Happy New Year! Yes, technically markets were open on Friday, but with apologies to those of you who actually showed up for work last week, it was really more of a practice run. To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt Jr. on D-Day: 2015 starts right here, right now.
Since we're starting fresh I've got a mission statement for you. Call it a resolution for 2015. It's a call to action. This is the year I want all of you to figure out once and for all whether or not you should be actively picking stocks.
There is overwhelming evidence that individual investors are simply awful at buying and selling securities. According to JPMorgan the average investor's portfolio had a growth rate of about 2.5% from 1994 to the end of 2013. That underperforms just about everything.
Of course professionals are little better. Three quarters of actively managed mutual funds underperform their so-called benchmark indexes any given year. Over any reasonable amount of time that number rises to the point that so few funds are left beating indexes that it's a wonder the industry exists at all.
No one thinks the market is efficient, but very few people are able to beat it. That's why passive money management vehicles are getting all the inflows; more than $240 billion last year versus a net outflow for active managers in 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal.
So the question on the table for 2015 is this: why are you still picking stocks? Are you good at it? Can you outperform a broad basket of passive assets? Are you capable of adding what the pros call "Alpha?" This is the year we find out.
All you gotta do is keep score. The most powerful tool in finance is simply a notebook or journal. This year I want you to do something. It takes almost no time and I guarantee it will make you a better investor. This year I want you to write down every single trade or investment you make in a single book.
Jot down the date, the total cost and the reason you're buying or selling. When you sell write down the same information. No excuses. No cheating. Just keep score. That's it. I'm asking you to pay as much attention to your investing as you would a round of golf.
Don't over complicate this project. No spread sheets. Just a book and total dollar cost and net proceeds from sales. Make 2015 the year you actually keep score on your investments.