Lessons From a Novice Stock Investor Who Has Been Successful
Since 2015, I have grown my money at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34%. My $5,000 investment will increase to $1.7 million after 20 years.
Before dismissing my success as beginner’s luck in a bull market, note that I have outperformed both the S&P 500 — which gained 11.63% in the same period — and Warren Buffett’s 20.3% record since 1965.
Here are some important lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. All roads lead to Rome
There is no foolproof strategy — they all have pros and cons. Don’t pay too much attention to those who claim their way is the only proven way to invest appropriately.
Investing is not a zero-sum game where only one strategy can be successful. Most methods have merits and will generally work given time. The adage still holds: “Time in the market is better than timing the market.”
Your job as a beginning investor is not to determine which approach is best overall, but to figure out which one suits you best. Don’t commit to a strategy that will keep you up all night with worry.
2. The most challenging thing in life is to know yourself
Patience is a virtue, and investing is no different. It is going to take time to know your investing self. You will gradually improve as you learn from your experiences.
When the market tanked in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was relatively calm. I did not consider pulling the money out of stocks; instead, I did the opposite. I found some money to put into the stock market.
I do find that I panic quite a bit when the stocks I hold increase dramatically in a relatively short amount of time. When this occurs, I have to decide whether I should cash in my gains but risk losing more potential upside.
3. Trial and error
I had to experience and tailor my strategy accordingly. I have invested in 34 stocks over the last five years and implemented three essential methods:
This method was developed by Phil Town, a disciple of Buffett. The approach’s core tenet is to buy shares when on “sale,” like in March 2020. It’s harder to do in practice, so I changed direction.
This was a short-lived approach for me. The companies involved grew revenue too slowly for my liking.
This tactic involves investing in innovative companies that are disrupting large industries.
4. To err is human; to forgive, divine
You will get some of your investing rationales wrong many times on your investing journey; it’s to be expected.
Even experts get their investing thesis wrong at times. Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU Stern, who I often enjoy listening to, said in early 2019: “My prediction is, within 12 months, Tesla is sub $100 per share, and it probably gets acquired because there’s real value there.”
However, he was grossly mistaken; Tesla is now trading above $4,250 (or $850 after a five to one stock split) as of January 13, 2021. That is an increase of 4,250% from the prediction.
So do not be disheartened when making your own mistakes. Even Buffett has said, “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ.”
You don’t have to know it all; you just need average intelligence that will allow you to learn on the job. Eventually, you’ll figure out the investing strategy that suits your investing self. From there, you must be willing to make adjustments as you learn from your mistakes. If you repeat this process, you are likely to increase your money at high growth rates.
So here’s to the next five years.