StreetAuthority  looks at three essential investment rules of master investor, Peter Lynch.
Excellent investment advice for those wishing to invest in individual equities.
Unfortunately, I do not know any non-professional investors who could actually follow two of the three keys. Ah, the joys of investment advice.
Only Invest in What you Understand
A good point. But what does the average investor understand?
First, most investors should avoid complex investments such as options, futures, forwards, commodities, etc. Stick to traditional fixed income and equities to go with cash balances.
But what about equities? The normal investor should have a well-diversified portfolio. That means small, medium, and large cap stocks, in a variety of industries, throughout multiple geographic locations.
If you are only supposed to stick with things you know, how can a Canadian investor add Russian, Australian, or Japanese stocks to the portfolio? Or the British investor may know something about Coca-Cola, Bank America, and McDonald’s, but has he ever heard of smaller companies like Rush Enterprises, Sonic Automotive, and CommVault Systems? I haven’t.
In this era of globalized markets, I am not sure one can stick only to investments that you understand. Even with traditional fixed income and equities, if you only invest in what you know, it will be difficult (impossible) to create a well-diversified and effective portfolio.
Understanding the Fundamentals of a Company is Key
Also a good point.
But how many amateur investors understand ratios including, percentage of sales or price/earnings to growth? I am not even certain the article’s author fully understands percentage of sales, as he states:
Be certain the item or service that first attracted you to the company makes up a significant portion of its sales.
What is “significant portion”? 20%, 40%, 80%?
What about if you were attracted to Blackberry products, then Apple comes along with the iPhone and eats RIMs lunch (and dinner)? The “eggs in one basket” thing can be a problem.
What about having a single client that purchases a significant of the company’s product? Is that good? Hint: no.
With price/earnings to growth (PEG):
When the PEG hits two or higher, it may mean future growth is already built into the stock price.
It “may mean”? Is this a rule you should carve in stone? Nope.
It’s important to note that the PEG ratio is best suited for non-dividend paying stocks, since it does not take dividend returns into consideration.
That is good to know. I am glad that not many companies pay dividends. Oh wait. Lots of companies pay dividends?
You also want a company with a:
Strong cash position, little debt
As stated in the article, important for dividend paying companies (that is, the ones that are not suited for PEG calculations). What the …?
This cash to debt is another ratio that might be a positive, but is often a negative. For example, how do companies grow? They use internal cash flow, raise capital, or borrow money to invest in their business. Research and development of new products, marketing existing services, buying new equipment and plants, expanding operations into new regions, etc. If you are sitting on a pile of cash, are you likely growing your company (which usually means higher share prices as profitability also grows)? Probably not.
Yes, investors do need to analyze the fundamentals. But it sure helps if you have the technical knowledge and experience to comprehend the numbers.
Invest for the Long Haul
A third good point. One I can actually agree on without an asterisk.
Take a long-term perspective. Do not sweat the short-term volatility .
I would be a little cautious on taking a long-term strategy for individual stocks. Yes, some companies have dominated for many years. But technology and other variables can change very quickly. Be very careful employing a buy and hold strategy for individual stocks . You may miss out on the next Apple  while holding on to Eastman Kodak.
What Should You Do?
Invest consistently in low-cost, well-diversified  investments. That means passively managed index exchange traded or open ended mutual funds.
The nature of index funds is such that as the quality of the underlying holdings change , weaker stocks are deleted from the index and up and comers added. While you may not be buying at the best time nor selling at the peak, you do get some protection and benefit from the index adjustments over time.
As an added bonus, by investing in well-diversified funds, you do not have to analyze the fundamentals or completely understand the individual holdings. Your focus will be on your target asset allocation, not on the underlying components.
For a refresher on what you should do, please read my “Summary on How to Invest” .