If there are any lessons to be learned from the American sub-prime mortgage crisis, the 2008 stock market crash (information here) and Wall Street bailout that followed - and there are lots of lessons - it is that borrowed money can be very dangerous in investments, even when it is being handled professionally. The failure of LTCM, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock and many others shows just how precarious a business model can be with too much gearing.
Over the long run, value stocks outperform growth, so look for stocks trading at relatively cheap valuations based on price-to-earnings ratio (P/E), price-to-sales ratio (P/S), and price-to-free-cash-flow ratio (P/FCF). It is vital not to chase opportunities, but rather wait for them because patience always pays. Solid fundamentals and a large moat (barrier to entry) are also vital for long-term sustained success. Also, use technical analysis and charting to better help pinpoint both the entry and exit points for the stock under consideration—both for a target profit area and a stop loss.
Don't borrow money to use for stock market investment. On the stock exchange, borrowed money is known as either gearing or leverage. It is typically used either by companies (to help them finance growth), investment banks and hedge funds (to help juice their returns) or very aggressive traders. There are many spread betting (information here), options trading and day trading strategies that use borrowed money to enhance returns, but it also has a very profound impact on the risks being taken with each trade.
Leverage simply means the use of borrowed money to execute your stock market strategy. In a margin account, banks and brokerage firms can loan you money to buy stocks, usually 50% of the purchase value. In other words, if you wanted to buy 100 shares of a stock trading at $100 for a total cost of $10,000, your brokerage firm could loan you $5,000 to complete the purchase.
Understand that for both beginning investors and seasoned stock market pros, it's impossible to always buy and sell the best stocks at exactly the right time. But also understand that you don't have to be right every time to make money. You just need to learn some basic rules for how to identify the best stocks to watch, the ideal time to buy them, and when to sell stocks to lock in your profits or quickly cut any losses.
Cost advantages -- A business can have a few different types of cost advantages. For example, an efficient distribution network can make it cheaper for a company to get its product around the country. A well-known brand name can give a company the ability to charge more than rivals. Or a proprietary manufacturing process can make it cheaper to produce a product. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) is a great example. Not only does the company have a massive and efficient distribution network, it has one of the most recognizable and valuable brand names in the world.
Diversification allows you to recover from the loss of your total investment (20% of your portfolio) by gains of 10% in the two best companies (25% x 40%) and 4% in the remaining two companies (10% x 40%). Even though your overall portfolio value dropped by 6% (20% loss minus 14% gain), it is considerably better than having been invested solely in company E.
When thinking about the mindset of investors, The Great Crash 1929 by J.K.Galbraith (reviewed here) should also be required reading. Typically, any sustained fall in prices - known as a bear market - is very destructive to wealth. However, as Galbraith explains wonderfully, each bear market is unique and is a reflection of the bull market that came before it. The book explains a great deal about the feedback loops that can exist when prices rise and fall as more people are either sucked into or forced out of holdings. It is the reference work about a very important slice of Wall Street history.
Dollar-cost average: This sounds complicated, but it’s not. Dollar-cost averaging means investing a set amount of money at regular intervals, such as once per week or month. That set amount buys more shares when the stock price goes down and fewer shares when it rises, but overall, it evens out the average price you pay. Some online brokerage firms let investors set up an automated investing schedule.