Local dentist Brian Wilkerson says he learned plenty in school about taking care of teeth but little about business. So Wilkerson, 33, taught himself the ins and outs of investing.
"I started getting my hands on everything I could," he says. That includes a daily reading of the Wall Street Journal and watching CNBC's "Market Wrap," which he tapes every day at 3 p.m.
Although Wilkerson stays on top of daily movements in the stock market, he says his investing is based on conservative, long-term goals. About 90 percent of his portfolio consists of buy-and-hold investments or those he's buying through dollar-cost averaging, in which he invests a fixed amount of money at regular intervals. Those approaches emphasize appreciation over time rather than quick profits.
The other 10 percent of Wilkerson's portfolio is reserved for aggressive plays.
"My wife calls it my gambling account," he said. "If you want something to grow in a year, you have to take some risks."
Regardless of the goal, Wilkerson says he approaches all his stock purchases with an eye on price.
"It's real difficult to buy low and sell high, but it's not too difficult to buy low," he said. "You just pick a time when the market's taken a hit."
Wilkerson takes the same approach to shopping for individual stocks. "If I read about a company that's been hammered down aggressively for not a good-enough reason but it's still a good company," he says it's a signal to him to buy.
Wilkerson also is on the lookout for companies with a unique product or companies that are on the cutting edge in their industries.
One such company whose stock Wilkerson owns in his "gambling account" is Hogan Technology, a firm that makes an IBM-compatible software package specifically designed for banks. Its shares cost about $4.75 when Wilkerson bought them seven months ago; now they're priced at about $6.
Wilkerson says he doesn't pay much attention to dividends. Part of that is his age, which spares him from needing the income. But another reason is the economic tribulations many blue chip companies are facing now. "The companies that come with a dividend are prime for dividend cuts," he said.
"Kind of a riskier long-term play would be to start dollar-cost averaging IBM right now."