Yesterday I happened to be rummaging through some old files and came across my 1997 tax return. Fortunately, this had nothing to do with any communications with the IRS, but it got me to thinking about how my investing ‘evolution’ has three distinct long-term phases. Specifically, for the first ten years of my investment life, I dabbled in equities with mixed results at best, in much the same manner as Nicholas Darvas describes his early floundering in How I made $2,000,000 in the Stock Market.
I’m not sure exactly what the lesson is here, if any. In 1998 I went on to pick a lot of winners in the internet space – and a lot of dogs. I have always been patient enough to let my winners run, but over the years I have continued to improve my ability to cut my losses quickly and protect my profits for those trades that make a big U-turn. If I had been fortunate enough to have read the likes of When to Sell, written by Justin Mamis in 1977, and It’s When You Sell that Counts, a 1991 classic from Donald Cassidy, I’m sure those early internet years would have been considerably more profitable. In the long run, each individual learning curve has different hurdles and a different timetable. The trick is to get a little smarter every day, even if your portfolio does not always reflect all newly acquired wisdom.