It was the go-go 90s and the stock market was on fire. In those days it was easy to make money in the market. It was a great time for momentum stocks and if you could get your hands on some shares of an IPO you had a chance to make a big score. From amateur investors to the most sophisticated traders on Wall Street, everyone was caught up in the exciting world of IPOs and short-term trading. I wanted to be part of that world!
TIP: Short-term trading carries higher risk than long-term investing. Traders can make a lot of money and also lose a lot of money.
Before I go any further let me just say that I have gone through different investment phases over the different stages of my life. Out of college, I preferred mutual funds and had my money invested with Fidelity, T.Rowe Price and Vanguard. In my early 30s I built my own portfolio of stocks. I invested some money in gold and silver bullion and I kept my retirement money in mutual funds. For a few short years, roughly from 1995-2000, I became a more aggressive investor. These were the years I got into day trading. They were also the years when I made the best investment of my life.
TIP: Base your investment strategy on your stage of life, tolerance for risk, and investment goals.
Online discount brokerage firms were in their infancy during the last decade of the twentieth century. Stock trading software was not nearly as sophisticated as it is today. However, it made it possible for people to trade frequently because you could buy or sell a stock for less than $10 per trade (a full service broker might charge $100 for the same trade). I opened a discount brokerage account and learned how to place market and limit orders. I eventually opened a margin account and it was nothing to buy or sell $10,000 worth of stock three or four times per week.
TIP: Open an online discount brokerage account and make your own trades. You’ll save on transaction costs, have a universe of stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds, be able to view live quotes, do research, and track performance..
I am not going to lie and say I always made money on my trades, but I did make more good trades than bad ones. Most of the time I would make $200 – $300 on a stock I bought on one day and sold several days later. Sometimes the stock would go down and result in a loss. One thing I quickly learned was that you have to recognize when you made a wrong pick. I swallowed my pride, sold the loser, and went on to another stock.
TIP: Don’t ride a bad stock all the way down. Even Warren Buffet makes an occasional bad stock pick. When he does, he accepts a small loss (relatively speaking) and moves on. Limit your losses!
My best day ever in the stock market was the day I decided to buy into the IPO of a new stock called Books-a-Million (BAMM). The new issue was in great demand and I knew that it would immediately surge when the day’s trading session began. I got to my computer, proceeded to my online discount brokerage account, and placed an order for 2,000 shares at the market price (I wanted to make sure I was not shut out by a limit order).
TIP: Be ready when a great opportunity comes up. An IPO or a promising quarterly report can result in a rapidly rising stock price. Don’t be 100 percent invested. Have some cash on hand to take advantage of “special” situations.
For some reason, I thought that the market order had not been transmitted so I re-entered it. As you know, once you place a market order it is almost impossible to cancel it. A few minutes later I checked my account to see if my 2,000 share order had been executed. It had, and a second 2,000 share order also was executed. The IPO was priced at $12 and my two orders were filled at $17 and $20 as millions of shares traded in the first five minutes after trading began. It was not long before BAMM got very close to $30 and I was ecstatic. Then, reality set in and the stock sold off. I sold 2,000 shares at $27 and the remaining 2,000 shares at $25, netting me a one-day gain of $30,000. Although I did not sell at the very top I was still thrilled about being 30,000 richer!
TIP: Sometimes lucky is better than smart. If you buy a stock and it takes off, don’t be too greedy. Take some profits while it is going up and maybe hold on to some shares in case the stock continues to rise.
I would hardly call myself a brilliant investor, but I have been fairly successful over the last 30 years. Getting lucky is not an investment strategy. Sticking with some proven investment principles has helped me profit over the years.
- Define your investment goals.
- Know your investment time horizon.
- Never buy on impulse.
- Always do your research before investing.
- Create a risk-adjusted portfolio
- Periodically review, adjust, and rebalance your portfolio.
- Be diversified.
- Don’t invest under pressure.