Not everybody has the time to pick their own winners.
It's difficult to know where to start with investing. I have always been intrigued but, until a few years ago, was never brave enough to dip my toe into the bewildering sea of information. Then one day I shut my eyes and jumped in.
Lacking in time and experience, I put my faith in others who confidently told me they could take my hand and keep my money safe. Was that wise? Do others really know better? Well here's my experience so far.
Penny shares, Dividend letters
Seeking share ideas, I have sampled different newsletters, magazines and tipsheets -- such as Red Hot Penny Shares, Investors Chronicle and even Stephen Bland's Dividend Letter -- as well as various Motley Fool services. While I can't link back to articles from these paid-for publications, I can at least share the pleasures and pains of investing as a result of using them.
There have been many tempting companies and opportunities along the way.
BP (LSE: BP), for example, was simultaneously given buy and sell signals during its 2010 oil-spill crisis. Likewise, Cable & Wireless Worldwide (LSE: CW) was both tipped and dumped by my gurus during the last three years. I watched from the sidelines as it plummeted from 68p to 14p and back up to its current 36p -- leaving me both relieved and frustrated at my lack of confidence.
Buying for real
My first real-money forays, though, had contrasting fortunes. AIM-traded Tasty (LSE: TAST), for instance, was championed as an up-and-coming restaurant group with a decent pedigree, which appealed to my gut instincts. It was definitely beginners' luck getting in at 36p and somehow not selling to give me almost a doubler today.
Another play was not so good. Timeweave (LSE: TMW), formerly Alphameric, owns a stake in a horse-racing broadcaster, which looked a good bet. Originally purchasing at 33p, I thought I was being savvy when the share fell, and I bought again at 31p. It was a harsh a lesson -- I discovered it doesn't always pay to average down -- as the price is now languishing at 21p. I'm licking my wounds, as all I have done is compound the loss.
In and out
Another early investment was mid-cap Ashmore (LSE: ASHM). I was a bit jittery at the time and a bit too excited to run my profits. The specialist investment manager was sold on me in 2009 and I was in and out in three weeks, taking a 15% gain.
Luckily, Ashmore's price dipped slightly and I piled in again before exiting with a further 22% gain a year later. If I had just stopped messing around, though, and listened to the buy-and-hold philosophy, I could have been sitting on a 60% gain without the additional dealing charges eating part of my profit.
Buying with Buffett
I have learned not to be quite so jumpy these days and am happy to sit for longer on shares. Also, I thought it might be a good idea to shore up my portfolio with some larger companies. Tesco (LSE: TSCO) is in my portfolio these days, although even investing legend Warren Buffett is coming in for a hard time on that one. We'll see if he is proved right or wrong in time.
(By the way, you can discover what price Warren Buffett paid for his Tesco shares in this special free report. I reckon I bought at a similar level, so I am in good company!)
In the meantime, my search for share tips goes on. I still lack the time and experience to do any thorough research of my own, so I am happy to read recommendations from all corners of the market -- and simply run with some familiar experts and buy the investment stories that tweak my instincts.
Indeed, I've seen dividend expert Neil Woodford make a lot of headlines recently -- and I've discovered his long-term track record is one the best in the City.
So I'm currently reading the Fool's special guide on what he believes could be tomorrow's blue-chip winners -- and I'm hoping one of his holdings will strike a chord with me. A free copy of this Woodford report -- "8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor" -- is available now if you want to take a look as well.
Want to learn more about shares, but not sure where to start? Download this Foolish guide -- "What Every New Investor Needs To Know" -- it's free. The Motley Fool is helping Britain invest. Better.
Further investment opportunities:
Barry owns shares in Tasty, Tesco and Timeweave. The Motley Fool owns shares in Tesco.