When fiascos like the Enron bankruptcy, auditing scandals and analysts’ conflict of interest occur, investor confidence can be at an all-time low. Many investors are wonder whether or not investing in stocks is worth all the hassle. At the same time, however, it’s important to keep a realistic view of the stock market. Regardless of the real problems, common myths about the stock market often arise. Here we go over these myths in order to bust them.
1) Investing in stocks is just like gambling.
This reasoning causes many people to shy away from the stock market. To understand why investing in stocks is inherently different from gambling, we need to review what it means to buy stocks. A share of common stock is ownership in a company. It entitles the holder to a claim on assets as well as a fraction of the profits that the company generates. Too often, investors think of shares as simply a trading vehicle, and they forget that stock represents the ownership of a company.
In the stock market, investors are constantly trying to assess the profit that will be left over for shareholders. This is why stock prices fluctuate. The outlook for business conditions is always changing, and so are the future earnings of a company.
Assessing the value of a company isn’t an easy practice. There are so many variables involved that the short-term price movements appear to be random (academics call this the Random Walk Theory); however, over the long term, a company is only worth the present value of the profits it will make. In the short term a company can survive without profits because of the expectations of future earnings, but no company can fool investors forever – eventually a company’s stock price can be expected to show the true value of the firm.
Gambling, on the contrary, is a zero-sum game. It merely takes money from a loser and gives it to a winner. No value is ever created. By investing, we increase the overall
wealth of an economy. As companies compete, they increase productivity and develop products that can make our lives better. Don’t confuse investing and creating wealth with gambling’s zero-sum game.
2) The stock market is an exclusive club in which only brokers and rich people make money.
Many market advisors claim to be able to call the markets’ every turn. The fact is that almost every study done on this topic has proven that these claims are false. Most market prognosticators are notoriously inaccurate; furthermore, the advent of the internet has made the market much more open to the public than ever before. All the data and research tools previously available only to brokerages are now there for individuals to use.
Actually, individuals have an advantage over institutional investors because individuals can afford to be long-term oriented. The big money managers are under extreme pressure to get high returns every quarter. Their performance is often so scrutinized that they can’t invest in opportunities that take some time to develop. Individuals have the ability to look beyond temporary downturns in favor of a long-term outlook.
3) Fallen angels will all go back up, eventually.
Whatever the reason for this myth’s appeal, nothing is more destructive to amateur investors than thinking that a stock trading near a 52-week low is a good buy. Think of this in terms of the old Wall Street adage, “Those who try to catch a falling knife only get hurt.”
Suppose you are looking at two stocks:
XYZ made an all time high last year around $50 but has since fallen to $10 per share.