Back to the learning centre

6 Rules for First Time Investors

Simply Wall Street is dedicated to empowering investors of all kinds to make well informed decisions as part of a patient, long term investment strategy. In this blog we look at some of the common investing mistakes for first time investors, and how to avoid them!

Rule #1 : Don’t lose money…and don’t forget Rule #1

We’ve taken a famous quote from Warren Buffett to kick off, but what does it really mean? In our view this quote goes to the heart of value investing — buy value, not price — invest when value is on your side to reduce the risk of losses— wait for situations when the share price is well below fair value. One of the key mistakes of first time investors is to lose patience, and jump into investments without understanding their true value.

— Price is what you pay, value is what you get —

Rule #2 : Invest, but don’t speculate

Stockmarkets abound with stories of the “next big thing” — that new internet story or the resources explorer sitting on a legendary deposit, but not earning a profit “just yet”. Of course the stories sometimes come true, but rarely, and buying shares in these sorts of companies is little more than a gamble.

A disciplined investor on the other hand looks for the proven performer — the healthy companies consistently growing their profits year after year and rewarding patient investors with ongoing capital growth and dividends.

Rule #3 : Invest for the long term and forget the bumps

Ben Graham remarked:

"In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run it is a weighing machine.”

In the short term, the stockmarket can be volatile, and is often ruled by the emotions of fear and greed, regardless of the fundamental value and performance of a business.

It is during times of falling share prices that first time investors often sell in fear of further losses, and conversely rush in when prices are too high, fearing that they will miss out on further gains.

Over the long run, share prices follow value. Companies that are growing their profits and net worth will rise over time, whereas the share price of those companies who are performing poorly or making losses will eventually catch up.

Rule #4: Patience young Luke

Patience is the hallmark of successful investors — stockmarkets and individual company share prices can and do become irrational at times, and it is those times when investors take notice and act.

If however you can’t identify opportunities to buy the shares of a great company at a significant discount, stay on the sidelines and wait.

Rule #5: Remember you are buying a company!

Buying shares is buying a part of a company— so ask yourself:

“do I really want to own this business?”

Look for wonderful companies:

  • a strong, differentiated market position with an ability to control selling prices
  • a vibrant and growing market with strong future prospects
  • strong and consistent performance
  • easy to understand and often a well known brand name

Again from Warren Buffett:

“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price"

Rule #6: Do your homework

Investing is not rocket science, and you don’t need special knowledge or training to do your homework and get to understand potential investments. Remember investment without homework is guesswork!

Simply Wall Street covers many of the aspects of a company which you should consider — value, past and future performance, health and income.

So be prepared to step into investment with a cautious, patient and disciplined approach — and follow the rules!

Next: Learn how to choose your first investment