Ten tips for investing in shares

MARCUS PADLEY
Last updated 11:16 07/11/2012

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Here are the 10 stockmarket lessons that you should already know.

One: Let's start with an oldie. If you find yourself standing up at your dealing desk punching the air in delight, it means, ''Sell!''

Two: If anyone ever says, ''We have entered a 'new paradigm' in equity investment'', sell!

Three: There is only one thing a falling share price tells you and it's not ''buy me''. I cannot tell you the number of times my wife has told me, ''It's OK, it was 25 per cent off.'' She could have saved 100 per cent.

Four: The market falls three times as fast as it rises. An academic study into behavioural finance once concluded that losses have three times the emotional impact of a gain. Fear is a faster driver than confidence. It takes a lot longer to become confident than fearful. In a bull market, you have time. In a bear market, you don't.

Five: Humans are not natural investors. We need mechanisms outside the ramblings of the brain to protect equity investments - unemotional triggers and systems - because our natural triggers of fear and greed are useless.

Six: No one ever tells you to sell. Step on a car lot and expect to be sold a car. Appear in the offices of the finance industry and expect to be told to invest. We are there to get you in, not let you out. So when you want to sell, it will have to be your decision.

Seven: There are no crystal balls. When it comes to tomorrow, financial theory tells you to look at history and project it forward. That's rubbish. Tomorrow is not a reflection of the past but a blank canvas.

Eight: If half the game is about making profits, the other half is almost certainly about avoiding losses. It's about not cocking it up, which is almost more important than getting it right. To control losses, you need to watch what happens to your investments after you've bought them and act when proved wrong. It is this latter bit that the buy-and-hold philosophy turns a blind eye to, and that's why it doesn't work, except in hindsight on select examples. Buy and hold was never alive, its weaknesses were just hidden by a bull market. Sometimes you wonder if long-term diversified investment isn't really just a concept the finance industry came up with as an excuse for not having to pay attention.

Nine: Timing the market. If you want to save yourself 10 years of going nowhere, it is clear that occasionally, just occasionally, you are going to have to time the market. But don't let that dismay you - timing the market is half the fun. Making a judgment and taking a risk is why we're here and the finance industry would do well to embrace it rather than hide in the cliche that you can't.

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Ten: Be good to your kids. Those kids you're going to pack off to primary school on Monday are the first generation of investors who will have no experience of the 2008 crash and are therefore the first generation capable of irrational exuberance once again. We will be selling them all our assets at the top one day. So smile and be nice. It's us and them.

Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Australia’s Patersons Securities.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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