CHAPTER XXIV. POSSIBILITIES OF PROFIT
What are the possibilities of profit in stock speculation? That question is frequently asked but it is difficult to answer. James R. Keene is quoted as having said: "Many men come to Wall Street to get rich; they always go broke. Others come to Wall Street to operate intelligently for fair returns; they usually get rich."
While it is true that nearly all stock traders who try to make unusually large profits in a very short time in stock trading lose, yet unusual profits can be made if you exercise good judgment and have patience.
Roger W. Babson, in his book entitled, "Business Barometers," speaks of the possibilities of profit in language that would be considered greatly exaggerated if used by a promoter, and yet he is extremely conservative in his advice to traders. He advises never to buy on margin, never to sell short, and staying out of the market entirely, neither buying or selling, for a great part of the time. Here is a quotation from his book, which follows a detailed statement of an investment of $2,500 over a period of fifty years:
"The preceding example shows that $2,500 conservatively invested in a few standard stocks about fifty years ago would today amount to over $1,000,000. These are not only strictly investment stocks, but are also stocks which have fluctuated comparatively little in price. This, moreover was possible by giving orders to buy or sell only once in every three or four years.
"If other stocks which were not dividend payers and which have shown greater fluctuations were purchased, and advantage had been taken of the intermediate fluctuations, the $2,500 would have amounted to much larger figures. By intermediate movements is not meant the weekly movements which the ordinary professional operator notes, but the broader movements extending over many months and possibly a year or more. Nevertheless, these broader intermediate movements should not be noticed by a conservative investor, as it is possible to correctly diagnose only the movements extending over longer periods. Many brokers believe that it is possible to discern also these intermediate movements of six or eight months; and if so, the following results would have been possible.
"$5,000 invested in 'St. Paul' in 1870 would amount to over $10,000,000 today.
"$5,000 invested in 'Union Pacific' in 1870 would amount to over $15,000,000 today.
"$5,000 invested in 'Central of New Jersey' would amount to over $30,000,000 today.
"$5,000 invested in 'Northern Pacific' would amount to over $50,000,000 today.
"These figures are not based on the supposition that the investor was selling at the top of every rise or buying at the bottom of every decline, but that the transactions were made at average 'high' and average 'low' prices based upon the study of technical conditions."
If such large profits can be made by following Babson's advice, of course larger profits can be made by buying on conservative margin and by selling short when all the conditions are in favor of it.
While there are possibilities of making extremely large profits without taking great risks, by those who are patient and exercise good judgment, one should be satisfied with a small profit, if it is the result of great care, in an effort to eliminate risk. Of course, you can afford to take a much greater risk with a small part of your speculative fund than you can with all of it. The less money you have with which to speculate, the more careful you should be. Some people cannot afford to speculate at all. They should invest their funds in good, safe investments, but this book is written for speculators.
Careful stock speculation carried on regularly over a period of years, we believe brings larger returns than almost anything else, and in the next chapter we tell you something about where to get information to guide you.