The stock market has been going up for a decade ever since the depths of the Financial Crisis. During that time S&P 500 has more than tripled in value. Many investors who were hurt badly by the stock market crash of 2008 to 2009 have hesitated to reenter the market. And, many who might have invested in stocks are unsure of how to find good stocks and how to avoid losing everything should the market correct or crash again. A valid concern for investors today is not buying overpriced stocks in an aging bull market. Likewise, investors want to find stocks that still have growth and earnings potential that will last over the years. What is the best way to find good stocks with these priorities in mind? And, are there sources of stock investing advice that you should routinely ignore?
Best Way to Find Good Stocks
Finding good stocks to invest in can be broken down into three steps. What information sources do you use? What criteria do you look for? And, how do you verify what are the best stocks to buy right now and for the long term?
Useful Information when Searching for Good Stocks to Buy
There are lots and lots of business and stock investing-related websites. They provide lots and lots of information. But, they also have the tendency to promote individual stocks, investment management companies, and their own unique points of view.
Information about the Economy, Markets, and Stocks
A good place to start if you are looking for unbiased information about stocks, the markets, the economy, trade, and more is Bloomberg News. The best way to find good stocks is not to immediately start looking for hot stock tips but rather to educate yourself about the things that drive stock profits and stock prices. The business section of The New York Times is a good source of unbiased information as is The Wall Street Journal. To the extent that these sources of information try to sell anything, other than online subscriptions, is when they tend toward one side or the other of the political spectrum. But, each of them is an excellent base from which to start. Our first choice is Bloomberg.
Specific Stock Investing Information
If you have a stock in mind and want to know its price history, dividend, and a thumbnail sketch of the business, both Google Finance and Yahoo Finance are good sources of information. These are good news sources but not as in-depth as the Times, Journal, or Bloomberg. But you can look up information about specific stocks such as this graph of the Apple stock price going back to 1981.
The information that you find on a chart on Yahoo Finance or Google Finance is not colored by the opinions of someone who is pitching that stock. Rather it is basic and useful which is the best way to find good stocks.
Sources of Stock Tips
If you have followed our advice so far you have educated yourself about the economy, the markets, foreign trade, and other factors that drive profits and stock prices. And you know where to go (Yahoo Finance and Google Finance) to check out stock price history, P/E ratio, and dividends. But, where do you find information about good stocks for dividends, cheap stocks on the rise, or simply the best stocks to buy today. Here is where the stock commentators are useful. These folks follow the markets and have lots of useful information along with their own strong opinions. CNBC has good investing information as do Market Watch, Barron’s, Investor’s Business Daily, and The Motley Fool. Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” is full of useful tips and entertaining as well.
For those who are not interested in doing a lot of research on their own, following these sources for stock investing tips can be profitable. They commonly write about good stocks for cheap, good stocks for day trading, and what they consider to be the best stocks to buy today. However, we strongly suggest that you use their tips as a starting point and not an endpoint in picking profitable stocks for the long term.
Criteria for Choosing Stocks
The basic things to consider before choosing stocks are these. What are your investing goals, horizon, and risk tolerance? And, what do you know personally that will give you solid insight into specific sectors of the stock market? In one of our core articles about investing in stocks, we note that time spent considering how long you will be investing before you need money for retirement, college for the kids, or money to start your own business will affect your choices. And, when your work, your hobbies, or your life experience give you an advantage over other investors in any given market sector, grab that advantage with both hands and hold on!
Risk versus Reward in Stock Selection
When investing, there should always be a balance between risk and reward. Part of your money should be in investments that are as secure as you can find. We dealt briefly with this in our article about how to invest without losing any money. Then, you will want to look at any prospective investment and consider how the company makes its money and how it can be expected to keep doing that over the long term. This is where having your own insights into a specific line of business are useful and those insights should always be used.
Specific Stock Selection Criteria
Some investors prefer to look for good stocks for cheap. But, these may or may not be the best stocks to invest in today. The best dividend-paying stocks should be part of your investment portfolio. But, when is a high dividend yield dangerous? Read the article for insight into how failing stocks sometimes sport high dividends before they fade away. As we noted, you should always look for stocks in sectors where your knowledge and experience give you an advantage. This is because you will have better insight into how a company makes a profit and if they are likely to continue to do so over time. And, this leads us to our last part of the best way to find good stocks.
How to Verify Good Stocks to Buy
So, now you have a few stock prospects that you picked up from following Bloomberg and The New York Times, listening to Jim Cramer’s Mad Money, and even a stock tip or two from family and friends. How do you verify that any or all of these are good stock picks for your time frame, risk tolerance, and area of expertise?
The Fundamental Value of a Stock Investment
When you buy a stock you are looking for it to reward you in two ways. You want its stock price to appreciate over time and you would be pleased with dividends that you can reinvest during your working years and collect during retirement. For these things to work out you need a stock that makes money over the years, increases its profits as it goes, and has a substantial margin of safety in terms of low debt, money in the bank, a famous and strong reputation and brand, and has a business model that you clearly understand.
Intrinsic stock value is what you are looking for. This is a calculation based on your assessment of forward-looking earnings. This approach evolved in the years after the 1929 stock market crash and in the years of the Great Depression. For those who paid attention, it replaced the idea that one would simply “play the market” in hopes of making a profit. Investors who follow this approach use fundamental analysis to determine if a company will continue to sell its products and services at a profit over the years, add more products and services, and manage the business wisely in order to most efficiently use those profits to reward shareholders.
Our best way to find good stocks may sound time-consuming but, if you are into investing for the long haul, what is your hurry? Experts like the famous investor Warren Buffett have said that they commonly throw out 19 out of 20 stocks that they consider in an intrinsic value calculation as “too difficult to call.” Here is where your own expertise comes into the picture. You are not trying to find investments for a multi-billion dollar portfolio. You are looking for three or four stocks whose businesses you understand, which have good track records, and are likely to keep making money for their shareholders for at least as long as you choose to stay invested.