We here at The Motley Fool would like to congratulate Sirius Satellite Radio
We'd also like to thank all of the writers who took part, as well as the editorial, technical, management, and support personnel who made it all happen. We at the Fool had a really great time with this, and we hope that you, the reader, did as well.
Now, we being the Fool, we can't close nearly a month of work with just a "thank you, we love you all, good night." As much as we may strive to amuse, education and enrichment is really what we're all about. So without further ado, let's delve into what the tourney taught us and what you as an individual investor can take from the experience.
What the tournament did, and did not, teach us
The first lesson in all of this is that voting does not necessarily guarantee the selection of the best candidate -- rather, it leans toward the selection of the candidate that can muster the most popularity.
Above all, nobody should confuse the winner of our Stock Madness tournament as "the best stock in the land." After all, the winner of the Stock Madness tournament has as much to do with the best stock around as the winner of your high school student government elections did with the best candidate for the job.
Said more simply, it's just a popularity contest. The stocks of many fine companies such as MetLife and Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations FedEx
We also were reminded that some companies pay a bit too much attention to their stock. While we never sought to confirm the rumors, there were stories that certain companies were "encouraging" their employees to take part in our little game and vote for their employer's stock.
Although we're a bit flattered by the notion, it's also just plain silly. Managing a company via the stock price is just about the worst way to run a business. So although we appreciate the boost in participation, we hope the executive(s) in question pay a little more attention to the actual business they're in and a little less attention to the popularity of their stock.
Do your homework
The time spent preparing for this tournament also helped drive home the importance of research and hard work. Specifically, it was difficult to get far in this tournament without developing at least a couple different positive arguments (of course, a zany fan base helped a lot, too) in favor of a company's stock.
That, I think, is a good lesson for investors. It's not enough to say "oil's goin' up, I should own PetroKazakhstan" or "I like the iPod, I think I'll buy Apple Computer
Investors need to put some thought into why a stock should go up. Every investor should be able to explain why they picked Sirius instead of XM Satellite Radio
Even if it's just a mental exercise, investors should do what most of our tournament coaches did -- come up with a list of the positives that will make the company a success and the negatives that could hold it back. Through this slightly more involved process, you might just end up steering yourself away from a company you don't actually understand or don't like as much as you initially thought.
Popularity is fine; blind loyalty is not
We at the Fool were not particularly surprised to see that three of the four finalists in our tournament could reasonably be labeled "hot stocks" -- stocks that for one reason or another seem to excite and inflame the passions of armchair investors. We were a bit surprised, though, to see just how deep some of these passions ran.
Given the message board postings and email feedback to some of the writers, you'd think that these companies were actual family members of investors. In fact, the responses in many occasions seemed to border on those seen in ardent sports fans -- people really seemed to invest a great deal of ego in the success of "their company"; never mind the fact that they didn't benefit in any tangible way whether a stock "won" or "lost" in our little game.
Now, I don't mean to condemn popularity with a broad brushstroke. After all, for a stock investment to be successful, sooner or later there has to be some popularity to the name. Stocks are governed by the same fundamental equation of supply and demand as everything else: If no one wants to own a stock, the price will fall until the ask price is attractive enough to lure a buyer (and vice versa).
The key, though, is to separate genuine enthusiasm for a company you like from irrational rooting behavior. It's important to remember that stocks are not sports teams. It's all well and good to wrap yourself up in the ups and downs of your favorite football, baseball, or basketball team. After all, their winning or losing doesn't really affect you much (outside of damage to your psyche and ego). With stocks, though, unwarranted enthusiasm can strike you quickly in the pocketbook.
Over the course of years, I've sold many stocks of companies I really liked -- in almost all cases because the price of the stock had grossly outstripped the value of the business that stock represents. What's more, I'll bet that every single Fool writer has had the very same experience. In those cases where we've held on a little longer than we should have (like tech stocks in 2000 and 2001), the outcome was a swift and brutal shrinking of our portfolio value.
Said another way: No matter how much you love a stock, it doesn't know (or care) that you own it, and it will never love you back. If you forget this basic fact of investing, you will get a nasty reminder of it sooner or later.
Relax and have fun
Successful investing is serious business and hard work, make no mistake about that, but it's also fun. Or at least it's supposed to be. Most of the people who are successful in the stock market have personality traits and skills that would allow them to be successful in many other fields -- some of which are less stressful than investing. But they stay involved in the markets (for all of its dizzying climbs and frightening drops) because it's exciting, ever-changing, and fun.
When you're not having fun, you get tense, you get frustrated, and your concentration begins to lapse. Ever work with somebody who hated his job? I'll bet he wasn't exactly employee-of-the-month material. And that's no less true for the stock market.
If you're not enjoying the process, you're not very likely to succeed. Executing a trade isn't an exercise in "I'll show you," nor is it a chore that must be done. So, if a couple bad market moves have you moping around and shirking your normal maintenance research duties, take a little vacation from the market. Don't worry -- it'll still be there when you get back. Make sure you don't come back until you can look at your portfolio without flinching and researching a new ticker is an exercise in fun again.
Our Stock Madness tournament was just that -- an exercise in fun. It was an opportunity for our writers to do something a little different and an opportunity for our readers to have direct input in our writing process. We hope you enjoyed the game, and we thank you again for lending your support to our Foolish tournament.