“What’s one thing you wish you knew about investing when you were 20?” I was asked this question as a guest on a recent podcast. My answer? “I wish I knew how phenomenally well Apple stock was going to do because I owned it when I was 20!”
Yes. That was way back in 1987 and as a young business major at The University of Texas, I was dabbling in the stock market for the first time. Apple was my favorite company. I had just purchased an Apple Macintosh Computer and thought it was the most amazing machine ever contrived. It weighed “only” 20 pounds so I could easily carry it in a large backpack back and forth between my apartment and the Navy ROTC unit offices in old Steindam Hall.
I believed any company that was so creative deserved to be owned so Apple stock became my favorite investment. I bought and sold Apple several times between 1987 and 1992. I don’t remember the details but at the time I considered myself a savvy trader as I smartly profited from each transaction.
But what if I had just locked it away and never sold my initial purchase? I believe I originally paid around $100 for 300 shares. Since then, the stock has split so many times that I would now own 33,600 shares. At a current valuation of $115 that’s $3,864,000, or over 30,000 times my initial investment. Wow, I’m not feeling quite so savvy anymore.
But who can tell the future? The company labored for many years with no clear direction. Who knew that Steve Jobs would return in 1997? Or, a better question is who knew at the time that Steve Jobs’ return was going to be a good thing? So honestly, wishing I could have known certain things about the future of Apple is probably unrealistic.
What I really wish I had known way back then was how important time and patience is to good investing. Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway famously responded to a question about investment holding periods by saying “Our favorite stock holding period is forever.” When you look deeply into the holdings of wealthy families, you find that many of their investments have been held for generations.
Even the very best investments, like Apple, can take a long time to reach their best potential. The very best investors don’t make bets based upon economic cycles or presidential elections, rather they patiently hold the investments they believe in for the long term.
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Rob Schulz is a Dallas’ Registered Investment Advisor, local Certified Financial Planner, and an author of “Thoughts on Things Financial: Your Guide to a Chaotic Money World.“