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Eight Steps to Building a Solid Stock Portfolio

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/21/2006 | Finance
Are you an investor looking to build a brand new stock portfolio? Or maybe, you have managed investments or a retirement plan and you are now looking to maximize your investment portfolio? This report will help you build your stock portfolio to generate "real" wealth.

Easy access to investing information and the availability of online trading has made life much more enjoyable and less costly for do-it-yourself investors. The Internet has brought the "trading" desk to millions of households and it is now possible to buy and sell shares, options, warrants, interest rate securities and managed funds from your own home. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. In addition, you can do your own research on a particular company or fund manager as well as finding out what some stock brokers are recommending to their clients. Much of this information is free or available at a reasonable cost and you can save yourself hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in fees and commissions every year via the internet. Rather than go through a full service stockbroker or investment advisor, why not give it a try?

When building your own stock portfolio, here are some pitfalls you need to avoid!

While you can find a plethora of good information on stocks, you can also find very poor information. Each website claims to have the latest hot picks or the "top ten" stock buys and often they contradict each other. Who do you believe and what about the scams?

You will undoubtedly come across websites and chat rooms that give investment advice or tips about investments, but many of these are not qualified to do so. The information may be wrong or misleading and some websites even repeat incorrect rumors.

There is overwhelming evidence that you will not become rich by listening to the advice of others. As an investor you need raw information, not recommendations. You would not buy a car just by looking at it...nor should you buy a company's stock without doing significant research. There is no point trying to take control of your finances if you are going to rely solely on a "tip" from a newspaper or a broker or an internet chat room. It is true that someone may know more about a particular company or stock than you, but they could easily be wrong - so do your own homework!

You need to be certain that you have sound reasons for investing in a particular company. Does the company have an instantly recognizable name? Do you understand what the company does? Do the products or services of the company stand a good chance of being in high demand in a 10, 20 or 30 year time frame? Does it have a management team that moves with the times and is innovative, yet keeps a firm grip on the company's finances? Most of this information is available in a company's Annual Report, but make sure that you read it with a degree of skepticism...most reports are written to promote the company.

In the Annual Report, the financial statements, the balance sheet, the profit & loss statement and the cash flow statements are very important. They are important because they will help you assess if the company is providing value for your money. You are going to be buying stocks at a certain price and you will want to make sure that you are not paying an excessive amount. The financial numbers give you a snapshot of the financial structure, strength and growth rate of the company. This type of analysis is often called fundamental analysis, and also includes analysis of the economy and industries related to the company.

Keep in-mind that the historical and present prices of a stock hold clues to the future price. In practice, most analysts use fundamental analysis for short and long term buy/sell decisions and use technical analysis to confirm the decision.

Internet websites are a great place to collect information about companies. Naturally, a company owned website will attempt to portray the company in the most sympathetic light. Depending on how serious you want to be about investing, it is advisable to either visit or subscribe to investment research websites. Research websites are valuable tools for any investor and provide company reviews, give general investing information, market updates, stock pickers, stock ratings, watch-lists, portfolio managers, charts, share indexes, newsletters, alerts and model portfolios.

So, how can you structure a stock portfolio to maximize your wealth, ensure your peace of mind, give you total control of your investments, be easy to manage and give satisfaction?
Here is a recommended strategy that has worked well for many do-it-yourself investors:

1. Subscribe to a well respected investment research website dedicated to analyzing financial information for investors. They are independent from companies they list, do not receive commissions or brokerage and rely solely on investor subscriptions for income. They have to give their subscribers quality information to maintain subscriber confidence.

2. Look for the model portfolios they have developed and study the methodology they have used to create and maintain each portfolio.

3. Read the research reports supplied for each stock and study the graphs supplied for price movements and trading volumes. Get a good feel for both the long term and the short term trends of the stock.

4. Test each portfolio within a designated test period i.e., one month, one quarter, one year etc. Depending on the website, you can set up each of the model portfolios in a free portfolio manager provided on the website with unlimited stocks. Set a starting date for a test period where you "buy" stocks listed in the model portfolio at the closing price for that day. Make sure you include brokerage as it is part of the cost base for the stock. The website should either maintain up-to-date or 20 minute delayed stock prices, so a running balance can be maintained for the profit/loss for each stock over the designated period.

5. Compare each portfolio's published results with the results that you have achieved in the portfolio manager. They should agree with each other when the same stocks are compared over the same time period. Your testing should develop a level of confidence in the model portfolio.

6. Determine the best model portfolio for you to use. You can do this using the last the last three months of stock price history or perform a trial evaluation for the next three months of future prices. You can use one of the existing model portfolios or create your own from the stocks selected.

7. Subscribe to an online share broker website and begin trading.

8. Monitor stocks daily and review the performance of your actual portfolio against the model quarterly.

You should take care to evaluate the methodology used by the research website to develop the model portfolios. These portfolios are designed by research firms to provide sensible medium-term portfolios that make it easy for investors and financial planners to replicate. You need to understand the research methodology and develop a level of confidence in it rather than just blindly accepting the published results of each portfolio. You do not need to become an expert in methodologies.

Building a share portfolio that meets your investment objectives will substantially build your wealth over a period of time. You can also save money in commissions and fees, have peace of mind, total control over your investment and gain a real sense of satisfaction.

As a final word of caution...nothing is for certain in this world except for death and taxes. This also applies to the stock market. Be prepared for some ups and downs and be ready to sell stocks to cut losses. If the core of your portfolio is made up of stocks that have strong capital growth and a reasonable dividend you will do well overall. Have "at it" and good investing!
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