In the early 1980s, a young portfolio manager named Peter Lynch was becoming one of the most famous investors in the world, and for a very understandable reason – when he took over the Fidelity Magellan mutual fund in May of 1977 (his first job as a portfolio manager), the assets of the fund were $20 million. He proceeded to turn it into the largest mutual fund in the world, outperforming the market by a mind-boggling 13.4% per year annualized!

Lynch accomplished this by using very basic principles, which he was happy to share with just about anyone. Peter Lynch firmly believed that individual investors had inherent advantages over large institutions because the large firms either wouldn't or couldn't invest in smaller-cap companies that have yet to receive big attention from analysts or mutual funds. Whether you're a registered representative looking to find solid long-term picks for your clients or an individual investor striving to improve your returns, we'll introduce you how you can implement Lynch's time-tested strategy.

The Lynch Philosophy
Once his stellar track record running the Magellan Fund gained the widespread attention that usually follows great performance, Peter wrote several books outlining his philosophy on investing. They are great reads, but his core thesis can be summed up with three main tenets: only buy what you understand, always do your homework and invest for the long run. (To see our review of one of Lynch's books, check out Ten Books Every Investor Should Read.)

1. Only Buy What You Understand
According to Lynch, our greatest stock research tools are our eyes, ears and common sense. Lynch was proud of the fact that many of his great stock ideas were discovered while walking through the grocery store or chatting casually with friends and family. We all have the ability to do first-hand analysis when we are watching TV, reading the newspaper, or listening to the radio. When we're driving down the street or traveling on vacation we can also be sniffing out new investment ideas. After all, consumers represent two-thirds of the gross domestic product of the United States. In other words, most of the stock market is in the business of serving you, the individual consumer - if something attracts you as a consumer, it should also pique your interest as an investment.

2. Always Do Your Homework
First-hand observations and anecdotal evidence are a great start, but all great ideas need to be followed up with smart research. Don't be confused by Peter Lynch's homespun simplicity when it comes to doing diligent research – rigorous research was a cornerstone of his success. When following up on the initial spark of a great idea, Lynch highlights several fundamental values that he expected to be met for any stock worth buying:

  • Percentage of Sales: If there is a product or service that initially attracts you to the company, make sure that it comprises a high enough percentage of sales to be meaningful; a great product that only makes up 5% of sales isn't going to have more than a marginal impact on a company's bottom line.
  • PEG Ratio: This ratio of valuation to earnings growth rate should be looked at to see how much expectation is built into the stock. You want to seek out companies with strong earnings growth and reasonable valuations - a strong grower with a PEG ratio of two or more has that earnings growth already built into the stock price, leaving little room for error. (To read more, see How The PEG Ratio Can Help Investors and Move Over P/E, Make Way For The PEG.)

3. Invest for the Long Run
Lynch has said that "absent a lot of surprises, stocks are relatively predictable over 10-20 years. As to whether they're going to be higher or lower in two or three years, you might as well flip a coin to decide." It may seem surprising to hear such words from a Wall Street legend, but it serves to highlight how fully he believed in his philosophies. He kept up his knowledge of the companies he owned, and as long as the story hadn't changed, he didn't sell. Lynch did not try to market time or predict the direction of the overall economy.

In fact, Lynch once conducted a study to determine whether market timing was an effective strategy. According to the results of the study, if an investor had invested $1,000 a year on the absolute high day of the year for 30 years from 1965-1995, that investor would have earned a compounded return of 10.6% for the 30-year period. If another investor also invests $1,000 a year every year for the same period on the lowest day of the year, this investor would earn an 11.7% compounded return over the 30-year period.

Therefore, after 30 years of the worst possible market timing, the first investor only trailed in his returns by 1.1% per year! As a result, Lynch believes that trying to predict the short-term fluctuations of the market just isn't worth the effort. If the company is strong, it will earn more and the stock will appreciate in value. By keeping it simple, Lynch allowed his focus to go to the most important task – finding great companies. (To learn more about value investing, see Warren Buffett: How He Does It and What Is Warren Buffett's Investing Style?)

Lynch coined the term "tenbagger" to describe a stock that goes up in value ten-fold, or 1000%. These are the stocks that he was looking for when running the Magellan fund. Rule No.1 to finding a tenbagger is not selling the stock when it has gone up 40% or even 100%. Many fund managers these days look to trim or sell their winning stocks while adding to their losing positions. Peter Lynch felt that this amounted to "pulling the flowers and watering the weeds". (For more information, read Achieving Better Returns In Your Portfolio.)

Even though he ran the risk of over-diversifying his fund (he owned thousands of stocks at certain times), Peter Lynch's performance and stock-picking ability stands for itself. He became a master at studying his environment and understanding the world both as it is and how it might be in the future. By applying his lessons and our own observations we can learn more about investing while interacting with our world, making the process of investing both more enjoyable and profitable.

For more on Peter Lynch and other successful investors, see The Greatest Investors.

Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    4 Mutual Funds Warren Buffet Would Buy

    Learn about four mutual funds Warren Buffett would invest and recommend to his trustee, and discover detailed analysis of these mutual funds.
  2. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Passively Managed Vs. Actively Managed Mutual Funds: Which is Better?

    Learn about the differences between actively and passively managed mutual funds, and for which types of investors each management style is best suited.
  3. Stock Analysis

    Markets Are Tanking: Time to Buy Like Buffett

    Learn about three value stocks Warren Buffett holds in his portfolio. See how Buffett uses market declines to find good deals on stocks.
  4. Investing Basics

    3 Alternative Investments the Ultra-Rich Usually Own

    Learn about the ultra rich and what normally comprises their net worth; understand the top three alternative investments usually owned by the ultra rich.
  5. Stock Analysis

    The 5 Best Dividend Stocks in the Healthcare Sector

    Learn about the top five dividend stocks of companies operating in the health care sector that generate substantial cash flows to afford high payouts.
  6. Investing

    Baby Boomer Philanthropy Shifts Wealth Adviser Focus

    Wealth advisers who integrate philanthropy and finance planning can stand out with baby boomer clients.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Mutual Funds Millennials Should Avoid

    Find out what kinds of mutual funds are unsuitable for millennial investors, especially when included in millennial retirement accounts.
  8. Professionals

    What Accounts for One-Third of the Wage Gap

    Women who work full time still make less than men who have the same qualifications. One third of the pay gap may be due to gender bias and discrimination.
  9. Bonds & Fixed Income

    High Yield Bond Investing 101

    Taking on high-yield bond investments requires a thorough investigation. Here are looking the fundamentals.
  10. Personal Finance

    Top Universities for Getting an MBA Abroad

    Going abroad for an MBA can add cachet when it comes time to get a job.
  1. How do hedge funds use equity options?

    With the growth in the size and number of hedge funds over the past decade, the interest in how these funds go about generating ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Can mutual funds only hold stocks?

    There are some types of mutual funds, called stock funds or equity funds, which hold only stocks. However, there are a number ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do I read and analyze an income statement?

    The income statement, also known as the profit and loss (P&L) statement, is the financial statement that depicts the ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Do mutual funds pay interest?

    Some mutual funds pay interest, though it depends on the types of assets held in the funds' portfolios. Specifically, bond ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Why have mutual funds become so popular?

    Mutual funds have become an incredibly popular option for a wide variety of investors. This is primarily due to the automatic ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Do mutual funds pay dividends?

    Depending on the specific assets in its portfolio, a mutual fund may generate income for shareholders in the form of capital ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Purchasing Power

    The value of a currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. Purchasing ...
  2. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges ...
  3. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  4. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
  5. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  6. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!