When you open the business TV channels, it looks like the market is a casino. News anchors make you feel like if you pick the right stock, which is exclusively on their channel, then you will win the lottery and make big gains.
But stocks go up and stocks come down. The reality is very different from what those pundits predict. By definition markets are a zero-sum game; if someone is buying a stock for a good reason, there is someone on the other side selling for a reason as well.
The question you have to ask yourself is where is your edge as an individual investor?
Speed is not an edge, there are many algorithmically driven funds that will always move faster than you.
Access to information is unlikely to be an edge, you are up against large financial institutions with Bloomberg terminals that offer instant real time market data.
And, you are up against the entire mutual fund and professional fund management industry that have teams of people who do fundamental research to find the next stock that will give multi-bagger returns.
But there is one area where individual investors have a key advantage which is sustainable. This is the ability to have a long-time horizon.
Professional investors, fund manager and business news anchors are all chasing the returns of the next quarter, the next year or at best the next three years. If they do not show performance in that much time, they face a career risk and a loss of clients.
Individual investors however have the flexibility to think far more long term. When you are thinking about wealth creation in terms of your life span, then you open up the possibility to invest for decades to get an edge over others. This works in the individual investors favor by leveraging the magic of compounding.
The stock market is a roller coaster ride. In the short run, it is a voting machine and yet in the long run, it is a weighing machine. Trying to time the market may cost you to miss out. But keeping a long-term perspective and spending time in the market will give you much better results.