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Investing vs. Trading: Who Cares Anyway?

The mutual fund industry requires customers that buy their funds and never sell them. So naturally, they disseminate a lot of editorial decrying any trading, market-timing or re-allocating that includes selling their mutual funds. This non-selling concept gets more ridiculous and hypocritical every year as scandals continue to trickle into the news regarding brokerage firm and mutual fund behavior. It turns out that the professionals running the mutual funds do a lot of trading, market-timing and re-allocating everyday, but somehow if you do this on your own, you’ll ruin your portfolio. Since an unfortunate vestige of mutual fund sales material is: “you need to invest for the long-term.” and “That it is OK if your investments are going down because these are long-term investments.

” These phrases and beliefs destroy portfolios and compounded returns. To me, investing is simply day-trading in slow motion. In my view, when people don’t have an investing plan they use the excuse, “I’m investing for the long-term.” But, I find that all the successful trading rules that apply to a professional currency trader with a leveraged $250 million position also apply to someone with $25 in a mutual fund. If the mutual fund owner calls it investing, he thinks he is immune from all the decision-making required of all ownership; ignoring the fact that every structure require maintenance.

Let’s take a closer look at maintenance; look at a home – everything but the dirt needs to be maintained. Time, weather, and events take their toll on the floors, appliances, roof, windows, landscaping, etc. The same rules apply to owning a rental home. And the same rules apply to owning a strip mall, or an airport or manufacturing plant. The same rules actually apply to every business; the building, the equipment, the employees, the vehicles, the marketing plan, the product design, and the websites. Now if investing or trading is a business (or you are trading or investing in businesses) what makes you think your portfolio doesn’t need to be maintained just like everything else? I am here to tell you that it does need to be maintained. In spite of long-term investing theories and cautions from your stockbroker or magazine headlines, most of the time you spend on investing would be considered maintenance. How I define maintenance is continued review, evaluation, and action in alignment with your investing goals. Now the maintenance that they need is continual review. Is it meeting your expectations? Maintenance means information review: changes to your market view, interest rates, inflation, recession, the industry, a new federal law, an inter-country trade dispute, etc.

Maintenance also means portfolio review. For example, , if a run up in real estate has unbalanced your portfolio, you may want to sell off weaker real estate holdings or, instead, sell off the strongest real estate holdings if the market prices are starting to fall back. Maintenance is also the mechanics of setting up alerts if a stock has fallen too far and you want to place a stop-loss order to get out, or an alert for a profit target that is about to be reached. Maintenance could simply be a monthly review to evaluate whether the stock is still above its 200-day moving average price. Whatever the manner you want to address investment and portfolio maintenance, you need to start building your own trading rules, checklists for what to do before you enter a trade, and what could possibly trigger your exit of a position. Keep a journal to see how your rules are growing your account to notice which of them needs to be changed, eliminated, or updated. All of this is the maintenance required for the $25 mutual fund investment – so that it doesn’t become a $0.25 investment from neglect. To the axiom: “A fool and his money are soon parted”, I would add this corollary: “An amateur investor and his long-term investments are soon parted.” Amateur investors that are not willing to perform the ongoing duties required to grow their investments rarely perform well.

While a professional trader who carefully analyzes and executes his trading rules can count on the continued successful growth of their portfolio.


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