The Top Twelve Investing Mistakes

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Mistake # 1. Buy and hold mutual funds

This strategy lost money over the last 10 years. ETFs, Modern Portfolio Theory and semi-annual rebalancing worked beautifully. You were able to capture gains of NASDAQ 2000, real estate 2005, clean energy 2007, DOW 2007 and more!

Mistake # 2. Commission Based Brokers

They are paid to sell you things and most don’t have the ability to offer you ETFs and no incentive to offer you Modern Portfolio Theory. Commission-free brokers are paid for “assets under management,” meaning they want to keep you happy.

Mistake # 3. Trading on Analyst Recommendations

Following analyst recommendations is a losing proposition. Researchers at the University of California and Stanford found that, in the year 2000, the stocks most highly rated by analysts lost 31 percent for the year. Even more incredible is this finding from the study: The stocks least favored by the major analysts soared 49 percent. This study examined 40,000 stock recommendations from 213 brokerages. Analysts are not all crooks, but they are definitely not fortune-tellers. This is mostly just a case of supply and demand, not dumb, corrupt analysts (though there are a few of those).

Mistake # 4. Bankruptcy Buying

Think buying Delta at $1.54 a share when you’re positive that they will come out of bankruptcy is a brilliant idea? Guess again. Reorganization plans commonly call for the cancellation of the existing common stock, with holders receiving nothing. Nada. (Financial Translation: your stock becomes toilet paper.) Lawsuits are a difficult and costly way to try to recover losses.

Mistake # 5. Pet Rocks

It’s very tempting to buy stock after shareholders have earned seven thousand times their investment, or real estate after the industry has posted intergalactic gains, but that is called chasing money. There were people, lots of them, who bought real estate at peak prices in 2005. Too bad losing weight isn’t as easy as losing money.

Mistake # 6. Hot Tips

Hot tips are often merely “Pump and Dump” or Ponzi schemes. Shysters and scam artists prey on you through this mechanism – from Madoff to the penny stock ads that you receive in your email.

Mistake # 7. Sure Shots

If someone promises to double your money in a set period of time, or to give you annual returns that are double or more of what the average person can achieve, assume that you’re dealing with a novice or a scam artist, especially if they want you to write a check before you do any due diligence into their real rate of return and a background check. This would have saved you from Bernard Madoff. Even though he had a good pedigree (like a handful of high-profile scum bags before him), he was notorious for providing no backup documentation of how he achieved his astronomical gains. Beware anytime someone wants you to hand over money before you have a chance to read or research anything.

Mistake # 8. Buying on Headlines

Headlines are written by editors to catch your eye. If you don’t read the fine print, you could be missing the most important information. Before United Airlines declared bankruptcy, investors gobbled up UAL shares on the headline that United had received $1 billion in promised concessions from its unions. The investors assumed that this was great news and that the labor concessions were all that United needed to soar the skies once again and be profitable (with the help of some federal loans). A key consideration was hidden on the inside pages of the article, however: that the Federal Loan Guarantee required. $1.5 billion in union labor concessions. In fact, receiving only $1 billion in concessions – when the loan was going to fall through unless $1.5 billion was delivered — was very bad news, not the good news that the headline trumpeted.

The Loan Guarantee application was rejected, and United Airlines was forced into Chapter 11 only a few weeks after that headline appeared in what many people consider the country’s most reliable news source, the New York Times. The headlines of less respected news sources can be even further from the complete story. The New York Times had actually printed the complete story, but too many didn’t take time to read it.

Mistake # 9. Press Releases

Press releases are written by professional writers, who are employed by the company they are writing about. A company can talk about an increase in revenue without ever mentioning that increased revenues don’t mean the company is profitable or that, due to cash constraints, the company’s fiscal health is on the ropes. If you read anything that is from PRNewsWire or BusinessWire-services that distribute press releases written by corporate PR people-ask yourself, “What aren’t they telling me?” Press releases can have valuable data and information, but they are designed to give you a snapshot of something newsworthy, not to draw out the full picture.

Mistake # 10. Placing all your chips on one sector

Diversify with Exchange Traded Funds so that you can see and capture your gains, with your semi-annual nest egg rebalancing! The former Blue Chip Index has become the Bailout Index, so it is more important that ever that you know what you hold in your ETFs. Mutual funds are too big and too diversified, which makes it impossible to know what you own and to take profits when one segment of the stock market – industry or size or style – has a rapid run-up in gains.

Mistake # 11. Keeping too much stock in your employer’s company

Rule of thumb, according to ERISA guidelines: no more than 10 percent of stock in your own company.

There’s one exception to this rule: if you’re the owner of the company, you may need a dominating percentage of the stock for voting/power reasons. In the early days of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs was booted out of the company he had co-founded.

Mistake # 12. Handing your investments over to a loved one, relative or friend

I’ve spoken with women executives who have commanded billion dollar corporations, and others who have multi-million dollar salaries, who turned over their personal investment portfolios to a husband, in order to make him feel like “more manly.” With men, it’s more likely to be the guy at the country club who convinces his poker partners to come in on a sure shot investment of his. Interview your Certified Financial life partner as if your life depends upon it, because your lifestyle does!