If you had to name one muddled science, stock investing would qualify for it instantly. There are as many theories and methods of investing as there are analysts, investors, traders and experts. Interestingly, the search for the holy grail of stock investing is still on. Investors, analysts and experts are still looking for that one foolproof way which can help them make money in all seasons. Sometimes they look at Buffett (or any other star investor); sometimes they look at data; sometimes they introspect; but the quest for one perfect method doesn’t seem to be getting over.
This quest has given birth to several formulas and rules that have become so entrenched in investing that they almost look sacrosanct. For instance, consider the division of stocks by their size: large, mid and small caps. Somebody sometime divided stocks by size. This thought then penetrated so deeply in investing that you have separate strategies to deal with these stock types. Many investors like to divide their portfolios across them. The thought itself has become the foundation stone of new theories and methods.
Now the moment you decide to have some sort of allocation, you commit yourself to investing in only that type of stock, no matter if there are better, more sound opportunities available elsewhere. In your "small-cap portfolio," you can’t buy a large cap or a mid cap, even if you have an opportunity available there. The same is true for "style-specific" portfolios. If you have a "value" portfolio, you would probably overlook "growth" or "dividend" or other opportunities.
In stock investing, and for that matter in other areas of life as well, we often tie ourselves up with rules, formulas, methods and ideologies. They look convenient at the time of formation, provide clarity and familiarity, and make the complex world simpler, but at the same time they take away freedom of thought. Once you have adhered to a method for years, it starts to look like an eternal truth that you can’t refute.
So, should you have no methods? We all need them to make sense of the world and progress with our daily lives, including investing. But we should not be a slave to them. We should be willing to evaluate them from time to time. If something else sounds better, we should give it a try. We should also try to hone our existing methods and beliefs to make them fit the times we are in. All this is an interesting process if we show openness to it.
As far as stock investing is concerned, try to make your method as open as possible so that you aren’t tied to some belief. All you need to do to succeed in stock investing is to find good companies and stay invested in them. Rest everything is optional.