Over the past year or so, I have written a couple of essays about the revealing, often misguided language choices people make about investing. I have another one for you today. But first, a quick recap to get you in the mood.
In 2013 I decried how the media covers market moves. "Apple Shares Tumble," reads the headline ... with Apple down just 2.5% that morning. Or "Dow Slammed," you'll read ... with the market off 1%.
Earlier this year, I came down solidly against the increasing use of "names" in place of "stocks" or "companies." You know: "I like some names in the tech sector right now." Apparently stocks don't come from businesses with real products, employees, and competitors. Nope, they're just "names" (with charts and ticker symbols) easily bandied about on financial TV. This clearly evinces -- and spreads -- the trader mentality, and to me trading is the opposite of what we do (and preach) as investors.
Now, maybe you find these to be cogent insights, or maybe you just think I'm a pedant! (Maybe both.) Either way, as a lifelong word-watcher, diction really counts for me, because ultimately it both describes and shapes our thinking, our actions, and of course how others react to us. If you get your investing language right, I staunchly believe, you're more likely to get your investing right.
So here are two more silly phrases I don't like: "growth stocks" and "value stocks." More bad, unexamined assumptions may lie cloaked in these overused phrases than perhaps any others in our investing language. After all, when we buy a stock, don't we (1) want it to grow and (2) want to think we're getting value?
I have a more Foolish way to describe our stocks. To do it, we'll have to get creative with language ourselves, and I think you'll enjoy it.
- Underlying the idea of "growth" vs. "value" is market pricing. OK, so let's divvy up the market into stocks that are either "premium-priced" or "discount-priced" (by whichever measure one favors). Keep in mind, these adjectives are just describing the stocks; they say nothing about the much more important topic of the businesses themselves.
- Since we Fools are business-focused investors, we should also have a vocabulary describing our companies. Industry categorizations aside (helpful as they are), here are some descriptors we might use: dynamic, successful, innovative, Rule Breaker, purpose-driven, stable, distressed, leader, turnaround, Rule Maker, hidden gem. Many others.
So here's my style: I gravitate toward premium-priced stocks of dynamic and leading companies. My polar opposite (some greats invest this way) prefers discount-priced stocks of stable or distressed companies.
What about you (and your polar opposite)? Invent your own language! The idea is really to describe your investing style, and to take others — and yourself — beyond the oh-so-numbing conversation about "growth" or "value."