If your portfolio is anything like mine, last week's upswing came as quite a relief. After months of push-me, pull-you performance, Mr. Market had a nice run, with the major indices posting substantial gains.
Most market mavens, however, chalked the showing up to investor relief over a mild inflation report -- always a bad sign if you ask me.Now wait a minute
No, I'm not suggesting that keeping inflation in check is a bad thing. Far from it. Like you, I'm sure, I'm a big fan of maintaining my purchasing power.
What concerned me about last week's showing was that it seemed pegged to macro data -- always an especially thin reed when it comes to long-term investing. Over time, after all, the rate of inflation -- along with interest rates, GDP growth, and, oh, I don't know, the pace of construction spending -- will ebb and flow, with the highs and lows canceling each other out as investing years go by and morph, eventually, into investing decades.
Can savvy types take advantage of macro-driven rallies? You bet, but to my way of thinking, it's best to regard those kinds of plays as exactly that: bets. As this week's general market malaise indicates, what macroeconomic data gives on the one hand (inflation in check: good), it can take back with the other (home sales down: bad).
Brick by brick
The upshot? It's best to place your more speculative equity bets only after you've laid a solid portfolio foundation, which, not coincidentally, is a hot topic at the Fool's new GreenLight newsletter service.
The personal finance newsletter and its companion website have been designed with investing newbies and those who are playing catch-up in mind. So, among other things, we've shown beginning investors how to get a bead on the portfolio they might not even know they have -- haphazard 401(k) choices anyone? How 'bout sporadic contributions to an IRA? -- before making their next investing move.
As Yogi Berra might say, it's hard to know where to begin if you don't know where you've already started.
Follow the money
Investors who've opted to go the indexing route with the likes of, say, Vanguard500 Index
Similarly, those who've invested in the iShares Russell 2000 (IWM) exchange-traded fund (ETF) because its performance history over the past five years looks so darn juicy may find that their portfolio is lopsided in favor of such little fish as Maverick Tube
The Foolish bottom line
For investing newbies, getting a handle on the market's various shapes and sizes -- not to mention on your own portfolio -- makes a lot of Foolish sense. And GreenLight exists to help you do exactly that. The service also aims to help you get a grip on such hot personal finance topics as your credit rating and which savings accounts give you the biggest bang for your bucks.
If you're a beginning investor -- or perhaps an old hand who'd like a refresher course on the basics of smart finance -- I encourage you to give the service a whirl. There's no obligation to stick around if you find it's not for you. Just click here to give GreenLight a go.
Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises GreenLight. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.