Everyone wants to be a better investor, right? I’d probably rather be a better lover, but there’s no improving upon perfection. Or maybe I should improve my baseball throwing technique. ARE YOU SAYING I THROW LIKE A GIRL? It’s not my fault. My Dad can barely throw overhand. It’s true. He was a softball pitcher when he was younger, because apparently they wouldn’t let him play on the boys’ team.
Forget baseball. We’re talking about investing. Becoming a better investor should be the goal of everyone who takes the time to bother picking individual stocks. If you’re an index investor, go ahead and go do something else. I’d recommend sticking around this website though, because HOT CHICKS IN BIKINIS. And finance content. Those are listed in order of importance.
Okay, enough preamble. Here’s the one thing you need to do to be a better investor.
I’ve heard other finance bloggers talk about how they don’t like reading about finance, limiting their reading to a select few blogs. I’ve never really gotten that attitude. I read everything I can get my hands on. I read blogs, investing websites, and all sorts of other things that interest me. And when I’m done that, I’ve got library books that need to be read and a Kindle with several unread titles on it, one of which totally isn’t 50 Shades of Grey. That’s still a thing, right?
I never went to college, which, according to some of you, probably makes any advice I give automatically moot. TOO BAD, I’M GIVING IT ANYWAY. But unlike some people who never crack open a book once their degree is completed, I read everyday. Most days, I spend at least an hour consuming words, and maybe the occasional picture. Lifelong education is important for anyone, but it’s even more important to becoming a better investor.
Warren Buffett does it
Warren Buffett famously comes into the office and has a stack of newspapers waiting for him. He puts on CNBC in the background, cracks out his first paper, and starts reading. He reads for hours, and then maybe he’ll do some work, or maybe go eat a Dilly Bar and drink a Cherry Coke. The dude is over 80, and he’s still learning.
In fact, in Buffet’s authorized biography, the author outlines Buffett spending countless hours in his study, poring over annual reports and investing materials, relentlessly searching for great investments. He also essentially ignored his kids as they grew up, but I’m sure they’re over it by now. Money has a way of smoothing over things like this. Or not.
To become a good stock picker you’re going to need to read annual reports. They are filled with all the good stuff, especially when you look in the back. You can’t research a stock properly without looking at one. You’re not going to avoid the boring stuff.
Consider it the heavy lifting of investing.
The majority of your reading doesn’t need to be so dry. There are countless business books that are actually interesting, ranging from stuff like Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell to stuff on the history of financial markets. (A list of books I recommend can be found here.) There are thousands to choose from. You could literally start reading right now, continue to read forever, and not run out of new content to read. There’s mountains of stuff for you to read, assuming you don’t get distracted by kitten videos on The Youtube.
As you read more, your understanding of all sorts of topics goes up. I’m a shareholder in Revlon, even though I wear no makeup and often can’t figure out whether girls are wearing paint on their face or if they’re just blushing because they’re embarrassed at me. I didn’t just wake up one day knowing things about the makeup business. I read annual reports, scoured the internet, and asked many different women their opinion on Revlon’s product. No, I did not sample the various lipsticks before buying. I did sample the nail polish, an action I am not proud of.
If you read a lot, sometimes you’ll just stumble on some piece of information that’ll make you a better investor. Maybe it’ll be somebody else’s detailed stock analysis. Maybe you’ll read a little blurb somewhere on a company, giving you that nudge to go check it out in more detail. Or maybe you’ll just read some stupid knock knock joke and impress the hell out of some six-year old with it.
If you’re looking for profitable investing ideas, you need to seek them out. If you’re a white guy walking around Southeast Asia alone, chances are the hookers will find you. Investing isn’t quite so easy. Absorbing as much data as you can is a great start to becoming a better investor. It takes work to beat the market, but the reward is worth it.
Once again, you’ve made it through Recycle Friday, a thing I do because I’m too lazy to do that other thing I do. I published this post originally about 18 months ago, but it’s still good.