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Make 10 Times Your Money without Taking Big Risks

By Dan Ferris, editor, Extreme Value
Friday, August 20, 2010

Investing is like tennis. It's a loser's game.
Think of the difference between professional and amateur tennis players. Professionals win points. Amateurs lose them. When weekend warriors play tennis, the losers determine who wins. They hit the ball into the net. They whack it out of bounds. And they routinely double-fault on their serves. That doesn't happen nearly as much in pro tennis, with its long rallies and pinpoint shots.
Most investors are like amateur tennis players. They lose money in stocks because of their own behavior. There's no opponent outplaying them. They beat themselves.
DALBAR, a Boston-based research firm, compared the returns from market index funds with returns real investors earned in equity mutual funds...
From 1989 to 2009, market index funds returned 8.3% per year. If you compound $10,000 at that rate for 20 years, you'll wind up with just under $50,000 – five times your money. For buying an index fund and doing nothing else, that's a great return. No research necessary. No thinking required. Just buy and wait. It couldn't be easier, and you get five times your money, pretax.
The only problem with that 20-year, five-times-your-money return is that almost nobody earned it.
Real, flesh-and-blood investors investing their own real, hard-earned money made significantly less than 8.3% per year over that time. On average, individual investors in U.S. equity funds earned just 3.3% per year. At that rate, $10,000 grew to just $19,150 in 20 years. They didn't even double their money – in 20 years! Most investors just can't hit the ball back over the net.
Most real investors investing their own real money perform even worse relative to the overall market in bull markets. During the great bull market to end all bull markets from 1984 to 2000, DALBAR found equity mutual fund investors made 2.57% per year, with market index funds compounding at 12.22% per year.
The age of the daytrader treated investors worse than most periods. Investors ran around the court faster than ever, swinging like mad, only to hit more balls out of bounds and into the net than ever, turning a $10,000 investment into just $15,000 during the biggest bull market in history. Had they simply failed to lose, they'd have turned $10,000 into just over $100,000.
Investors could have made 10 times their money in 16 years by refusing to overmanage their own money – by letting stocks do the work for them.
A large dose of humility would help most investors make more money in stocks. For starters, most investors just shouldn't buy individual stocks. They should buy index funds and plan to hold for decades. Almost everyone else should build a diversified portfolio of only the highest-quality names and plan to hold them for at least 10 years.
If you can't hold on for a long time, be prepared to take losses.
In my Extreme Value newsletter, I have a list of the world's best companies that are currently trading at absurdly cheap prices. I've mentioned a few here before: Microsoft (MSFT) and ExxonMobil (XOM) are two of my favorites.
These and stocks like them are an excellent start on a diversified portfolio that could earn you 10 times your money – remember, that's 12.22% per year for 16 years. Most stocks like this will compound your money at single-digit rates. But one or two could produce enormous returns.
You don't need to take on big risks to earn that kind of return. All you need to do is wait. To master the loser's game, you must be patient. You must master time itself.
Good investing,

Further Reading:

Steve Sjuggerud has figured out a simple way for investors to avoid getting scared out of stocks long enough to lock in huge gains. If you don't follow this rule, Steve writes, "chances are great you'll make an emotional decision... and sell at exactly the wrong time." Learn Steve's rule here: Avoiding the Biggest Mistake Investors Make.
With his recommendation of World Dominating oil producer ExxonMobil, Dan is going head-to-head against one of the world's greatest short-sellers. Learn why this famous investor expects this stock to drop... and why Dan believes it "is one of the world's greatest long-term investments"... here: This Famous Investor Is Dead Wrong.

Market Notes


Almost a year ago, we introduced a unique "worth pondering" idea for gold investors... the idea that China was guaranteeing your gains in gold investments.
Around this time, the Chinese government was in the headlines for encouraging its citizens to buy physical gold and silver. China has trillions of dollars of currency reserves... A tiny portion of this could be directed to supporting the gold price to ensure the government's "buy gold" recommendation was a good one. We called this situation a "whopper of a backstop" for gold.
Looking at the recent action in gold leaves us more and more convinced that Asian buying, led by China, has created a huge floor of support for the oldest form of "real wealth."
You see, gold typically goes through major corrections after extreme moves up, like those staged in late 2009 and early 2010. But as you can see from today's chart, gold is refusing to decline much after these recent rallies. Declines are now weak... and are met with a surge of buying interest. Much of that is coming from your "gold sponsors" in China.

Gold: Declines are now met with a surge of buying interest

In The Daily Crux

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