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Why investing is like losing weight

Was losing a bit of weight one of your New Year’s resolutions?

If so, at almost a month in this must feel like the crunch time. You might not be noticing any results yet, and wondering if you should change what you’re doing.

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You might have read one of your friend’s social media posts about how they lost half a stone in a month, as you look down at the scales showing hardly any adjustment.

I walked past a pharmacy yesterday. There was a poster slapped up haphazardly in the window, advertising a weight-loss supplement.

Call me cynical, but this looked like a marketing ploy aimed at the people undertaking a New Year’s resolution.

And then I thought about how similar to investing this was.

The Swindle

I’ll let you into a secret. There is no get-rich-quick scheme.

I’m no dietician by any stretch of the imagination, but the same is probably true for weight loss.

It’s true that some people have made money from speculating on things like Bitcoin. We have all read about how a lucky few made a fortune when the cryptocurrency surged in 2017.

But that’s all it is: speculation. Bitcoin has no true value and has no assets or cash flow to measure it against.

This is where I have to take my hats off to marketing companies.

Ignore the noise

Like weight-loss advertising, financial marketing companies often highlight a few lucky examples of how people have experienced a rapid change in circumstances.

Funnily enough, the story normally ends there. It ignores the fact that people might have lost money speculating.

They paint such a compelling picture, that it’s easy to buy into it. Why waste time going through the hard slog, when you could get rich – or lose weight – overnight.

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Get rich slowly

Rather than get-rich-quick, I prefer the expression ‘get-rich-slowly’. 

It might not sound as thrilling. But over the years, I’ve realised investing should be boring. If it feels exciting, then I’m probably doing something wrong.

There is no doubt that it will take patience and sacrifices to build wealth.

Might the same be true with weight loss?

Don’t lose money

Warren Buffett has a rule: “don’t lose money”. This has framed the way I look at investing.

This is the reason I look to invest in established businesses that I understand, that have a strong record of increasing revenue, and a competitive edge over its rivals.

Even some index funds offer diversification and might be a good alternative for those starting with more modest sums.

The important thing is discipline. It might take longer, but I believe buying shares in companies that you have researched and have the qualities you look for, will probably be safer than speculating on cryptocurrencies.

So whether it’s investing or weight loss, I think the two key attributes to possess are patience and discipline.

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T Sligo has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.