The Greatest Secret In Investing

The Greatest Secret In Investing


One of my favourite investing articles is an old piece, written in February 2008, by The Motley Fool’s co-founder, David Gardner.

It had the provocative title, The Greatest Secret of All, and an equally provocative lede (emphasis is his):

“Welcome to my article. I’m glad you found it, because it is your lucky day, dear Fool: The greatest secret to easy riches in the stock market is contained right here, below.”

The article does contain the greatest secret in investing, and I implore all of you to read it.

For now, let’s turn to my girlfriend’s investment portfolio.

The Portfolio

In early 2019, my girlfriend wanted to build a portfolio of stocks for herself.

We started having long conversations about what she can do and how she should be building the portfolio.

Eventually, she settled on a list of stocks in the U.S. that she was really keen on, and she made the purchases on the night of 8 March 2019.

The list of stocks is shown in the table below, along with their initial weightings.

I merely acted as a sounding board.

She made the final call and the “Buy” mouse clicks.

CompanyWeighting in portfolio on 8 Mar 2019
Intuitive Surgical5.4%
Berkshire Hathaway5.1%
Arista Networks4.2%
Paycom Software3.6%
Veeva Systems3.5%

From the get-go, the portfolio did really well.

Producing a gain of 20 per cent in just a few short months.

There was a brief swoon from mid-July to early-October 2019, but then things picked up again.

Her stocks ended up charging to an overall gain of 36 per cent in mid-February 2020.

That was when all hell broke loose.

The Fall, and the Aftermath

The S&P 500 in the US, the country’s major stock market index, hit a peak on 19 February 2020 — before fears over COVID-19 started ripping across the market.

By 23 March 2020, the S&P 500 had declined by 34 per cent from peak-to-trough.

My girlfriend’s portfolio was not spared — it tumbled by 29 per cent over the same period.

All her previous gains were wiped out in the fall.

The portfolio even dipped into the red.

Here’s a chart of the performance of my girlfriend’s portfolio (the blue line; without dividends) and the S&P 500 (the red line; with dividends) from 8 March 2019 to 8 June 2020:

Source: Google Finance and Yahoo Finance
Source: Google Finance and Yahoo Finance

As of 8 June 2020, my girlfriend’s portfolio has a 50 per cent gain from its initial value on 8 March 2019.

And has comfortably surged past the previous peak seen in February 2020.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has rebounded strongly from its 23 March 2020 low, but it’s still a little off its high.

The Greatest Secret, Revealed

Some of you may be thinking that my girlfriend had made significant changes to her portfolio in March 2020 that resulted in the strong gains seen in the right-hand part of the chart above.




Not at all.

Her portfolio had zero changes during the COVID-19 panic. In fact, she has made no changes to her portfolio since she first purchased her stocks on 8 March 2019.

This brings me back to David Gardner’s article.

The secret that David is referring to is this:

“Find good companies and hold those positions tenaciously over time to yield multiples upon multiples of your original investment.”

The word “tenaciously” needs highlighting.

There was a painful period earlier this year when my girlfriend’s portfolio was in the red.

She needed the tenacity to hold on.

To her credit (and it’s all her credit!), she held on.

She was forward-looking and never gave in to the prevailing pessimism brought about by COVID-19.

Yes, COVID-19 — and the economic slowdown that has happened globally as a result — was and still is painful for all of us.

But she was confident that “this too, shall pass.”

She was also confident in the long-term futures of her companies.

If you look at the names, these are companies that are building the world of tomorrow:

  • Robotic surgery (Intuitive Surgical)
  • DNA analysis and precision medicine (Illumina)
  • e-commerce (Amazon, Shopify, MercadoLibre)
  • digital payments (Mastercard, PayPal, Visa)
  • streaming (Netflix, Spotify)
  • cloud computing (DocuSign, Paycom Software, Veeva Systems, Twilio, and etc).

There’s more, but I think you get the drift.

What’s Next?

The story of her portfolio is not over yet.

Only 1 year and 3 months have passed.

That’s way too short a time to come up with any high-probability insights.

A new bear market may be just around the corner.

It’s NOT our intention to take a victory lap.

But what has happened to my girlfriend’s portfolio throughout the COVID-19 situation — because of her tenacity in being actively patient — is worth bringing up.

Because, 10 years from now, her portfolio could very well be another real-life example of David Gardner’s greatest secret in investing.

This article first appeared on The Good Investors and is part of a content syndication agreement between The Good Investors and Seedly.

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The Good Investors is the personal investing blog of two simple guys, Chong Ser Jing and Jeremy Chia, who are passionate about educating Singaporeans about stock market investing.

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