Hedge Fund Guru: Buy & Hold Far from Dead

Is buy-and-hold dead? Lloyd Khaner, whose hedge fund has a successful two-decade track record, tells Forbes.com that he doesn’t think so — though he says successful implementation of a buy-and-hold approach isn’t as simple as many assume.

“Buy and hold for the smaller, individual investor is not gone,” says Khaner, whose Khaner Capital fund (which does not use leverage) has posted positive returns in 15 of the last 18 years and is ahead of the S&P 500, after fees, for the past year, three years, five years, ten years, fifteen years, and eighteen years, according to Forbes. “As a matter of fact,” Khaner adds, “it probably makes more sense than it has since the 1970s because stock prices have been hit hard in the types of solid companies that you can construct a portfolio with and thereby set yourself up for real long-term wealth building.”

What’s key to understand, however, is that by “buy-and-hold”, Khaner isn’t talking about buying stocks and just holding onto them, no matter what, for the long haul. “The part of ‘buy and hold’ that most often is misinterpreted is that you still have to monitor the portfolio and each individual company in it,” he says. “A stock portfolio needs maintenance just like a house or a car or any other asset.” Turning you back on your portfolio and pretending that it will take care of itself could leave you with a mess, just as ignoring maintenance on your home for a year — or even worse, five or ten years — would leave you with a mess.

The “maintenance” Khaner says investors need to perform involves reviewing your portfolio from top to bottom every month. “Ask your investment advisor to send updated research on your holdings regularly and then read them,” he says. “Also read the Letter to Investors in the Annual Reports that companies send you.”

Examine the information not with short-term trading in mind, Khaner says, but with an eye toward any “warning signs that the company has significantly lost its competitive advantage or runs the risk of bankruptcy. If that is the case, then it does not belong in a ‘buy and hold’ portfolio.”

He also says to keep up with the stocks you own by reading the business section of the newspaper to make sure your holdings aren’t in financial trouble. Doing so would have helped you avoid U.S. auto stocks over the past year or two, for example, he says. “These were once core ‘buy and hold’ companies, but they lost their competitive advantage, and there was plenty of time to see it coming,” he notes. A good data point to watch is insider transactions, he says, because company higher-ups should have a better idea than you of how the company is going to perform.

If this kind of portfolio maintenance is taking up too much of your time, Khaner says you might want to own fewer stocks. Or you can buy exchange-traded funds. “Five to 10 of them would probably cover the financial landscape pretty well,” he says. “Learn about what goes into each fund and understand why you own them.”

One final bit of advice from Khaner: Like Warren Buffett, he says you shouldn’t invest in things you don’t understand.

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