The Transparent RRSP: Market Fears

The Week of August 8
  • I left the RRSP account alone. I wanted to buy shares of Bombardier (BBD.B.TO), but I couldn’t find an entry. There might be an entry on Monday or Tuesday.

 

BBD vs XIC

Price charts: BBD.B vs. XIC on freestockcharts.com

As you can see in the top two charts, BBD.B has been more positive than the market (the two lower charts of XIC). If the market continues to head lower, I’ll either abandon the plan to buy shares of BBD.B or just wait until the market settles down.


Last Thursday, the markets collectively demonstrated anxiety over North Korea. There was a big market sell-off and most gold stocks went up. It’s hard to say at this point if this is a reaction temporary in nature, or if it will signify the beginning of more and more selling due to fear. I’m going to make it a point to pay closer attention to the news and to how the market trades over the next couple of weeks.

Last week, I put together a big watch list of stocks that had promising charts. After last Thursday, only a few of them still look okay:

  • L.TO (Wait another few weeks to a month for this to properly set up)
  • H.TO (I own shares of this stock already.)
  • EXE.TO (I own shares of this stock already.)
  • TCW.TO
  • D.UN.TO (This is a REIT.)
  • CNE.TO (Needs a better setup unless you’re into aggressive, riskier entries.)
  • LIF.TO

Until you know what’s going on with the market, I don’t recommend buying anything. These stocks would be worth looking at while also observing the market. Watch how these perform against the market or their sector. If resilient stocks start to show weakness, then it’s usually a good sign that a weaker market will become even weaker.

There are different ways to play defensive during uncertain times. You can buy gold or shares of gold stocks. You can also buy consumer staples stocks. You can buy nothing or you can sell all your stocks. Whatever you do, don’t lose sight of what you want for your portfolio long term and think strategically.

Since the late spring, I’ve been unloading shares of stock. I’m either selling portions of my positions or all of them to either collect profits or reduce my exposure to the market. I have still been buying shares here and there, but not as actively as I used to. This has nothing to do with North Korea. Rather, it’s more about the market, which has been pulling back since the end of April. Maybe eventually, it will have everything to do with a conflict with North Korea. Regardless of what happens, I’ll let the charts guide me, not my fear.

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Stocks

I get this Monday off at work because it’s a holiday. The US stock market, however, is still open, and I really hope to get my trade on.

It’s been so long since I’ve been able to watch the US market live. I still have an active trading account with Interactive Brokers set up just for day trading and swing trading. My US trading account looks a lot like a backyard that needs a lot of tending to: some big glorious trees (a couple of winning stocks) among a bunch of weeds (half a dozen losers).

Regardless of its imperfections, my US portfolio has been outperforming the market all year — a huge reason why I leave my trades alone. I’ve been busy transplanting my life to a new city, anyway. Making any attempts at fast trading while busy and heavily distracted would be bad practice. The US market is full of action, but it’s a hostile environment to navigate. The payoff can be fast and big, as can be your losses. I need to be focused and ready to execute even just one quick trade. Now that I’m all moved in and my office is all nicely set up, I hope to do a bit of ‘yard work’ for the first couple of hours that the market is open.

Half of my money in this trading account has been sitting there doing nothing for a very long time. I hope to open one or two swing trades this Monday – and maybe get a day trade or two in there while I’m at it.

I did a search on finviz.com using the filters and criteria for finding stocks I like based on price and trading ranges. I found a few worth considering:

  • CARA
  • CLR
  • DKS
  • DVN
  • FL
  • NSC
  • TRIP
  • UAL

I noticed some pretty beat up stocks that would be worth considering if a shocking reversal were to happen (a VERY aggressive play):

  • LNG
  • RH

Usually, before the market opens, my brokers provide a number of stocks that are actively trading in the pre-market (before 9:30 AM). These stocks often end up being in play all day, or at least for a big part of the morning session (trading usually slows down around lunch).

My own discipline requires that I only select only a few of these stocks and watch them closely. If and when an opportunity presents itself, then I’ll do a trade that will last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours. Day trading is not for most people and I would never recommend for anyone to even try it.

I discovered day trading is not for me either. Swing trading (a few days to a few months) and position trading (months to years) is more lucrative and a more realistic way to handle your money. I haven’t totally given day trading up because doing it every now and then (like once a month) keeps my instincts sharp. Most importantly, it reminds me of the value of never risking too much on any one trade. I might win on these trades 80% of the time, but the losing 20% can be such a blow financially, mentally, and emotionally. Losing keeps things real and really forces me to learn from my mistakes.

If the market is too volatile or my choices aren’t great or don’t open well, I might just leave the account alone and not trade anything. Always have a great Plan B so you don’t end up trading just because you had originally intended to. Not every day is a good day to trade — it’s just not something worth forcing. I might just take the holiday off and go to Niagara Falls instead!

 

The Transparent RRSP: Summer Reading

The Week of July 17
  • I took no action for the RRSP.

Instead, all week I’ve been stewing and brewing over something I wrote two weeks ago:

This week, I was actually considering buying shares of APH.TO for the RRSP, but it’s not quite ready yet. I know this one is capable of developing really good patterns. Once I see the trading range tighten, the selling volume lessen, and a pattern improvement on the daily and weekly charts, then I’ll pick the price I’d like to enter at and I’ll put in an order. I’ll give it another couple of weeks. If it ends up going up while I’m waiting for these things to align, I won’t be too concerned if I miss the run. It will either set up again later or I’ll find something else.

So, APH had a major breakout three trading days after that post. The setup I was identifying actually happened – just a lot sooner. I took my eye off the ball. So, I went with my next play. Last week, I bought ECN at $4.03 with a strong feeling that it was going to take out a previous low of $3.87, which it did only three trading days after I put in my limit order.

 

APH ECN

Price charts for APH.TO and ECN.TO on freestockcharts.com

 

I was right both times. The problem is, I’m left frustrated, mainly because I missed the stock that had the bigger move. You know what’s worse than losing money for most traders?

  • Exiting a stock too soon and leaving money on the table;
  • Missing out on something you knew was going to happen;
  • Overcompensating for either of the above two reasons.

I actually shouldn’t be frustrated. Let’s say I never noticed APH at all. I would take that ECN trade any day and I’d be okay with it.

Trading Psychology

Trading psychology is actually a ‘thing.’ I once had a trading coach – an infinitely kind, generous, patient, uber positive day trader based out of Colorado. He was really into trading psychology and he consistently banged the drum on the importance of visualization, meditation, and forming a strong belief system supported by mindful practice. He got me reading Psycho Cybernetics and books by Tony Robbins, among many other things. This reading took me down a path of self-exploration deeper than any other self-improving attempt I’d made in the past. This was when trading had changed me.

I learned that most of what drives our decisions is conscious, but so much of what drives our actual actions is subconscious. A common action for traders is to right a wrong. When we lose, we become prone to overtrading or overcompensating for something we should’ve done instead. We try to make back what we lost or make what we should’ve made on something we ‘knew’ would work. The reality is, there is no certainty in markets and everybody knows this. Nor is there total certainty about anything in life.

I finished reading Market Wizards, a great book featuring interviews with top traders in the U.S. These traders all had their own unique strategies, their special recipes for success. What they had in common, however, led to their success: tested strategies, experience, persistence, the need to manage their losses, and learning to deal with the uncertainties of the market.

In this book was also an interview with Dr. Van K.Tharp, a psychologist who focuses on the psychology of trading. It was so fascinating to read about how this psychologist understands the thought process behind trading and has dedicated his work to helping traders get past mental and emotional road blocks in order to achieve their goals for success. Of course, I ordered one of his books from Amazon. I’ll be reading Super Trader – Make Consistent Profits in Good and Bad Markets over the next few weeks as I also read Edwin Lefevre’s Reminiscences of a Stock Operator.

Am I upset about missing the move on APH?  150% yes. Have I missed other amazing opportunities in the past? Yes, hundreds of times. Has that ever stopped me from making other decisions with good payoff? No. Will I miss other great opportunities in the future? Of course. Will I take other great opportunities in the future? You betcha.

The market will always be there. Opportunities will always present themselves. I will try to be ready for them, but I can’t catch them all. Learning and growing from these experiences is part of the fun and adventure of trading. I know I’ll get over this missed trade with APH. I hope that things work out with ECN and that I’ll have another few opportunities to buy more shares of it. One day, APH will present yet another opportunity and I will do my best to be ready.

 

Trading Dreams and Stocks to Watch

Trading Dreams Can Reveal Good Ideas 

I have always been prone to having work dreams after I’ve been at a place for a while. When I was a very active trader, price charts were a constant occurrence in my dreams in which they had the strangest capacities. For instance, I couldn’t open a door until a stock price went up another 50 cents. Or I couldn’t get to a party until I made $1000 on a trade, so I’d have three trades open. Weird stuff like that.

I had one profound dream where I was talking to my buddy about stocks. In real life, I knew he had gambled unsuccessfully on penny stocks and sports. In this dream, we were catching up while looking at a glass wall that had a stock chart on it.

He told me that he stopped wasting his time on penny stocks. Instead, he decided to keep things simple. He bought the stock of a company that made sense to him. This company started to become successful rather quickly. Every time he had extra savings, he would just buy more shares and increase his position. Over the next five years, the stock kept going higher in share price. As he explained this, the chart on the glass wall started to grow live on a timeline. The chart finally stopped moving once it reached the present day. At that point, he was up $18,000 with that one stock.

Scaling In

While I don’t believe it’s a good idea to put all your money into one stock, I do believe in the strategy of adding to a good position. At the time of this dream, I wasn’t confident enough in my own methods to add to any position. If anything, I was exiting too soon. Over the years, I got over my fears; it eventually became a practice I employ in the situations I feel most confident in.

I’ll often decide on a stock because I like the chart and its sector. My initial strategy might be shorter term. I might sell shares to take profits or lighten my position and just keep some shares for the longer term. Other times, I’ll change my outlook. If the chart and the stock show more potential for longer term growth, I’ll buy more shares of it at the next opportune setup.

I don’t think of investment decisions in definite terms because there’s no way to predict exactly how much you’re going to make. I like the idea of interacting with your investments over time in order to be fluid with the demands of the market or to take advantage of new opportunities that come up.

My Own Stocks

The market has been doing a nicely controlled correction – thankfully, it hasn’t dropped rapidly. I don’t know if it will react further to the news next week if we find out for sure that interest rates will go up. The market doesn’t like surprises, so if interest rates do go up, then there should be no major shock to the market. If anything, the anticipated news is already priced into the market and we can move on once it comes out.

I’ve been casually looking for stocks, yet I haven’t been very inspired by much of what I’ve seen out there. When this happens, I become more interested in watching how the stocks in my own TFSA portfolio are doing. Some of them are either consolidating nicely or seem to be doing their own thing. Here are some of my stocks that I might scale into:

  • ZPR.TO
  • MSI.TO
  • ECN.TO

These other ones I’ll be watching for more confirmations from the sector and/or market:

  • BBD.B.TO
  • EXE.TO
  • TECK.TO
  • APH.TO

This week, I was actually considering buying shares of APH.TO for the RRSP, but it’s not quite ready yet. I know this one is capable of developing really good patterns. Once I see the trading range tighten, the selling volume lessen, and a pattern improvement on the daily and weekly charts, then I’ll pick the price I’d like to enter at and I’ll put in an order. I’ll give it another couple of weeks. If it ends up going up while I’m waiting for these things to align, I won’t be too concerned if I miss the run. It will either set up again later or I’ll find something else.


N.B.

The last thing I want to do is to make stock calls for the purpose of getting others to pump up my own stocks. I tend to pick stocks that trade higher in volume, so price jumps are less likely to occur unless A LOT of investors step in. I lack that kind of influence – this is a low-key blog, not BNN. I expect investors to do their own necessary due diligence before making investment decisions.

 

The Transparent RRSP: Interest

Action taken the week of June 26
  • Transferred $150.00 into the RRSP. That gives me $170.90 in cash.

If I see anything that looks interesting, I’ll be ready to take action with some cash in the account again. I’ve been looking around and I found a few compelling charts. However, the market is just so uninspiring right now. I’d much rather wait for it to settle down before I do anything. It would be great if there was nothing to do until next month.

Another thing to note: If we raise interest rates sooner, that will greatly impact the market. I plan to consider, over the next week or so, some good trading/investing ideas.


July xic

XIC ETF in freestockcharts.com

Let’s look at the monthly chart of my favourite TSX index ETF, the XIC. I would like the market to pull back until the blue line. I mentioned in a previous blog that I’d like a market correction to come down to the same area we were at around November last year.

I think, though, that we’ll likely only pull back to the orange line, which is where we were at in December. This year so far, we had the heaviest selling volume in June. To get significantly below June’s levels we’d have to sell a lot more.

If interest rates do actually go up, a lot of sectors like retail and housing will be impacted. The financials, on the other hand, have been recovering since late May. Higher interest rates will be better for their business, especially after they’ve been running on low interest rates for so long.

I wrote previously that I think there’ll be a recovery in energy (oil) this summer – and I still think that. It’s worth considering swing trade opportunities in this sector as it could go up over the next few months to a year.

After a quick search, I noticed that the following stocks have had heavy selling volume the last few months:

  • SU.TO
  • PD.TO
  • CVE.TO
  • BTE.TO
  • ENB.TO
  • ECA.TO

If you feel conflicted about putting money into the yucky oil industry, you can just treat this as a study into my process when I look at sectors that have been beaten up. Here is a general run down of my process:

  • Watch the daily and weekly charts of stocks;
  • Look for signs of sideways trading;
  • Watch for reduction in trade volume. The volume should indicate less selling some more buying;
  • Check the monthly chart – it should look like a reversal is happening;
  • Compare all this to the sector ETFs;
  • Among the sector’s stocks, watch for the ones that are looking the best;
  • For swing trades, look at the strongest stocks that meet your criteria for entry, price, and trading ranges. In other words, figure out which ones that will give you the most bang for your buck.

I’ll share my ideas on this more recent trade idea and if I do take a trade, I will let you know. If this makes you nervous, then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy watching me fall flat on my face. I often go into trades thinking that I will do just that, but it’s exciting enough for me to take action. This mindset forces me to only risk enough so that I won’t be devastated if I’m totally wrong. Personally, it’s more devastating to not financially benefit from an idea I had that actually worked.

The Transparent RRSP: My Own Stocks and Father’s Day

No actions taken the week of June 12

It’s been a very busy week for me, but it’s a good time to be busy as the markets are still looking like they’re headed lower. I don’t feel the need to take action quite yet. The US markets need to go down through May’s lows – at the very least – before going up again. This could affect the Canadian market; we have already been weakening the last couple of months and going through our own correction. If the US market goes down more and we don’t, then that’s a good sign for us that our correction could be over.

markets.jpg

Price charts of QQQ, AAPL, XIC, and SPY on freestockcharts.com

Apple (AAPL) is a big part of the NASDAQ (ETF: QQQ) and it’s been weakest of the big tech stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google). Until it stops going down and levels out, it will continue to lead the NASDAQ down.

It’ll be interesting to see if the rest of the US market follows suit. I’ll keep my eye on the S&P 500 (the SPY ETF). Its financial sector (XLF) has been quite strong, but this sector is due for a correction. A slower summer market could cause it to stall and look less inspiring to investors. A correction in the financial sector could take the SPY down. There was a lot of selling last week in some of the big US banks (BAC, JPM and WFC) as well as Visa (V). Other big financial stocks (C, MA, and AXP) were trading strong. A divergence between a sector’s biggest stocks creates uncertainty.

Summer Trading Means Fewer Selections

Often, when the leading market heads lower, other markets eventually do the same. However, it can be different in the summer because of less trading volume. Performance is more stock and sector specific and less market dominant.

Investors and traders pile onto the fewer, more promising opportunities that stand out. Sectors kind of do their own thing and are less prone to overall market moves because there’s less of a dominant trend. It becomes more obvious which sectors are stronger and which ones are weaker. It’s actually a very good time to look for sectors and stocks that are about to embark on a new move or trend before it gets busier again in the fall.

For me, the summer is usually the time when I focus on the quiet under-performing sectors and I try to see if there will be a new longer-term opportunity in it. I’m going to watch the Canadian financial sector as it’s been weak since late February. I feel that it should correct just a titch more, and if it does, I will watch very closely for when it sets up again. If this happens, Canadian banks, here I come!

I didn’t have time to do a stock search this week – I only had time to look at my own portfolio. Here are a few of my stocks that I’m considering buying more shares of:

  • Aphria Inc. | APH.TO
  • Aritzia | ATZ
  • Bombardier | BBD.B
  • BMO SP TSX Laddered Index ETF | ZPR
  • ECN Capital Corp. | ECN
  • Extendicare REIT | EXE

I’ve been complaining a lot about having too many stocks. It’s better for me to focus on what I have and get more shares of the ones that I like. I just have to wait for a new entry point.


Thanks Dad!

My dad passed away in 2009. He was 59 and battling a long-term ailment. At least I can say that shortly before his death, he was living life to the fullest. What happened to me after his passing was something worth thinking about. Without his guidance, his half-believable stories, and hilarious anecdotes, I had to use whatever resources he’d passed onto me to keep going. I’m sure this recognition was all subconscious, but I finally had the courage to see things for what they were and let them go in order to do the things I most wanted to do. I took a promotion at my job, saw my career trajectory and said, “On second thought, I’m going to learn how to trade stocks. However that turns out.” The rest is my history.

I’m halfway through reading Jack D. Schwager’s, Market Wizards: Interviews with Top Traders. It’s been an incredible read so far. I’ve heard of some of these guys before. It’s so cool to hear about how they all had to overcome so many barriers to get to where they were. One thing none of them had to overcome was their gender. I can honestly say that neither have I, even though I am a woman.

Since I was young, my dad convinced me that being a girl was an advantage. His dad, my grandfather, was in the US Army, and he was away a lot. He served in WW2 and in Korea. So my grandmother ran the show when my grandpa was away. My dad was the youngest of seven siblings, four of whom were older, amazing sisters. My dad ended up being a very macho guy – who saw women as being greater than anything macho.

Because of my dad, I never felt disadvantaged for being a woman. I actually thought that I could do whatever I wanted to because I was female – he’d long convinced me it gave me an edge. Maybe it is true – our society has yet to accept this concept. Or maybe he just told me a tall tale knowing what I’d be up against. As I got older, I became more painfully aware of the disadvantages women frequently encounter. I love trading because the market doesn’t care about your personal details. You’re either in at the right time and right price, or you’re not. It doesn’t get more gender neutral than that.

As I’m reading Market Wizards, I feel that I can relate to these traders on so many levels, but it feels a bit too much like a boys club. I know there are a lot of extremely successful female traders out there. We’ll just have to cover our own stories. Whether or not I become a market wizard worth writing about one day, I’m sure my dad would be proud of me.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

 

The Transparent RRSP: Share Prices & Flash Crashes

Action taken the week of June 5
  • Bought 20 shares of TransAlta (TA.TO) for 7.74. This cost me $154.80 + 0.20 cents of commission. I now have 45 shares of TA. There is $16.90 in cash left in the RRSP account.

If you buy a stock at different times and at different prices, then it makes sense to figure out the average cost of the shares. The previous 25 shares of TA were purchased at $7.63 per share. I’ve worked it out below:

  • 25 shares * $7.63 = $190.75 + $0.25 commission = $191
  • 20 shares * $7.74 = $154.80 + $0.20 commission = $155
  • $191 + $155 = $346
  • $346 / 45 total shares = $7.69

This is also known as the adjusted cost base, or ACB. I use the share price of $7.69 to determine how much I make in profits (or losses) when I sell the shares at a different price later on.

If I want to determine just the average price of the shares, I can do the same thing, only I leave out the commission fees. It works out to be $7.68. It doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but that’s only because my commissions are extremely low.


Flash Crashes

Yesterday the Canadian market closed positive. We traded sideways all week. Not much action, which I prefer. The US market, mainly the NASDAQ, however, experienced a flash crash. I saw the charts and so I had to see what the news had to say about it. They explained that the mega-cap tech stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google – aka FAANG) were starting to sell off. They weren’t the only ones selling off hard before the crash. The semiconductor stocks (SMH is a semi-conductor ETF in case you’re interested in viewing its chart) were selling off heavily after noon. It had been a long while since the tech sector had shown any major weakness.

After hitting new highs this week, investors were starting to collect profits and play defence by unloading some shares to be less exposed to a sell-off. Well, if enough investors with large holdings (particularly institutional investors) get the same idea, this triggers a mass sell-off. These sales which began around noon triggered the automated trading programs to sell later on in the day, which led to an overall big sell-off in the market. This domino effect happens when giant stocks fall; sometimes even one giant stock can affect the general market. The NASDAQ market lost its last three weeks of gains in minutes. It recovered partially at the end.

I have shares in a few of these tech stocks and I was thinking this week, “Wow, I can’t believe it just keeps going up! When will it come to an end?” I had sold some shares to collect profits a few weeks ago; I was left with the disappointing feeling that I had acted a little too soon. However, I did so because I was anticipating this. (If you’ve been reading my blogs, then you know this isn’t hindsight commentary.) I’ve lived through enough flash crashes to know that I’d rather make my decisions away from such events, not in reaction to them. I still have some shares left in these stocks, but I’ll see how they do over the next couple of weeks.

The Canadian market came down a bit in reaction, but it came back and closed positively. These flashes tend to be more pronounced in the US markets. Because the US market is so big, a crash can affect the global markets if sustained recovery doesn’t follow.

It’s events like this that could deter people from wanting to ever invest in the market in the first place. These things can happen in any market, though, because people are prone to panic. Rather than cave into your feelings and react out of fear of the worst to come, it’s best to try to be objective: Observe the sentiment of other investors and see how your holdings are doing on the bigger time frames like the monthly charts. There is a good chance that your charts are still looking healthy. A correction here and there is to be expected as nothing ever goes straight up. All I can say to all that is to keep calm and let your stock carry on!

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The Transparent RRSP: Stock Picks

Action taken the week of May 29
  • I deposited $150.00 into the RRSP account. There is now $169.90 of available cash in the account.

I’m still waiting to see if the Canadian market will have a more definitive correction than what it gave in May. It could set up over the next few weeks/months for a new run, but I doubt it. The monthly chart looks like the market is inching downward. I still would like to see the market come down to the same level it was at in mid-November.

With the lower trading volume during the summer months, I put less emphasis on the market (as long as it’s not making any extreme moves that invite concern or attention) and I pay more attention to individual stocks that are getting a lot of action. I might casually pad my trading accounts now and then with extra cash so that should opportunities present themselves, I’m ready to take action.


Some Stock Picks

I found some stocks with nice charts, some of which are seeing a lot of recent action in price moves and trade volume. These have been trading better than the market – which doesn’t say much.

  • BBD.B.TO – I don’t like that Bombardier has gone straight up the last two weeks, but it’s been stronger than the market. I would prefer a correction on the daily time frame. It’s worth watching as the weekly chart is promising with a breakaway candle that held strong with increasing volume. I’ve owned this stock since early February 2016 and I can tell you that it’s not much of a mover. This can be a good thing when this stock experiences volatility because it’s less of a shock to your portfolio (unless you have a lot of shares and took on too much risk). While the monthly chart is very nice, the yearly chart is not inspiring.
  • BTO.TO
  • HGU.TO (This is a gold ETF.)
  • TD.TO
  • MG.TO
  • RY.TO
  • NA.TO
  • TA.TO – This is already in the RRSP. I was beyond busy this week and I wish I had a chance to look at the chart earlier this week. Depending on what it does next week, I might buy more shares.

If you’re not inspired to take on any risk, you can just watch these over the next few weeks and months and see how they do with or without the market. If you do feel inspired to trade, I’d recommend taking on less risk and buying fewer shares. I only say this because I still think the market will correct further and this could take down your stock and it could be a while before it starts to improve.

As always, please keep in mind the industry, sector, the company and its fundamentals, any recent news, upcoming earnings announcements, the amount of risk you’re taking, how it fits within your portfolio, your anticipated time horizon, etc. It’s always important that you look into what you need to in order to feel confident in your investments.

The Transparent RRSP: Managing Doubts

Action taken the week of May 22
  • I reviewed my holdings in both my RRSP and TFSA. I am considering buying more shares of TransAlta Corp. (TA.TO) next week because I like the monthly chart.

A Glance at the Market

XIC may

The XIC ETF price history charts on freestockcharts.com

As you can see on the weekly chart, there has been mostly selling in May, which is consistent with the saying, “Sell in May and go away.” It would take more buying than all the selling that’s gone on all May for the market to trade above that. If the selling continues to consistently happen, even in small amounts, we’ll start to move lower.


When I’m in Doubt I Stay Out

I’ve been going over my portfolio and considering each stock that I bought and sold over the last year. First, I listed my primary and secondary financial goals for each one. If I had sold the stock or some of the shares, I made note of why I made the sale. Then I looked at the price history charts for each stock on my list and considered whether the stock’s performance was still in line with my intentions and goals.

Of course, my ultimate financial goal is to make money in any stock that I invest in. The major distinctions between each of them are determined by how I want to make money (dividends? capital gains? both?) and when (in the next few months? in a few years? in decades?). It was interesting to see how many of my holdings were initially intended for a swing trade after which I ended up wanting to keep them for much longer. This tends to be a pattern with me.

I’ll often buy a stock with this thought process: Let’s see how this performs. If it’s good, I’m keeping it. I might sell some and keep the rest. I might buy more the next time it has a good setup. If it’s a dud (a stock that sees zero action despite the market or its sector), then I’ll opt to sell it at break even or for a small profit and move on.

Selling at a loss is almost never an option for me. This only happens if, for whatever number of reasons, it becomes obvious beyond any doubt that the stock appears to be worth significantly less. I then have to ask myself if I’m willing to hold until that lower point and then wait for its recovery. If it does recover, at what price will it likely recover to before it goes up – or down – again? I rarely have to address the prospect of selling at a loss. This is not because I’m a decent stock picker. It’s because after years of trading, I saw that most of the stocks I sold at a loss ended up doing well weeks, months, or years after I bought them and sold them.

This basically means that it doesn’t matter if a stock has a good chart or not. It also doesn’t matter if you can time the market. More time in the market surpasses any well-timed entry. For a chart reader like myself, admitting this an act of hypocrisy! The price history chart is merely a tool that helps me understand the bigger picture.

Once I decide to invest, I rely on my ability to be patient. I believe strongly that patience is the key factor to growing a strong portfolio. Getting in and out of stocks frequently can really mess with your mind and potential to do really well. I learned that the biggest threat to patience is doubt. Doubt can be very powerful if you don’t trust the market, the world of investing, and yourself.

Whenever doubt starts to creep into my thoughts, I remind myself this: There is a finite amount of money and this puts a limit to the value that we place on things. Collective optimism makes things go up, but not forever. Collective pessimism leads to fear and this makes investors sell, but only until that fear exhausts itself. Humans are generally optimistic, and this is reflected in the overall market’s tendency to go up. I can’t always time everyone’s optimism or predict the end of all pessimism. If I get into a stock during its early signs of new optimism, it’s easier for me to exercise patience, even if it takes a while before market consensus helps the stock take off.

The main reason why I look at charts is because I can’t wait around until some analyst goes on TV to talk about a security that has been doing well already. While many investors might feel more confident in making investment decisions by waiting for an expert to give his or her opinion, it’s often too late for me at that point. I am more likely to act on doubtful thoughts if I know I got into a stock later rather than early on. I end up self-sabotaging my efforts by looking only for factors that confirm my doubts and fears. I’ve done this enough to know not to listen to such counter-productive thoughts. I’ve learned to trust my process and to stick with the strategies that give me the most confidence. Now, I only buy – and sell, even at a loss – when I’m confident in the factors contributing to the decision. I’m not afraid to make mistakes, but I don’t and won’t act on doubt.