3 Reasons I Don’t Invest in Individual Stocks

It’s always good to see first-time investors take a stab at the stock market, especially since it has tripled in value since 2009. But sometimes they are over-eager to go “all in” on one company. A caller on my WSB radio show this week told me she was ready to invest in a company that makes body-cameras because she had heard that President Obama wants a camera on every cop.

For my part, I made a decision a long time ago to not buy individual stocks, even though I made a lot of money that way in the past. Here are three reasons why.

1. I have a real problem with the way big companies keep their books. Companies are supposed to report in terms of GAAP, generally accepted accounting principles, but in reality there is a lot of room for manipulation. And companies will include non-GAAP figures or use their own custom built earning measurements so it can be difficult to sort out the fact from fiction.

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I’m a big fan of good ideas but I also strongly believe that the vast majority of your retirement shouldn’t rest on one good idea. If you want to invest in individual stocks, only put a small portion of your investment there.

3. I have a full-time job, and it’s not managing stocks. I own a digital marketing company, host a radio show, write syndicated columns every week and frankly don’t have time to do all the research necessary on individual companies to make sure they are being managed wisely. Technology is changing so quickly. If you throw all your money into body-cameras, what happens when robo-cops come along with cameras built in? I know that’s a little far-fetched but it’s how you have to think when you’re investing.

If you’re ready to put your hard-earned money in the stock market, I think you may be better off with an indexed mutual fund. Instead of buying individual companies, you will buy an index, such as the top 500 companies. It’s safe, inexpensive and will beat managed mutual funds (where a professional picks companies for you) about 85 percent of the time.

If you have your heart set on a company, make sure you do your research. Read about their performance, and the performance of any competitors, in the New York Times business section or the Wall Street Journal and stay as informed as possible for as long as you have the stocks.

To learn more about investing in individual stocks, check out this week’s show.


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About Ilyce Glink

Author of 13 books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. Writer of the nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters.” Top-rated radio host in Atlanta. Writer for CBS MoneyWatch.com. Managing editor of the Equifax Personal Finance Blog.
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One Response to 3 Reasons I Don’t Invest in Individual Stocks

  1. Shane Leonard says:

    Ilyce,

    You are right on #2 and #3 for different reasons and far from the mark on #1.

    #1. If you’ve an issue with accounting then getting an index funds isn’t going to save you. All you are doing is going from the GAAP account risk from specific stocks to GAAP account risk for the index fund. Worse, many index funds are synthetic, and don’t actually own the underlying stocks they are supposed to track.

    #2. I hope the listener was grateful that you told them not to but it all on black / red. Though there isn’t a single advisor or pundit that would ever have suggested a one-stock portfolio.

    #3. An index fund is great for the time constrained saver / investor. Preferably an ETF (as low as 0.05% fees a year at Vanguard) and not a mutual fund. They can be as high a fee as 0.60% per annum. See Vanguard tool comparing ETFs v Funds. https://investor.vanguard.com/etf/fees

    And as you say the key to buying individual stocks is research. There really are very few good sources for novice and intermediate investors. Which is where we come it. At Stockflare, we help anyone pick stocks, easily.

    Hope you like how we present stock market data, and can tempt you back to buying individual stocks!

    All the best,

    Shane

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