In Cashflow Cookbook, I curated 120 of the best ideas to free up cashflow for debt repayment or increased investment. Through the power of compound growth, relatively small monthly savings can result in building real wealth over time. Many of my readers have applied the concepts and are now keen to get their money to work for them. One of the most common questions I get is, “What is the secret to great investing?”

At a recent speaking engagement, a similar challenge was raised. An audience member was interested in the ideas in the book but questioned an example I had used of an investment growing at 7%, seeing that as unattainable. Looking at the history of the stock market over the long haul, the rate of return of money that stayed invested through wars, recessions, 9/11 and every other type of peril is about 7%. The Vampire that drains investing returns is usually the investor them self, pulling money out of the market when things look scary (selling low) then clamouring back in as markets rise (buying high). Not a winning approach. Studies have shown that fund investors typically underperform the funds themselves for exactly that reason.

So what is the secret to great investing?

But back to the question, what is the secret to great investing? There is no shortage of analysis of stocks, many with conflicting opinions. And many studies show that researchers carry a bias toward positive reviews to avoid the conflict that comes with a negative one. So how do you pick the winners and what is the secret to great investing?

I don’t know that there is a single secret, but I think that one of the keys is to understand the major shifts that are happening and ensure that your portfolio is on the right side of those shifts. Let me give you some examples from the last few years of some of these structural changes and some of the investments that I made.

 

Major Trend or Shift(s)

 

Company

 

Last 12 month’s Performance

Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, machine vision NVIDIA +82%
Outsourced IT, IT Infrastructure CGI +25%
eCommerce (software) Shopify +94%
eCommerce (shipping packages) FedEx +24%
eCommerce (core business) Amazon +79%
Mobile Computing Apple +32%
Out of Reach Housing Costs Canadian Apartment REIT +27%
Social Media and Digital Advertising Facebook +26%

 

Are technology trends the only thing to consider?

Did I win on every investment I made? Absolutely not. Could these stocks have suffered from some calamity that might have thrown off their returns? Absolutely. Should investors conduct other types of securities analysis and ensure that possible investments are secure. 100%. As an example, FedEx rival UPS was more or less flat over the past year. Not all trends are technology-related. The housing cost one above is an example. Global warming leading to more violent storms is another. And bear in mind that a trade war, misguided nuclear missile or even, ahem, a bad tweet could drive a big dip across the overall market.

But all things being equal, why not have the wind at your back as an investor? By overlaying known trends in addition to sound analysis, there could be some incremental gains to be had. Could Lance Armstrong beat me in a bike race? Sure. But what if I had a huge downhill and he was climbing over the same distance? Well, OK, he would likely still beat me. But you get the idea.

What are the shifts ahead that will impact stocks?

So the history lesson was great, but what is the secret to great investing going forward? And where do we find the trends that will provide the right kinds of tailwinds? One of my investing favourites is Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report. It comes out every year around June 1st and it is one of the best ways of learning about the tech trends in the year ahead. Best of all, it is free. You can have a look at it here. The McKinsey Insights iOS app is another great and free source of information on emerging trends. The Motley Fool website has tons of great articles on these kinds of trends. For each trend, think about the securities you hold. Will the company benefit from using the new technology? Are they a maker of the technology? Or will their company become roadkill as the technology becomes more popular? Younger people aren’t familiar with the old red and yellow Kodak logo, but today it serves as a grim reminder of the effect of being on the wrong side of a technology shift.

How do you apply your knowledge of the trends?

Once you build your knowledge of the trends, how do you apply it? Work with your financial advisor to discuss how some of these trends might affect your portfolio. If you invest on your own, look at your holdings to see how they might be affected by some of these technology shifts. For many of these trends, there are exchange traded funds that focus on the themes. Examples would be Vanguard’s VGT, which holds high technology names, or HACK, a cybersecurity focused fund. Be sure to balance these ideas with other blue chip holdings of the broader market.

The securities mentioned are for illustrative purposes only. Investors should always conduct their own research and consult a financial advisor before buying any security. Stock markets are subject to volatility and investors should ensure that any investments are suitable for their risk profile.

Disclosure, I hold all of the securities above personally.

Where are you getting your information on trends? What trends will affect share prices going forward?

Photo credit Chris Lawton – Unsplash

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