How did you hold up during the Writers Guild of America strike in Hollywood? With freshly scripted programming on the way, the steady diet of reruns, reality television, and reruns of reality television is even less appealing than it was during the strike itself.

I've got a plan. It may or may not make you richer, but it will make you smarter.

See that plug on your television set? Good. Yank it.

I'm hurting for entertainment as much as the next guy, but I've always believed that when life gives you lemons, you open a tequila bar. Since the boob tube is giving us nothing worth watching, use this time to brush up on ways to become a better investor.

I have a few tips to get you started. Some will take you less time than the hour you would have spent watching Desperate Housewives or CSI.  

1. Get up to speed with fundamentals
Is your portfolio making promises that your due diligence can't keep? It's perfectly natural. Most investors start out as speculators, running with stock tips before they understand what truly drives the markets or how to value a company.

There's no shame in being a new investor. Whether you need to brush up on the basics or delve a little deeper into valuation metrics, check out the resources offers.

2. Learn to look ahead
Mastering the concepts will only take you so far if you invest exclusively through your rearview mirror. If you lean on earnings-valuation gauges, based only on what a company has already done, you're missing the real wonder of figuring out what it might do in the future.

Let's illustrate. Here are a few stocks that may seem outlandishly priced based on last year's earnings, but appear to be downright attractive, given their growth rates, if you apply the same price-to-earnings multiple going forward.

Recent Price



Forward EPS Estimate

Fwd. P/E (Nasdaq: SOHU)






Bankrate (Nasdaq: RATE)






Sally Beauty (NYSE: SBH)






Alcon (NYSE: ACL)






A.C. Moore (Nasdaq: ACMR)






Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM)






Source: Yahoo! Finance, as of March 18, 2008.

A lot can happen in a year. Sure, you're going out on a limb when you place your faith in a company's future earnings. Then again, isn't that what investing is all about? It bears mentioning that two of those stocks -- Bankrate and Akamai -- are active Rule Breakers recommendations.

3. Introduce yourself to new stock ideas
Whether through our Stocks 2008 premium publication, which will instantly unlock 11 promising investments, or the forward-looking growth stocks recommended to Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers, one can never have too many well-researched stock ideas. If you can't spring for that at the moment, consider a 30-day free trial.

You can always unearth some great potential portfolio-lifters for free within Motley Fool CAPS. The picks may not be as refined as those in our more in-depth research offerings, but if you've put in the effort to become a better investor, you'll know what to do when you come across promising ideas.

This article was originally published Dec. 24, 2007. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can't believe he doesn't miss his television as much as he thought he would. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.