St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) delivers to Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen (22) during the fifth inning of the opening day baseball game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, April 3, 2016. The Pirates won 4-1, with Wainwright taking the loss.
By Kerry Close
April 5, 2016

Major League Baseball has returned to ballparks across the country.

While it’s exciting to see sluggers and aces back on the field, the return of baseball serves a more useful purpose: the chance to hone your investing skills. That’s because many of the fundamentals that are key to the sport can help you develop a solid portfolio.

Here are some useful lessons from the national pastime:

1. Good investing isn’t about hitting home runs.

Winning teams do the little things right, like getting runners on base and in scoring position with singles, doubles, and even walks.

Sure, the long ball generates excitement. But the last two World Series champs — the Royals and the Giants — proved that you don’t need overwhelming power to win. In fact, swinging for the fences can be counterproductive, as it leads to more strikeouts.

That’s a helpful tip for investors. When you “strike out” in your 401(k), you are literally losing money. And if you strike out enough, you can dig yourself a hole that’s hard to get out of. Consider how the math works: Say your $100 investment falls 50% in value, leaving you with $50. To break even, you wouldn’t need a 50% rebound in that stock. It would actually take a 100% gain to recoup all your losses and get back to $100.

That’s why stock funds that lose less than the market as a whole often perform better over time. For instance, the PowerShares S&P 500 Quality ETF POWERSHARES EXCHAN POWERSHARES S&P 500 QLTY PF


SPHQ
-2.81%

has lost nearly 30% less than the broad market in down months. As a result, the fund has beaten 99% of its peers over the past five years.

It’s generally best to be disciplined and go for “slow and steady base hits” by investing steadily and regularly over long periods of time, said Cheryl Sherrard, a certified financial planner in Charlotte, N.C.

An investment that produces consistent cash flows, for instance, may not be sexy. But it’s a smart part of your portfolio for the long haul, said Adam Reinert, a certified financial planner in Doylestown, Pa. “Compounding somewhat predictable returns can have a greater long-term impact than attempting to occasionally hit home runs,” Reinert said.

Calculate: What is my risk tolerance?

2. Don’t listen to the chatter.

Just as batters shouldn’t allow hecklers to throw them off their game, investors must be confident enough in their strategy to disregard what the peanut gallery has to say.

“Listen to an expert, not your brother-in-law,” said Beth D’Andrea, a certified financial planner in Malvern, Pa. And by expert, she means a financial adviser who can help you set your long-term goals and strategies, not a Wall Street stock jockey on television talking up a hot investment.

3. “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

This witticism of the late great Yankee catcher Yogi Berra can also apply to investing.

When the S&P 500 declined in 2015, some fearful investors assumed the bull market was over and moved their holdings to more conservative investments, noted James T. Parks, a certified financial planner based in Ridgewood, N.J.

However, the S&P has rebounded by about 10% since last August’s summer swoon. Rather than letting short-term volatility dictate your strategy, it’s more productive play the long game — both in baseball and with your money.

4. The most expensive rosters don’t necessarily make the best teams.

The 2011 film Moneyball (and the book of the same name by Michael Lewis) documented how the Oakland Athletics used analytics to stitch together a successful squad built from undervalued players.

Moneyball is extremely applicable to investing. Don’t assume a portfolio full of brand-name mutual funds with expensive fees will produce the highest returns. In fact, the opposite is often true. That’s because fund fees come out of your total returns, making it difficult for high-fee funds to produce market-beating results.

Expensive investments affect your portfolio in another way. Stocks that trade at frothy price/earnings ratios are less likely to produce sizable returns in the long term.

Calculate:

5. Be prepared for any pitch that’s thrown at you.

Investors, like batters, should be prepared for unexpected curveballs. As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” To be prepared, investors should maintain a disciplined approach just like the best hitters in baseball. That way, says Nate J. Wenner, a certified financial planner from Edina, Minn., you can put the ball in play no matter what’s thrown at you.

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