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At the very beginning, let me warn you that if you approach your stockbroker or money manager with the suggestion I am about to make, he is going to say I'm crazy.
Maybe I am. I've been told that many times. But in light of recent history, my suggestion makes sense, at least to me.
I talked to a lady the other day who was going over her quarterly portfolio statement.
"This says that I've made $60,000 so far this year," she beamed.
Goodness! Making $60,000 in three quarters is something to crow about in this economy. But what will her statement show next quarter? So I asked a simple question.
"Have you ever thought about taking that $60,000 off the table and putting it in the bank, where you know it will be safe?" I asked.
She admitted that she had not, nor had her money manager made that suggestion.
Playing the stock market is much like playing a slot machine. You hit a pretty good jackpot and greed takes over. You have a tendency to keep right on playing so you can hit another, break the house and go home with everything including the kitchen sink.
Of course, it doesn't work that way. The odds are stacked in the house's favor and the computer chips in that slot machine are designed to make sure the kitchen sink stays at the casino.
Given the fact that the stock market has crashed twice in the past 11 years, the odds may also be stacked against you when you try to beat Wall Street. Like slot machines, the trick with stocks is knowing when to take your profits and run.
And it seems to me that a good time for the average person to do that is when she is up $60,000 through three-quarters of the year.
Yes, I know that those $60,000 in profits are subject to taxes and, depending on your particular situation, you might clear only $40,000.
So what? That's $40,000 that is in the bank and safe, money you will not lose if the market goes south again.
And it is not like you had to go out and dig ditches to make that $40,000. In truth, all you did was sit back in your easy chair and watch the stocks rise. That was easy money.