People like to pretend that they hold themselves accountable but, truthfully, it's a trait that's sorely lacking in our society today in almost every walk of life. Perhaps nowhere else will you find people blaming others more for their problems then in the stock market. (Well, there or in politics: With the president blaming Congress for stymieing any proposal he has, Congress does the same the other direction.) It's exhausting. The markets are no different.
Several recent studies indicate that less than half of Americans have money in the stock market. It's probably safe to assume of those that do, some only have mutual funds via retirement accounts of varying structures. So if you pick individual stocks, congratulations, you're in the minority. That doesn't appear to be changing as ETFs gain more and more popularity.
Even with this is in mind, some of us try our luck on individual companies betting we know or have gained some insight that others have not. It is very, very hard and requires work, time and luck. There are no shortcuts so if you happen to turn the TV on one day and hear something that sounds good, you just might want to do a little work on that company yourself before simply buying the stock. Trust me on this.
Sadly, some don't put forth the effort and if it doesn't work out they immediately go to the source of the "tip" and blame them for any losses. To this I say, "You get what you pay for." Which is to say...nothing.
If you are going to do nothing but get tips from television, Twitter or a newsletter, you will not do well picking stocks. Let's also be honest, you're not picking anything anyway, you're just piggybacking on someone else's idea. If it works, you're happy to take credit. If it doesn't, well, the guy on TV that told me to buy is clearly an idiot and I'm going to let them know.
Ultimately you hit the bid. No one is doing it for you. Hold yourself accountable. Here's something else to think about. While you're buying, someone else is selling. You're not buying a t-shirt that theoretically can be manufactured to meet all demand. At the price you want to buy a stock there is someone on the other side saying, "I'm happy to sell right here, right now."
What do you know that they don't? Ask yourself that question before hitting buy each and every time you make a move in your portfolio and you might save yourself some money.
Now, don't get me wrong. I like to poke at financial pundits as much as the next guy but not one time, not once, have I blamed one for losing me any money or anyone else for that matter. I've questioned tactics, motives, but I've never placed blame for my ample mistakes on others in picking or trading equities. Other parts of my day, well, let's just say that may be a different story.
Have I been influenced by something someone else has said? Of course, I'm human. But I know that the fault lies with myself if it doesn't work out. Believe me, most of these people on TV or Twitter aren't going to reappear to let you know they are wrong, you're on your own. Some will, but don't count on it.
It's easy to be shaken out of a stock you like if you don't do the work yourself. It's called conviction, have some. It can be very difficult to hold onto a position that is losing money if others are trashing it. After all, they're a recognized authority, they must know what they're talking about. After some time and effort on your own part you will probably find that you know the stocks you own better then most that appear on TV or a person who happens to post a random tweet.
If you do the work, if you know the stocks you own, follow the news flow, read the conference calls, you will know more times than not when you are wrong or right. I like to tell people that picking individual stocks is a lot like playing blackjack, you're almost always ahead at some point, it's when to leave the table that trips people up. Just don't be the guy or gal who blames the dealer.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.