9 Long-Term Investing Tips by Ben Reynolds

Here’s a few facts that will dissuade you about investing in individual stocks:

  1. You aren’t smarter than the army of ivy league professionals large investment firms employ.
  2. They have better information and better trade execution.
  3. And they work long hours to dissect the fair value of stocks.

And yet…  Many investors do outperform ‘the market’.  Some investors can beat mutual funds and investment advisors.

Long-Term Investing
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Long-Term Investing

[drizzle]Billionaire founder of the Baupost Group hedge fund Seth Klarman tells us how:

“The single greatest edge an investor can have is a long-term orientation” – Seth Klarman

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To generate returns in excess of average, you must have an edge.  That edge isn’t going to come from being smarter or having better information.

But it can come from investing for the long-term.

Professional investors are (unfairly) judged based on quarterly performance.  One down quarter, and money can start flowing out of their fund.  This causes professional investors to chase quarterly performance – and adopt a short-sighted investing mindset.

You don’t have to play the quarterly game.  You can compound your wealth with long-term investing.  This article gives you 9 tips on how to do just that.

Long-Term Investing - Tip #1:  Follow The Wisdom of Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is the most successful investor alive today.  He is the 3rd richest man in the world – and an avid long-term investor.

Many of Buffett’s largest holdings were purchased decades ago.  He first purchased American Express (AXP) stock in 1965.  He bought both Coca-Cola (KO) and Wells Fargo (WFC) in the late 1980’s.

Buffett’s genius is to:

  1. Buy great businesses
  2. At fair or better prices
  3. And let them compound your wealth

He’s made a tremendous amount of money by sitting back and letting his wealth compound.

“When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever.” - Warren Buffett

Buffett had many opportunities to sell Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, and American Express over the last few decades – but he didn’t.

He doesn’t sell great businesses that continue to compound his wealth.  There’s no reason to.  Buffett’s advice to practice long-term investing is to:

“Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.” - Warren Buffett

Far too often, people trade stocks instead of invest in businesses.  The distinction is important.

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When you invest in a business, you are taking partial ownership.  You aren’t trying to make a ‘quick buck’ by hoping the stock price bounces up. 

Investing and trading are different – and will produce different results over long periods of time.  It’s telling that there are no traders that have built the level of wealth Buffett has.

Tip #2:  Don’t Pay Attention to Daily Stock Price Moves

Stock prices fluctuate constantly.  The seemingly random movement of stock prices can make investing feel like a casino.

It is anything but.

The stock market is a place you can easily buy or sell fractional ownership claims of real world businesses.  Nothing more, nothing less.

If you bought a house, I doubt you’d sell it a week later because the price changed 10%.  And yet, we do this with stock purchases.

Paying attention to daily stock price fluctuations causes investors to over-react to minor events that have no impact on the long-term earnings prospects of a business.

It’s better to stop checking your stocks at all than to look at them every day.  If you can focus on the underlying business instead of the daily stock price, you will be well on your way to becoming a long-term investor.

Tip #3:  Leverage The Lindy Effect

The Lindy Effect isn’t talked about often in investing circles.  The Lindy Effect states that the observed lifespan of non-perishable things like businesses, books, ideas, and so on is likely to be half of the total life.

Said another way, if a business has been around 50 years, it will likely be around another 50 years.  The Lindy Effect says that things that have proven they have staying power are likely to be around longer than things that haven’t proven their staying power.

It’s common sense when you think about it.  A book like Plato’s Republic is likely going to be available for purchase around 500 years from now.  Today’s top fiction seller – likely not.

When you invest for the long run, you need to invest in businesses that are going to be around for the long run.

The hot biotech stock with a 2 year operating history has not shown it has the ability to last through myriad economic conditions.  A stock like Coca-Cola has.

Tip 4:  Where to Find Great Long-Term Businesses

Where do you find great long-term businesses to invest in?  There are 2 places I recommend for quickly identifying potential long-term investments.

The first is the Dividend Aristocrats Index.  Dividend Aristocrats are S&P 500 stocks with 25+ years of steady or rising dividends.  There are currently only 50 Dividend Aristocrats.  They are some of the strongest businesses around.  They have proven their ability to thrive in a variety of market conditions.

You can see all 50 Dividend Aristocrats here.

The second place to look for long-term businesses in which to invest is the even more exclusive Dividend Kings list.

There are currently only 18 Dividend Kings.  To be a Dividend King, a stock must have 50+ years of consecutive dividend increases.  These are truly the longest lived businesses around.  You can see all 18 Dividend Kings here.

Just because a business is a Dividend Aristocrat or Dividend King does not automatically mean it is a great investment.

Investors should do their due diligence.  Check for growth potential, strength of competitive advantage, and valuation.  Being a member of the Dividend Kings or Dividend Aristocrats is a starting point, not an ending point, for finding high quality businesses for the long run.

Tip 5:  Minimize Frictional Costs

One of the biggest advantages of long-term investing is minimizing frictional costs.  Frictional costs are brokerage fees, slippage, and taxes.

You only incur brokerage fees and slippage when you buy or sell a stock.  Minimizing the amount of buying and selling you do minimizes the amount of fees you will pay your broker.  Every dollar you save in fees matters because of the mathematics of compounding.  Every dollar saved today is $2.59 in 10 years and $6.73 in 20 years if your money is growing at 10% a year.

Similarly, reducing the amount of trades you make minimizes your tax burden.  Capital gains tax is due when you sell an investment.  A long-term investment that is never sold never triggers capital gains tax.  You are, in effect, allowing the money you would have paid as capital gains to continue compounding.  The savings add up over time due to the power of compounding.

Tip 6:  Know Why You Will Sell

When to buy stocks (and what stocks to buy) is constantly discussed in the financial media.  When to sell (and why) is rarely discussed.

It is far easier to hold stocks for the long run when you have predefined reasons to sell.  Don’t sell because a stock’s price has fallen (or risen).  That doesn’t matter.

In The 8 Rules of Dividend Investing, I outline 2 reasons to sell.

One is if a stock cuts or eliminates its dividend.  A business that

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