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When is the ticklish question when tomorrow never comes

In this series on SMSFs for newbies, we have been looking at "themes" in the sharemarket as a top-down method for identifying which stocks to add to your SMSF.

In this series on SMSFs for newbies, we have been looking at "themes" in the sharemarket as a top-down method for identifying which stocks to add to your SMSF.

We've identified some of the positive themes as including the growth in the superannuation industry, the move to the "cloud", the message from changing advertising habits, the importance of recognising the current sharemarket themes that will persist, the baby boomer theme and the retirement sectors that will benefit including financial services, retirement property, healthcare and funeral services.

We have highlighted the tremendous growth still left in the development of internet as a commercial platform that is still in its infancy with the "last mover advantage" yet to be realised.

I have also encouraged you to use your own inside information, industry knowledge you may have through your own experience that you don't know you know, about how your industry or the industry of your friends and acquaintances are doing. Who just bought a Mercedes, went overseas for a month with the whole family? Who is succeeding and why? And who is failing? A lot of the most useful sharemarket information is right under your nose on the TV, in your newspapers, at your dinner table. All you have to do is to apply brain.

There is a lot of "edge" to be found even in these most public of documents. The budget papers each year are an example. Boring stuff, but within their pages the government tells you where they are going to spend billions of dollars and Treasury lobs out a regular list of investment nuggets based not on forecasts and conjecture but on a simple statement of fact, a blunt apolitical Treasury analysis of which sectors of the economy are expected to continue to flourish.

This year they included mentions for tourism, housing and education. They are spending billions in the sectors, so they know.

You can also find public research that will tell you that in 2013 almost 30 per cent of people who stated their main reason for saving at the moment was for a holiday. The next category was "to protect my income in case of unexpected circumstances" and the third was to save for retirement, followed by buying a house. It all fits. All you have to do is take an interest, engage brain, raise your antennae.

Let's move on from themes. We started this series with the statement that making money in your SMSF is not a function of financial theory, following the "smart money", insider trading and all the other bollocks you are bombarded with every day. Instead it boils down to a quite insular responsibility in the quiet of your own study, to simply decide this: which stocks to hold and when.

We have given the "which stocks" part of the equation a bit of a crack over the past few weeks, but before you rush off and buy anything you might notice that there is another half of the equation we haven't touched on yet and it is this bit. "When?" It is a very interesting if controversial topic in the industry.

Let me open the subject by telling you how the bulk of the financial industry handles the question of telling you "when"; when to invest, when to buy a stock. It doesn't. In fact, outside of the noble industry of stockbroking, it does everything it possibly can to avoid telling you when, and as evidence it will wave out-of-date academic studies at you that say convincingly that "timing the market" can't be done. This, of course, is extraordinarily convenient for much of the industry, but let's not dwell there.

The obvious example of the need for timing is the GFC. We lost in 18 months the equivalent of 13 years' worth of compounding average sharemarket returns. After the 1987 crash we lost nine years before recovering the high. Timing the market is not about trading, it is about saving time. It is also about not trusting the market, not trusting "it'll be all right in the end". And let's be honest, since the GFC, who does?

The problem you have, of course, is that if you have any hope of making money in your SMSF, "timing" has to be done by someone, and if you're one of the many do-it-yourself investors, that someone, I'm afraid, is you.

More on timing your SMSF stock picks next week.

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