"I know I should be picking my own stocks."
That's a line I hear all the time -- even more so than "Got any good tips?" -- from friends, relatives, and even folks interviewing for non-stock jock positions here at the Fool. For some reason, they feel guilty for not wanting to spend hours poring over SEC filings, keeping up with conference calls and press releases, and updating valuations.
Sure, I do all of that because I like it. But I also do it because it's my job. If investing is not your job, then maybe you don't want to do any of it.
The strain of stock picking
A recent Wall Street Journal article gave a pretty good picture of what it's like to be a stock picker. The author followed around Jack Laporte and Larry Puglia, the managers of T. Rowe Price New Horizons (PRNHX) and T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth (TRBCX), respectively. What made this such a complementary pairing is that New Horizons is a small-cap fund and Blue Chip Growth (as its name suggests) is a large-cap fund. (For those of you who haven't been following the stock market, small caps have been on among the hottest on the market, while large caps have been lagging.)
Thus, while Jack Laporte has been absolutely basking in his 17.4% annual returns over the past three years on the back of smaller stocks such as O'Reilly Automotive
All of this has made Mr. Puglia's life pretty difficult. According to the article, "He has added running, basketball, and swimming to his routine to relieve stress." He's also working longer and taking more work home with him -- with very little to show (yet) in the way of results.
Be your own investor
If that doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun to you, then great! You're normal. And while we firmly believe here at The Motley Fool that everyone has it within themselves to become a great stock picker, that doesn't mean you have to.
There's no reason to pick your own stocks for the sake of picking your own stocks. To the contrary, if you don't do your homework, then doing so could absolutely decimate your portfolio.
Rather, your goal as an individual investor should be to beat the market even if you don't have the time or inclination. Think it's impossible? It's not (but I'll get to that a little later).
Have the time of your life
The value of time came home for me during a recent conversation with my neighbor Art. He's a semi-retired gentleman and a very nice guy. And while he lives modestly, he told me the other day that ever since he's been able to afford it, he's always paid others to do things like mow the lawn, clean the house, and even manage the retirement accounts.
The reason? In his own words, "My time has seemed priceless ever since I returned from Vietnam."
So what has he done with his time? He spent it with his wife and his kids. He spent it playing basketball. He spent it doing the things that made him happy and his family stronger.
Sure, that cost him a little money along the way, but it was worth it.
Hire a master investor
Don't ever let anyone tell you that you don't have it within yourself to be a great investor. You do, as long as you make it a goal and devote the time and resources needed to achieve it.
But it's entirely reasonable that there's more you want to accomplish with your time. If that's the case, then consider allowing someone else to invest your savings for you. There are thousands of hard-working mutual fund managers out there, including Mr. Laporte and Mr. Puglia, who are qualified to do just that.
The Foolish bottom line
The key, however, is to make sure that the mutual funds you invest in are tailor-made for your timeline and risk tolerance, honest about what they advertise, and charge the lowest possible fees. And, unfortunately, picking the right funds can be as difficult as picking the right stocks.
That's where Fool fund analyst Shannon Zimmerman can help. His Champion Funds service highlights a model fund each month and keeps you updated on several model portfolios to make sure that you earn market-beating returns even if you think you have neither the time nor inclination to do so. Click here to learn more.
Tim Hanson does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. T. Rowe Price New Horizons is a Champion Funds recommendation. Microsoft and Wal-Mart are Inside Value recommendations. No Fool is too cool for disclosure.