How Many Stocks Should I Own? Part 1


One of the most commonly asked questions I receive from investors is: how many stocks should I put in my portfolio? This is a widely debated subject that is most commonly referred to as concentrated versus widely diversified portfolio construction. Of course, the widely diversified camp likes holding a lot of stocks and therefore often support investing in indexes. Many mutual funds and ETF’s also hold widely diversified portfolios. In contrast, renowned investors such as Charlie Munger prefer highly concentrated portfolios. Furthermore, as I will discuss in greater detail later, studies have indicated that a portfolio with 12-18 stocks provides most of the benefit that diversification can provide.

Moreover, designing the common stock portion of your retirement portfolio is very challenging. For starters, there is no perfect or even best way to design a stock portfolio. However, there are many effective strategies that have produced successful long-term results. The key to success is to find and implement the strategy that best fits your own unique goals, objectives, needs, and most importantly – risk tolerances.

There are many aspects associated with designing a common stock portfolio that need to be considered. The number of individual companies to include in your portfolio is a big one. In addition to the number of companies, you must also decide how much weight you should put in each one. Or, should they be equally weighted? In other words, should you put the exact same percentage of your portfolio in each company? Or, does it make more sense to overweight some and underweight others? Furthermore, should you own stocks from every sector or just the sectors you like the best?

These are just a few of the important questions that investors must grapple with when designing a common stock portfolio. But most importantly, and I repeat myself, there is no absolute or perfect strategy for constructing a stock portfolio that fits every individual investor. On the other hand, there are important considerations that every individual investor would be well-advised to contemplate. Ultimately, it comes down to designing a stock portfolio that suits you.

Therefore, my objective with this article is to provide some food for thought and common stock portfolio design ideas that I hope can help individual investors make better choices that fit and meet their own needs. I am a big proponent of applying logic and common sense to the investing process. Consequently, rather than just giving specific portfolio construction strategies, I also intend to offer some logical ways to look at common stock portfolio construction.

The Universal Principle: Start With A Well Thought-Out and Designed Plan

I believe that there is only one universal principle about constructing a common stock portfolio that universally applies to every investor. Prior to building any portfolio, common stock or otherwise, it is imperative that every investor starts by developing a comprehensive and detailed plan. Importantly, it’s not only imperative to have a plan, it’s even more vital to be disciplined about following it.