Investing

Investing in individual company stocks may seem alluring – buy a few shares of the next hot stock and get rich quick. However, concentrating your portfolio in just one or a few stocks carries huge risks that make it a poor strategy for most investors. This guide examines the drawbacks of selecting single stocks versus diversified funds.

Lack of Diversification

The biggest danger of owning individual stocks is lack of diversification. Putting all your money in just 1 or 2 stocks leaves you highly vulnerable to company-specific risks. For example, negative news or an unexpected event can cause a stock to plunge, potentially wiping out a big chunk of your portfolio. Diversification across many stocks insulates against this firm-specific risk.

Increased Volatility

Single stocks experience far greater volatility versus a diversified basket of stocks. For instance, the S&P 500 index only fluctuates about 1% per day on average. Meanwhile, a single stock can easily swing 5-10% or more in a day on news or changing market sentiment. Less diversification equals a bumpier emotional rollercoaster.

Requires Extensive Research

Picking winning stocks consistently requires deep knowledge of financial statement analysis, valuation techniques, and industry dynamics. It demands extensive hours studying 10-Ks, developing models, analyzing metrics like PE ratios, and keeping up with industry trends. Few individual investors have the time or training to perform this level of rigorous analysis on companies.

Market Timing Difficulties

Buying and selling individual stocks profitably means accurately timing market swings. Even professional money managers struggle to consistently time exactly when to buy stocks at lows and sell at highs. For an individual investor it is exceedingly challenging trying to beat the market’s daily ups and downs.

High Transaction Costs

Actively trading stocks generates significantly higher transaction fees and taxes compared to buy-and-hold index funds. $5-$10 trading commissions per purchase or sale of a stock eats into returns. Short-term capital gains tax rates are also higher than for long-term fund holding periods. Excess trading costs make beating the market mathematically more difficult.

Susceptible to Irrational Hypes

Individual stocks frequently experience bubbles and irrational market behaviors not supported by fundamentals. Just because everyone on social media is hyping up a stock doesn’t make it a wise investment. But single stock owners face huge pressure from whipsawing social hype and fear of missing out.

Concentrates Risks in One Sector

Owning just one or two stocks also exposes you to sector concentration risks. If you mainly buy tech stocks and that industry faces a downturn, your entire portfolio suffers. Diversified index funds appropriately balance exposure across all market sectors.

Overconfidence and Emotions

Humans suffer from both overconfidence and loss aversion biases. Believing you have special insights into a stock leads to excessive trading based on hunches rather than data. Panic selling stocks after drops realizes permanent losses. Diversification helps overcome these emotional biases.

Requires Constant Monitoring

Unlike mutual funds, owning individual stocks demands close continuous monitoring of news, quarterly reports, executive changes, competitor moves, regulations, etc. Failing to watch closely means missing crucial events affecting your portfolio holdings. This part-time job detracts from income producing activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are examples of single stocks most investors should avoid?

Highly volatile, hyped stocks with no fundamentals like early stage biotech or cryptocurrency companies.

What percentage of my portfolio should single stocks represent at most?

Experts recommend capping stock picks at 5-10% of your overall portfolio value, even for experienced investors.

Is it ok to buy single stocks in my Roth IRA?

No, your Roth holdings should be broadly diversified as well across index funds and ETFs due to contribution limits.

What are the best ways to buy stocks for beginners?

Low-fee ETFs like VTI or mutual funds offer instant diversification. Avoid individual stocks until you gain experience.

Can I beat index fund returns by picking individual stocks?

Extremely unlikely as an individual retail investor over long periods due to disadvantages in research and trading costs.

What investment vehicles are safer alternatives to buying individual stocks?

Index funds, ETFs, target-date retirement funds, professionally managed portfolios, and robo-advisors offer safer diversification.

Should I listen to stock tips from TV pundits and friends?

No, these hot tips are generally not backed by rigorous analysis. Do your own homework before investing.

Owning single stocks seems alluring but carries massive risks. A diversified, low-cost index fund strategy protects against human emotional biases while benefitting from market growth over time. Stick to broad diversification rather than stock picking.

** This is not financial advice. Do your own research.

Author

  • Gio Watts

    Gio Watts brings over 10 years of digital marketing experience to his role as marketing manager at Walletminded. In his current position, Gio oversees brand marketing, campaign management, and audience growth initiatives. Prior to joining Walletminded, Gio held marketing roles at several ecommerce and SaaS startups, most recently serving as senior marketing manager at CloudTable Inc. There, he specialized in paid social advertising and content marketing. Gio holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of Oregon. He is a certified content marketing specialist and frequently guest lectures at his alma mater. When he's not devising omni-channel marketing campaigns, you can find Gio coaching youth basketball and indulging his passion for live music.

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