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Rule No. 6: Do Your Stock Homework

The latter point's easy to counter: You don't have the time? Give it to someone else. You don't understand how to read a balance sheet? Give it to someone else. There are lots of good managers out there who will beat you simply because they are at it every day and you can't be.

It's the first concept, though, that I find really needs debunking. Buying and holding became the be-all and end-all for many people in the 1990s.

"You know what? I am just going to hold on to that CMGI (CMGI) because it has to go back to $100, where I bought it." Or, "Why sell Sun Micro (SUNW) now? When it gets back to $70, I am going to sell it because all of the texts say that if you hold things for the long term, everything works out."

Huh? What text says that? I don't know of it. That's just a fictional contortion of what the texts say.

That's why I say: Before you buy any stock -- before you purchase Caterpillar (CAT - Get Report), before you buy Lucent (LU) -- please, please, do your homework.

Listen to the conference calls. Go to the company's Web site. Read the research. Read the news stories. Everything's available on the Web. Everything.

But if you fall back on a buy-and-hold strategy for an EMC (EMC) or a Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report), I can assure you that you will be soundly beaten by professional managers with good track records who are actively searching for good stocks all of the time.

Remember:

Buy and homework, not buy and hold.

Random musings: Tonight is the night that "Mad Money" with Jim Cramer debuts at 6 p.m. EST! I hope you will watch and call me (1-800-743-CNBC) and have a terrific time!

1. Pigs Get Slaughtered 2. It's OK to Pay the Taxes
3. Don't Buy All at Once 4. Buy Damaged Stocks
5. Diversify to Control Risk 6. Do Your Homework
Check back for more of Cramer's Rules
At the time of publication, Cramer was long Urban Outfitters and Lucent.

James J. Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. To see his personal portfolio and find out what trades Cramer will make before he makes them, sign up for Action Alerts PLUS . While he cannot provide personalized investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to send comments on his column to jjcletters@thestreet.com. Listen to Cramer's RealMoney Radio show on your computer; just click here . Watch Cramer on "Mad Money" at 6 p.m. EST weeknights on CNBC. Click here to order Cramer's latest book, "Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World," click here to get his second book, "You Got Screwed!" and click here to order Cramer's autobiography, "Confessions of a Street Addict."

TheStreet.com has a revenue-sharing relationship with Amazon.com under which it receives a portion of the revenue from Amazon purchases by customers directed there from TheStreet.com.
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