You know you should stop, especially at work. But it's not as if they'll fire you for it.

Or will they?

Come to think of it, I'll save that particular confession for last. But don't worry; I've got others you'll get a kick out of hearing -- even if they won't cost me my job.

Confession No. 1 -- I own mutual funds!
There, I said it. I own a real estate fund and two emerging-market funds. I even pay one manager to essentially mimic the S&P 500 (though, in my defense, I've had that one for years).

I know what you're thinking. Isn't this the same blowhard who dashed off that obnoxious rant, "Don't Invest Another Penny," warning me that I was getting ripped off by the mutual fund industry?

But wait! I have an excuse. (Of courseyou do, I hear you saying.)

You see, I love real estate. I just don't have the expertise (or interest, frankly) to buy a building or individual real estate stocks, for that matter. The same goes for international stocks and emerging markets, and for large-cap and dividend stocks, too.

Moreover, none of these funds makes up a big chunk of my portfolio, so even as they grow, the fees won't be as crippling as in the gruesome scenario raised in "Don't Invest Another Penny." (Confession 1B: None of these "excuses" explains my brand-new fund that you'll hear about shortly.)

Confession No. 2 -- My top holding is a MEGA cap
True, too. I took a hard look at my portfolio recently. As it turns out, my top holding is stodgy old Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) -- which is amazing when you consider how rarely I check the quote. And you know what else I discovered?

I own a decent chunk of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), too. I have an even bigger stake in General Electric (NYSE:GE), of all things. Weird. I mean, I'll cop to the Bank of America, but I swear I never bought so much as a single share of these other 800-pound gorillas! So, what gives? Index funds!

You see, because most of my retirement is in total market index funds, I'm constantly pouring money into these American icons, plus tech giants like Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), that I'd never buy on my own. And that's fine by me. Because it lets me focus on what I really care about: Finding my next home run stock.

You guessed it, I'm a small-cap junkie! More on that in a bit, but right now it's time for ...

Confession No. 3 -- I freak when the market plunges!
And believe me, this last time around was no different. I didn't sell, mind you, but I did let it ruin my month. Even worse, I didn't load up on any of the attractive Motley Fool Hidden Gems small-cap recommendations I had right here on my desk all along. But I have an excuse for that, too. (Of courseyou do!)

But first, yet another confession. I bought a mutual fund instead -- Third Avenue Value, to be exact. My excuse? Because I talk about small caps here so often, it can be impossible for me to take advantage of the stocks Fool co-founder Tom Gardner and senior analyst Bill Mann recommend in Hidden Gems because of Fool trading rules -- even when a dopey market like this throws us a blue-light special. Ugh.

So I went with the fund. Will it make me money? I sure hope so. But for my personal "trading" account, I like to think big. I want that baby stuffed with hidden gems ... stocks that can really surprise you ... stocks that, on any given day, can jump off the screen and make your year.

So, do you really think they'll fire me?
Here's my final confession: I check my quotes and occasionally read up on my stocks at work. OK, occasionally may be the wrong word. To my bosses, this must look a lot like research -- what they're actually paying me for. But don't be fooled. I'm a junkie. And I'll let you in on another secret: I'm not running a price check on Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) or the other so-called undervalued large caps and dividend stocks in today's headlines.

Fat chance! I'm reading up on my small caps, which actually can move a little bit on a day-to-day basis. That is, when I'm not poring over ridiculous monster gainers like Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS) -- trying to figure out what's driving their incredible moves (great revenue growth, a strong brand, a streak of bested expectations, and a good dose of hype) and how I managed to miss it. Or agonizing over all the small caps on the Hidden Gems scorecard I didn't buy last month and whose recoveries I've been forced to sit out.

Make my loss your gain
Seriously. You've heard my excuses; now make my loss your gain. There's no reason you shouldn't have a list of great stocks ready to snatch up when the price is right, especially if there are weak links in your portfolio, or you have money on the sidelines. Because, I assure you, we've not seen the last gift offered up by this twitchy market.

Now, if it's simply a matter of putting your wish list together, don't worry. You can try Tom's complete Hidden Gems service for 30 days free. In hardly no time at all, you'll have a watch list of Bill and Tom's recommendations on hand -- and, unlike me, you can pounce the instant the market goes on sale. To learn more, click here.

Paul Elliott promises to keep you up to date on Tom and Bill's performance in Hidden Gems. As of July 7, 2006, the picks are up 32.3%, compared with 10.1% if you'd bought the S&P 500 instead. Of course, you can view the entirescorecardwith your free trial. Paul owns shares of Bank of America and Third Avenue Value. Bank of America is an Income Investor pick. Microsoft, Intel, and Wal-Mart are Inside Value picks. Third Avenue Value is a Champion Funds pick. The Motley Fool has a fulldisclosure policy.