As investors we spend a lot of time on when and how to buy equities. Always searching for the right price, attempting to “call” a bottom, looking for a deal. Not enough time is spent on why and when to sell these stocks after they’ve been acquired.
There’s a lot of noise out there for the individual investor. Analyst research, financial pundits, it can be a lot to sift through to come to a conclusion. There is a lot of debate about how buying and holding stocks is either “dead” or a lazy way to handle one’s investments.
Still one wonders what folks who still own Costco (COST) from the 1980’s or Starbucks from the 1990’s think when they read or hear commentary like that. If you’re wondering why you never hear about or read anything about people like this, it’s because they are far too wealthy and are having far too much fun to care to share their thoughts.
Still, even these long time holders would tell you they could have sold several times along the way and pocketed some gains to put to work at much lower prices. Maybe they did. They might have made what I think is the hardest trade, selling something that appears to be bulletproof.
Example, I sold some Under Armour (UA) after that earnings pop, but remain long, quite long to be honest. Why? Well, simple common sense would dictate that a stock trading below 64 one week that suddenly is above 85 PROBABLY has some room to pull back. That’s just common sense. In fact I’ve already bought the shares back in the mid and low 70’s.
Did I think the UA valuation was fair at 86? Yes, but it doesn’t matter. I certainly felt validated after their earnings release. I think the stock was overdone to the downside so it would be easy just to sit and do nothing, but why not schnitzel a little and have some cash.
This is called trading around a core holding. I’m not suggesting this should be done daily, but every few months when stocks are swinging 20-30% why not take a little off? What a lovely problem to have if your stock continues to rise and never falls back below your sale price. (This almost never happens BTW)
You could also call this strategy buy and hold…some. Here’s another example. Let’s say you bought DIS (DIS) in the fall of 2014 during the “Ebola selloff”. You could have gotten it below $80 and then watched the value of this decades old company rise by over 50% in less than a year. Does that seem normal to you? Clearly, $78 was a great price, but if an alarm isn’t going off when something approaching a $200 Billion market cap might be getting a little ahead of itself, you might want to stick to index funds.
It can be hard to sell when you have gains, it’s human nature. It’s rarely a good idea to go all in or all out on any given stock on any given day. By selling some after a huge gain, you take a small victory and force yourself to do homework on a core holding which you should be doing regularly anyway.
Just like buys, the best sales are almost always the hardest. Embrace them in volatile markets.