This Mistake Cost Me 40%

Hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately, I feel my foresight could occasionally benefit from a pair of heavy bifocals.

The mistake
Back in late July 2011, I purchased Akamai Technologies (NAS: AKAM) shortly after the company warned that it would not be meeting Wall Street's lofty earnings expectations. To me, and at the time, the earnings miss seemed minor -- but Wall Street wasn't nearly as forgiving. The stock nosedived 19% on Akamai's cautious outlook that day.

My investment thesis going into the trade revolved around Akamai's solid cloud market share. I postulated that 13% long-term growth, while lower than even the company had originally planned for, was still excellent, especially with the company at the time only trading at 13 times forward earnings.

The next few months that followed my purchase were volatile, with the stock trading generally below my purchase price. Then something miraculous happened: Akamai returned to what it did best and crushed Wall Street's earnings expectations in late October. Takeover chatter began swirling again around Akamai, and Wall Street was once again firmly getting behind the company's cloud computing long-term growth story.

The cost
Now what did I do? Like an idiot, I got so excited that my Akamai trade was finally profitable that I sold Akamai just shy of $30 a few weeks later for a net gain, after commission, of 22%. Understandably, no one will ever go broke taking a profit, but I abandoned my long-term perspective on the company for quick gains and it wound up coming back to bite me in the behind.

Last night, Akamai reported fourth-quarter results that once again surpassed even the loftiest expectations. With the stock trading just shy of $39 in the after-hours session, I could have been holding shares that would be up 62% as of tomorrow. Instead, my insistence to try to time the market got the better of me, and it cost me a clean 40%.

The solution
One way I plan to rectify this insatiable urge I have to try to time the market is by purchasing high-yielding, low-beta dividend stocks. With very little in the way of earnings surprises, the mortgage REIT sector could be just what I need to get my trigger-happy finger under control.

This was the year I vowed that I would begin paying myself, and high-yielders Annaly Capital (NYS: NLY) and American Capital Agency (NAS: AGNC) perfectly fit that bill. Both invest in agency mortgage-backed securities that have the implicit guarantee of the U.S. government. With the Federal Reserve insisting on keeping lending rates at historically low levels through 2014, these two should find that their dividend yields will stay healthily in the double-digit percent range.

The other factor that will get me to hold longer is simply my hatred of paying taxes. No one really likes paying their taxes, but if someone offered a method by which you could cut your tax liability by potentially more than half, you'd probably jump at it. Such is the case with short-term capital gains versus long-term capital gains tax rates. It depends on the rate at which you're taxed, but short-term capital gains can cost you anywhere from 10% to 35%. For the bottom two income brackets, long-term gains aren't taxed at all, while being taxed at just a 15% clip in all higher tax brackets. I work hard for my money, and there's no sense in giving it right back to the government just because I have ants in my pants.

If you'd like to avoid my investing pitfalls, consider getting a free copy of our latest special report, "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich," and giving yourself a refresher with our "13 Steps to Investing Foolishly." We're all going to make mistakes, but as long as we learn from them, we can become better investors.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He freely admits his mistakes, but doesn't consider being a die-hard Lions fan one of them. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong. The Motley Fool owns shares of Annaly Capital. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Annaly Capital. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that puts its readers first.

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