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Expect to Be Wrong in the Stock Market

Editor's note: This is the beginning of a special collection of previously published investing lessons from RealMoney contributor and market strategist Barry Ritholtz.



In the present-day realm of investing, the near obsessive focus on stock selection has obscured the "art" of investing. There is much, much more to buying and selling stocks than mere stock picking. Not that you could tell, based upon what's in the financial media.

This new column -- "The Apprenticed Investor" -- is all about making you a better investor. Not just a better stock picker, but someone who knows how to preserve capital and manage risk.

One of the keys to successful investing is recognizing the frequency of "strikeouts" -- and having a plan in place to deal with them. This is the first lesson most new investors fail to digest.

Apprenticed Investor: Expect to Be Wrong in the Stock Market

I am rather frequently -- and on occasion, quite spectacularly -- wrong. But I expect to be. No one really knows what is going to happen in the future, so why pretend otherwise? When you anticipate being wrong, it makes it that much easier to both plan ahead and manage risk risk. There's little ego tied up in the position to prevent you from jettisoning it -- provided you have planned for the worst.

For the record, I do not yet consider myself a "master" -- not in the classic sense of the word: In the Middle Ages, anyone who wanted to learn a craft had to first apprentice. After many years of struggle and hard work, apprentices would toil their way up to "journeyman." Once a journeyman demonstrated a degree of expertise, he would be invited to join the guild, thereby becoming a master.

As a member of the guild, the master was expected to pass on his skills to the next generation of apprentices. This was how a craft was kept alive and growing. That's the inspiration for this new weekly feature.

Coming Up Next

Over the next few weeks, we will review the traps, pitfalls and common errors that befall all too many investors. We will disassemble the damaging myths that keep haunting individuals. My list of investing "pet peeves" will get some airtime.

We will dissect the reasons why stocks go up and down; it's actually simpler than most people realize. We will look at the debate over the "fundamental fundamental-analysis vs. technical analysis technical-analysis" issue. But it's not simply abstract theory: We'll go over "sell signals and stop-losses " -- a very basic yet overlooked tool. We'll look at "long-term" investing -- is it dead? Was it ever really alive? The answer will surprise you.

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