Investing can feel like a bit of a mystery—I find this to be ironically true in today’s age of information.
In the past, accessing information about investing wasn’t easy because it wasn’t readily available. In the early 90s when I first started learning about investing at the age of 10, there was no internet. You needed to read the newspaper and request documents to be mailed to you from companies to analyze their financials.
Thanks to the internet, there is now a plethora of information available about investing. The problem is that not all this information is good or trustworthy, which is partially why people still make the same mistakes today.
When looking for the path to success, many look to those who walked the path before them. For me, it is Warren Buffett, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest investors. “The Warren Buffett Way” was one of the first books I read on investing, and it frankly changed my life.
Today, many years after reading this book, I find myself in a position to share the secrets to investment success I’ve learned through the years.
Important Note: If you’re looking for a quick-fix solution, a gimmick or get-rich-quick trick, this article won’t help. If, however, you genuinely want to seek to succeed as an investor over the long term and build long-term sustainable wealth, this article may have exactly what you’re looking for.
Here are the four secrets of investment success that have worked for me, and the secrets that may work for you.
Secret 1: Knowledge
It’s no secret that there is a lack of financial literacy in this country. In fact, a recent Ipsos & Money Masters study found that just over a third of Americans are financially illiterate, with the number jumping considerably by generation. The study finds that 41% of millennials and 58% of Gen Z are financially illiterate1. Countless Americans have been mandated to learn the names of the 50 state capitals—however, they don’t know a thing about money. How often have you thought about the things you wished you learned in school?
If you don’t understand something, you shouldn’t jump into it. Would you let someone drive your car without a license? The same goes for investing. When people talk to me about investments, their rationale often has next to no foundation. It will often be something they heard from a friend or something they read in a free guide. However, when I ask them what the company does or how it operates, they can’t answer my question. This is before they learn anything about the company’s barriers to entry, profitability, or look into the company’s balance sheet.
Other people will say that they can buy an index that tracks the markets—but what markets? How much do you know about the fund? Is it market-cap weighted, equal weighted?
To say it straight, if you don’t understand what you’re putting your money into, you’re not investing, you’re gambling!
A lack of knowledge is what leads to poor decisions. As Warren Buffet once said, “The [stock] market, like the Lord, helps those who help themselves. But, unlike the Lord, the market does not forgive those who know not what they do.”
A wealth of knowledge, however, can allow you to make informed decisions. The kind of decisions that grow your personal wealth.
Secret 2: Good Decisions
Bad decisions lead to bad results. This is advice that applies to all areas of life, including investing. If you don’t have the knowledge you need, you can’t expect to make good decisions that will contribute to your wealth.
When it comes to investing and creating long-term wealth, often it comes down to saying no—not yes.
Investing might be the only activity where doing less actually equals more production. For example, if you read Berkshire Hathaway’s latest annual shareholder letter, you’ll see this mindset at work. They explicitly stated that their satisfactory results have been the product of about a dozen truly good decisions, that is about one good decision every five years!
In the Julius Wealth Advisors portfolios, there are currently only seven core equity positions. Some may wonder why. This is because based on the 30-plus years of knowledge I have accumulated about investing, and the due diligence I have done, I believe they’re good decisions.
Investing isn’t about doing more in terms of moving money around, it’s actually about the opposite—doing less. It means choosing when to say no, and saving the all-important yes for a handful of carefully considered opportunities. People who get themselves into trouble with investing typically say yes to everything. This is because they don’t have the knowledge to spot what they should say yes to, or the patience to wait for their hard work and research to come to fruition.
Every day, whether it’s investing or generally in life, someone will try to make you do something. It could be to buy this or put your money here. This is most likely because they are incentivized to tell you this. However, the more decisions that you make, the more likely you are to make a bad one. Good decisions are harder to come by, so it often pays to be patient.
Secret 3: Patience
To be brutally honest, to me, those looking to get rich quickly aren’t investors, and they will undoubtedly struggle to achieve sustainable results. There are those who have knowledge and have made good decisions but are undone by a lack of patience. A study of New York Stock Exchange data by Reuters has shown that the average holding time of a position has shrunk to five and a half months, down from almost eight years in the 1950’s2!
In other words, it’s all but collapsed.
This is where our society’s need for instant gratification is working against us. History has taught us that the longer you hold onto something, the higher the probability there is of a positive return. Unfortunately, more and more, people are doing the opposite. In today’s world of next-day delivery, express shipping, instant likes and fast passes, waiting for 10, 20 or 30 years for their money to properly work for them seems blasphemous. People always seem to want a solution now, but wealth is typically not made overnight.
This is where emotions can get the better of us. All through 2022, when I would talk with people, nobody wanted to buy anything when the market was down 26%. People were looking to sell and cover the losses; they were so afraid of what all the “genius talking heads” were saying on TV.
However, instances like this only become a problem if you take a short-term approach to investing. For example, if someone has 20 years to hit financial freedom, plus say another 25 years to live once in it, what’s one year? That’s only ~2% of your journey! And that’s assuming you don’t want to leave anything for your kids or family, which probably have an additional 30-plus years to live post.
As the saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.” A bad year doesn’t mean a bad decade. Take the time to smell the roses, be patient, and wait for your wealth to grow. Panic rarely leads to a positive outcome.
Secret 4: Getting Help
The fourth and final secret is that it’s OK to get help. When we don’t know what we’re doing, we get help. When we want to get our teeth cleaned, we visit a dentist. When we want our toilet fixed, we call a plumber. However, when it comes to our finances, we rarely seek help. Why is this? Is it trust? Is it fear? Is it judgment? That will vary depending on whom you ask.
Nobody likes to hear that they aren’t good at something. You can see this by looking at the numbers. As I always say, numbers don’t lie; people do. The numbers of this country show that people are failing to create sustainable wealth. Even the great Warren Buffett failed initially. Berkshire Hathaway was originally a company he bought and rode into bankruptcy. Then he got help from Charlie Munger. Now, the pair are widely regarded for their knowledge and success in investing. So, if the best investor needs help, surely you do, too?
The trick is to find a good partner who has the integrity, knowledge, and passion that you need. The integrity to put your needs first. The knowledge and experience to help you make good decisions and steer you away from bad decisions. The passion to see you achieve your goals while living the life you are most passionate about. Money tends to be emotional, especially when it’s our own, so it’s tough to find an objective viewpoint. Getting help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. There is strength in numbers—so don’t go it alone.
The Four the Merrier
When it comes to investment success, these are the four secrets that I believe you need to know. The trick is to keep these in mind and to get someone on your side who can keep you on track. Here at Julius Wealth Advisors, we’ve helped clients just like you get on the right track to achieve their financial goals. If you’re ready to make your financial dreams a reality, get in touch with us today.
Jason Blumstein, CFA® is the CEO and founder of Julius Wealth Advisors, LLC (www.juliuswealthadvisors.com), a registered investment adviser. He is also the host of “The Big Bo $how” podcast available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Jason has been investing and educating himself on personal finance since the age of 10. His company’s mission is to empower people to live their best financial lives, while fostering an ecosystem of integrity, knowledge, and passion. Jason currently resides in Englewood with his wife and two kids. He can be reached at 201-289-9181 and/or [email protected].
This piece contains general information that is not suitable for everyone and was prepared for informational purposes only. Nothing contained herein should be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell any security or as an offer to provide investment advice. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but the accuracy of the information cannot be guaranteed. Past performance does not guarantee any future results. For additional information about Julius Wealth Advisors, including its services and fees, contact us or visit adviserinfo.sec.gov.
1. Over one in three Americans are not considered financially literate—Ipsos.com (https://bit.ly/3IyR8NQ)
2. What Is the Average Stock Holding Period—Yahoo.com (https://bit.ly/438YYWu)