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MILLBURN, N.J. ( Stockpickr) -- Did you ever experience that feeling of puppy love? Perhaps you had a high school crush. Your high expectations were likely fleeting and unsatisfied. Old Brooklyn Dodgers fans were similarly disappointed every October when Dem Bums could not bring home a championship.

The same thing happens in the investment world. We place wide-eyed hope on a stock only to repeatedly be met with disappointment. What causes this phenomenon? How can we identify companies which are bound to break our hearts?

It Will Come Back

The most detrimental drag on one's portfolio is emotional attachment to an individual stock. Emotional attachment can form, say, if the stock is an inheritance from a loved one, if the shareholder has made money in the past from the stock, or from a positive memory of using the company's product or service. Regardless of the reason for the attachment, it will often lead to It Will Come Back Syndrome.

You might wait for years for a stock to come back. Occasionally you might see fleeting periods of strength followed by more disappointment. Some of these stocks will be ridden down to zero as hope of their coming back is impaled in the investors' psyche.

How many people held on to General Motors because their grandparent worked for the company? As a professional money manager, I often view the portfolios of prospective clients. Almost without exception, each client has a big-cap pharmaceutical company in his or her portfolio. I have to pry these stocks loose from the clients' clenched fists as I explain to them that Pfizer's ( PFE - Get Report) best days are in the past. It might move in fits and starts on occasion, but it is not worthy of holding in a long-term portfolio.

Here is Pfizer's 10-year chart. As you can see, it is a serial disappointment.

Stockpickr: Who Owns Pfizer?

Growth Promised, Growth Delayed

For many investors, growth is like a narcotic. We will chase it to the four corners of the earth, pray at its feet -- and pay dearly for it. Growth stocks can pay off great returns as long as growth remains. During bull markets, investors have reaped huge rewards from growth stocks such as Microsoft ( MSFT), one of the greatest growth stocks of all time. But sometimes companies fail on their promise to deliver growth. Some companies might grow in unreliable fits and starts. Other companies never fully realize their dreams of becoming the next great growth company.

Take a look at Qualcomm ( QCOM - Get Report). It's hard to argue with the quality of Qualcomm's management team or its research and development. The problem is that the company cannot consistently deliver the innovation and the resultant growth that investors desire. What we get from Qualcomm is an excellent quarter followed by a disappointing quarter. As a result, the stock is on an endless treadmill. Growth promised turns into disappointment time and time again.

Stockpickr: Who Owns Qualcomm?

Great Product, Lousy Company

Who doesn't love an amusement park, such as Six Flags? It provides a great day of fun for a family or to take a date. What about Sharper Image, a sort of playground in its own right? Betamax was a better product than VHS, yet VHS was accepted by the public as the de facto standard video format in the 1980s and 1990s.

Based on personal preference and experience, you might have made the mistake of investing in stock of Six Flags, Sharper Image or Sony ( SNE - Get Report). That would have been a big mistake. Six Flags and Sharper Image both filed for bankruptcy. Sony continues to make great products and produces super movies, but the stock has never lived up to the promise of its fine products.

We need to invest based on some sort of method or theory, whether fundamental, technical or statistical. Try to avoid making any important decisions -- financial or otherwise -- based on emotion. Reserve the emotion for choosing a flavor of ice cream or birthday gift for a spouse, not for choosing stocks. When seeking growth, look for track records of growth. Good companies will generate growth from past growth. While you want to be fearful of extrapolating growth, nevertheless, companies that generate growth do so from a well-designed corporate structure based on research and development and product delivery. Look for product delivery, not product promise.

-- Written by Scott Rothbort in Millburn, N.J.


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At the time of publication, Rothbort had no positions in stocks mentioned, although positions can change at any time.

Scott Rothbort has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. He is the Founder and President of LakeView Asset Management, a registered investment advisor specializing in customized separate account management for high net worth individuals. In addition, he is the founder of, an educational social networking site; and, publisher of The LakeView Restaurant & Food Chain Report. Rothbort is also a Term Professor of Finance at Seton Hall University's Stillman School of Business, where he teaches courses in finance and economics. He is the Chief Market Strategist for The Stillman School of Business and the co-supervisor of the Center for Securities Trading and Analysis.

Mr. Rothbort is a regular contributor to's RealMoney Silver website and has frequently appeared as a professional guest on Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg Television, Fox Business Network, CNBC Television, TV and local television. As an expert in the field of derivatives and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), he frequently speaks at industry conferences. He is an ETF advisory board member for the Information Management Network, a global organizer of institutional finance and investment conferences. In addition, he is widely quoted in interviews in the printed press and on the internet.

Mr. Rothbort founded LakeView Asset Management in 2002. Prior to that, since 1991, he worked at Merrill Lynch, where he held a wide variety of senior-level management positions, including Business Director for the Global Equity Derivative Department, Global Director for Equity Swaps Trading and Risk Management, and Director for secured funding and collateral management for the Global Capital Markets Group and Corporate Treasury. Prior to working at Merrill Lynch, within the financial services industry, he worked for County Nat West Securities and Morgan Stanley, where he had international assignments in Tokyo, Hong Kong and London. He began his career working at Price Waterhouse from 1982 to 1984.

Mr. Rothbort received an M.B.A., majoring in Finance and International Business from the Stern School of Business, New York University, in 1992, and a B.Sc. in Economics, majoring in Accounting, from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, in 1982. He is also a graduate of the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in New York City. Mr. Rothbort is married to Layni Horowitz Rothbort, a real estate attorney, and together they have five children.