The Motley Fool: Every Sunday, useful tips on investing
Q: How can it be that via watching CNBC, reading financial magazines and checking out Motley Fool opinions on stocks, I often see one source recommending buying a stock and another recommending selling it?
A: It’s rarely certain that a given stock will rise or fall. Every investor or analyst has his or her own opinion, and sometimes, inevitably, they’re wrong.
They can have different focuses, too. Some might seek very undervalued stocks, while others will accept a smaller margin of safety in exchange for greater possible growth. Read the arguments, do your own research and make up your own mind.
The stock market posted a string of losing days in mid-August, leading some to fear a bear market. That’s premature, but we should all expect occasional bear markets.
Indeed, many of us should be hoping for them. That may sound illogical, but if you’re plunking money into the stock market over the next decade or three, a flat or falling market is a good thing — for now.
Over the long run, you’re simply better off buying shares of great companies at fair or depressed prices than at higher prices — and bargains abound in bear markets.
Why hope to buy shares of a company you admire at $30 and then $40 after it rises, when you’d do better buying at $30 and $20? If you plan to buy milk for the next 25 years, 10 years of falling milk prices would be welcome, right? (Unless you run a dairy.)
A smart wealth-building strategy is to invest money methodically, understanding that over the long run, the patient investor has usually been rewarded. Those trying to get rich quick in stocks are often just gambling.
Move over, paper checks and bank wires. A new way to send money from place to place is catching on in a big way. Meet the online money transfer, which will revolutionize the industry of sending cash from point to point.
One of the best ways to invest in this new development is via Western Union (NYSE: WU), which offers a convenient, inexpensive way to send cash to any country you please.
Once, Western Union was the only game in town. But it got too comfortable in its market-leading position and lost exclusive contracts with agents in Mexico while failing to cut prices to thwart competitors elsewhere around the world. Industry rivals capitalized on that weakness.
It hasn’t been the end of Western Union, though. Remember, this company survived the death of the telegraph, so disruptive technology is nothing new. It’s already growing its online business at a 30-percent-plus annual clip.
Western Union still has major competitive advantages. Its network includes 500,000 agents, and it offers some services others don’t, such as two-way money transfers. Its profitability is unmatched, as it turns $0.17 of every dollar in revenue into pure free cash flow (an average of $1 billion in each of the last five years).
With its P/E ratio recently near 11, Western Union deserves a higher valuation.