I've made some massive financial blunders over the years, and consequently, I've stolen some future wealth from myself.
For one thing, I didn't begin investing in earnest until I was in my early 30s. Sure, it could have been much worse. Many people don't start until they're considerably older. (Still, good for them for starting!) Let's say I had socked away just $2,000 when I was in my first year of working. If I'd parked it in the Standard & Poor's 500 index, it would have increased fivefold over the past 20 or so years, growing to about $10,400. If I'd bought $1,000 of stock in Apple
So there's one mistake -- by not starting as early as I could have and not buying companies I knew, I missed out on some serious profit opportunities.
Once I did begin saving and investing, I really got into it. I read broadly, but I read more magazines full of hot stock tips than books by and about great investing thinkers, such as Benjamin Graham, Peter Lynch, Warren Buffett, John Bogle, and Phil Fisher.
So I kept making mistakes. You name them, I made them. I recommended airport-security and explosives-detection specialist InVision Technologies at $8.30 per share in a Fool article back in 1998, but I didn't buy any for myself. As you might imagine, it did well following 9/11 and was bought by General Electric
On the flip side, I bought Sun Microsystems
If you enjoy reading about other people's pain, check out some of my other blunders. (Seriously, it might do you some good to learn from and avoid my mistakes.)
Good intentions aren't enough
So now that I've got all this hard-knocks experience under my belt, how am I investing? Well, I'm still selecting stocks on my own -- but I do so much more carefully and infrequently. It's not uncommon for me to buy or sell only one or two stocks in an entire year. My overall track record isn't too bad (hey, I turned $3,000 into $210,000), but it would have been even better if I'd not been such a chowderhead earlier in my investing career.
I know some important things now, though. I know that I don't have enough time and discipline to follow lots of stocks and scrutinize their financial statements. I can admit that I'm not the best candidate to allocate all my hard-earned dollars. And best of all, I've identified some smart people who do have the time and the talent to invest effectively. And they're even willing to take care of my money for me, for a modest fee. They're mutual fund managers.
I've been moving some big chunks of my nest egg into carefully selected mutual funds in the past few years. I love this approach because:
- It helps me sleep better, knowing that I'm not neglecting my portfolio.
- These funds have impressive track records, and I have high hopes for terrific long-term performances from them.
One of my holdings, for example, is Dodge & Cox Stock, which is up more than 20% for me in a little more than two years. That's not a blowout performance, but the fund does have a 10-year annualized return of 14% and sensible managers. It's also invested in some companies I've wanted to own, such as Citigroup
A new holding of mine is the Vanguard Emerging Markets Index, which gives me instant exposure to an array of non-U.S. companies in developing parts of the world.
I encourage you to consider adding some top-notch mutual funds to your portfolio. They will relieve you of having to decide which stocks to buy and sell, and when to do so. They can help prevent you from inadvertently sabotaging your nest egg.
We'd love to introduce you to some market-beating funds with great managers, low fees, and top-notch track records, via our Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter. Try it for free, and see which funds analyst Shannon Zimmerman is recommending and has recommended -- and why. Together, his picks have gained an average of 17%, versus just 7% for their benchmarks over the same time period.
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