The Beginner’s Guide to Investing

Top financial advisor: To invest successfully, don’t make these 3 mistakes

If you're looking to get into the stock market, there are three mistakes you'll want to avoid in order to be successful, says John D. Spooner, author of "No One Ever Told Us That: Money And Life Lessons For Young Adults."

Spooner is a Harvard University graduate and a Boston Globe No. 1 best-selling author. He has been named one of the 100 best financial advisors in America by financial-investment website Barron's.

"There are endless ways to analyze the stock market, its trends, fads and individual companies," Spooner writes.

"My style is to be a contrarian, to go against popular sentiment. When I identify areas I think are undervalued and unappreciated, I move into them aggressively." And this strategy, he says, can been very successful.

As long as you avoid these errors:

Don't rely on algorithms

Formulas can seem attractive but don't swoon too hard for them. Build real-life relationships with smart people, too. Spooner takes this tip from Warren Buffett, the chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, who he says has built a "cult following" over the course of his career.

"Buffett dispenses wisdom and common sense wherever he goes," Spooner says. "He has a cult following, in my view, not just because he has an outstanding investment record, but also because of his wisdom, experience and counsel.

"As you get older, you suddenly realize you [may not] have the time to invest on your own. You need hands-on advice, not virtually, not by robots, but by real live smart people who consider the best interest of you and your family. Tough to find. But it can be priceless if you do."

Tom Corley, an accountant, financial planner and author of "Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life," also subscribes to this idea. He spent five years studying the habits of the wealthy and calls this type of networking building "rich relationships."

To find rich relationships, Corley says, make a list of individuals you may or may not know, who possess skills you could learn or lean on them for, and reach out to them. Join a networking, civic or nonprofit group.

Reach out to people and ask them to grab a coffee or a drink. "These casual get-togethers," writes Corley, "are actually the most effective way to grow your relationships."

Buffett and billionaire Bill Gates are a good example of that, too. They have been friends for years and say that, by surrounding yourself with the right crowd, you can push yourself to achieve bigger professional goals.

Don't just watch TV

Using common-sense strategies, instead of merely listening to talking heads, can give you a boost. When investing in pharmaceutical companies, Spooner says this strategy helped him get ahead.

"We started to buy this group in 2008 on one seemingly easy-to-grasp idea: The demographics of America and the world. With more than 320 million Americans and seven billion people on the planet, no one you and I know will ever be taking fewer pills than they are now," he recalls.

The pharma industry, "with enormous cash flow, paying dividends equal to or greater than 10- to 30- year treasuries," was an obvious choice, Spooner says, and it paid off.

"[It was] simple. I [didn't] have to look at charts or listen to talking heads on TV," he says. "Common sense can give you investment themes if you pay attention to the world around you."

To start building your sense for the market, in addition to checking in on your favorite shows, network with experienced investors in your group of rich relationships. Check out these investing books recommended by Andrew Hallam, who became a self-made millionaire at 36.

Don't get complacent

Lastly, Spooner says, don't get too comfortable in your routine.

"If you're a contrarian, [which] often takes time to develop, you should continuously try to shoot holes in your thinking and actually question, 'Are my assumptions still valid?'

"When the public seems to have discovered your theme, then it is time to start slowly exiting those stocks and looking for what's next," he says. "Let the people who are late for the game get in last."

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