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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Long Term Approach To Stock Market Riches

By Gail Fredericks

Albert Einstein has often referred to compounding as the 8th wonder of the world. Indeed, the power of compounding is astonishing. The only problem is that at the beginning you won't see much of a reward. Yet this is the key to winning in the stock market: over the long term, you will make a lot of money because time is on your side. This article is not about get-rich-quick schemes involving the stock market. It's about setting up your plan so that you position yourself to be sitting pretty a couple of decades from now. Let's get started.

1. Clearly state your objective. Considering factors such as your age, risk tolerance, number of children, and so on, you will have to define what type of portfolio you're going to build. This is going to be the measuring stick by which you'll analyze every potential opportunity and decide whether or not it's worth going for, as well as when it's time to opt out. Avoid being in the situation where you react to the market, this is rarely good and almost always very costly.

2. Devise a strategy. If you look up stock market investment strategies, it seems as if everyone has THE winning formula for success in the stock market. Obviously, they can't all be right, although there are some time-tested principles that all the greats have never strayed from. Find one of these strategies that you're most comfortable with, take it, and literally run with it. As in everything, you might come to a point where you have to improvise and make a little detour, but those moments should be the exception; changing your plan when a situation arises should never be the rule.

3. Assess possible risks. Your ability to assess the risks your investment carries will be critical to your success. The key here is to look at them realistically, not with wishful thinking. Your management plan must be as effective and practical as possible in order to minimize your losses and in turn maximize your profits. This step is to be completed BEFORE evaluating profit potential, to avoid you getting so excited about your potential profits that you fail to properly evaluate the risk you'll be taking.

4. Gauge profit potential. Based on the profit potential of your investment, you should be able to determine price points where you sell and get out. One of the biggest hurdles for novice investors is knowing when to get out of an investment. They eventually wait too long and lose some of their on-paper gains.

5. Look for other options. You can look around and see if there are any comparable (or better) investments in therms of risk, profit potential, or simplicity of management. This little extra step can simplify a lot of things for you, not to mention make you some extra money in the long run.

6. Scale the mountain. This step goes hand in hand with devising a strategy from the get-go. Every investment you make will have its unique challenges to optimize rewards and minimize losses. Anticipating them gives you a leg up that will allow you to achieve that exact goal.

7. Have your plan B handy. Set specific boundaries as to when you should get out of an investment. Whether everything goes wrong and you need to bail out or you've hit it big and need to move on to other investments, having explicit, well laid-out limits prevents you from losing returns or just losing more money.

8. Choose the right investments. Investing takes time, so for one last time look over your new project as a whole. Now you've got all the pieces to see the puzzle as if it was completed, and can determine if this investment is really worth your time and effort. And if it isn't, there's no need to dwell on it: starting a new plan is certainly less painful than losing a couple thousand dollars because of an ill-advised investment plan.

9. Go for the gold. Once you decide to pursue an investment, don't second guess things. Give it all you've got and you'll probably come up a winner. Yes, it does sound clich, but even if things don't pan out for that investment, you won't be that big of a loser either because you had limits in place to limit your losses (see points 4 & 7). Steadfast resolve to follow your game plan will give you the best returns in the long run.

10. Debrief. On a regular basis, look back over your plan and analyze your results. If you picked out some duds and suffered heavy losses, try and figure out where you went wrong so that you don't make the same mistakes next time. The worst thing you can do at this point is give up because then you won't have learned anything from your mistakes. Instead, constantly tweak your approach and refine your technique until you find that perfect strategy. Once you've done that you'll be on your way to success in the stock market.

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