix in his better money habits.
Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple and Berkshire Hathaway at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, PotashCorp, and Starbucks and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.