Let's face it. Picking your own stocks is an egotistical thing to do. You're essentially betting that you, Joe Oddlot, in your boxer shorts at your laptop, can beat the biggest minds and the best money out there -- people running billion-dollar mutual funds and private money, not to mention wearing pants.
Of course, I think it is possible to win this game, but that doesn't change the fact that playing takes a great -- maybe even a silly -- degree of self-assurance. But once in a while, even this egoist goes looking for a serving of humble pie. I look to funds.
The three Bs
There are three reasons why I use funds in my own portfolio, and why I think everyone, even stock hounds, should consider them. They all start with B: ballast, bliss, and brains.
It's not a requirement for every portfolio, but investing is a psychological game, and ballast can help by smoothing that otherwise rough market ride. If you like small caps, as I do, the weekly gyrations can be nauseating. If you like value stocks, as I also do, waiting for the Street to reward out-of-favor companies can be worse than that awful, burning, "I gotta go but I don't have time," sensation we all got while playing hide-and-seek as kids.
Don't believe me? Take a look at a chart from some of the stocks I've owned or contemplated this year. Big positions in some whipsawing techs have provided plenty of drama. Steadying the boat with a position in a slow, steady, growing fund meant the swings and the sweating were never more than I could stomach.
We could all use more of that, no? Listen, I like digging into company financials and market maneuvers. It can be very rewarding to try and figure out whether Symantec
And I get a real charge out of watching the dwindling stock prices at companies as varied as Yahoo!
But that can get tiring. Really tiring. Have you ever tried to split out growth capex for Lowe's
There are times when I'd rather be doing just about anything else. (Like now, perhaps, as my wife heads out into the sunshine for a bike ride and I sit here working on a hunchback and a case of carpal tunnel syndrome.) Unfortunately, you can't make informed investment decisions if you skimp on the homework. That's why I like the option that funds offer, of relying on other people's ...
Like I said, stock picking is a bit of an egoist's game, but we'd be foolish (with a small f) if we didn't admit that other people could do at least as well as we could. No matter how smart we might think we are, more brains can't hurt. That's why I don't mind the thought of handing my money over to some of the most time-tested and trusted brains in the biz. In these shops, teams of people like Chuck Royce or Bill Nygren at Oakmark work through all the details to arrive at market-beating investment decisions.
Of course, finding the right brains to give me the bliss to provide the ballast is a pretty daunting task. If you think picking stocks is hard, how about choosing funds? There are a lot more of those. Thousands more.
That's why, when it comes time for fund-finding, I don't even try to do it on my own. I check out my colleague Shannon Zimmerman's Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter. Shannon picks only the cheapies -- the shops likely to beat the market -- and he even calls out the duds on a monthly basis.
A free one-month trial will show you the details, but here's the skinny: More than three-fourths of Shannon's funds are beating the market, and they're doing it by a combined 10 percentage points. If he can keep that up, I may just hang up my own green eyeshade, rely on his brains, and help myself to a lot more bliss.
This article was originally published on Feb. 2, 2006. It has been updated.
Seth Jayson likes picking his own stocks, but sometimes he'd rather be riding his bike. At the time of publication, he had shares of Microsoft, but no position in any other company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Fool rules arehere.