The Football Fans' Guide to Safe Investing

by: Jefferson Starship

Being a New York Giants fan I’ve grown accustomed to yearly disappointment. Like a stock that has a surprisingly good year and then falls into mediocrity, the Giants have been on the outside looking in since winning the Super Bowl many years ago. But this disappointment is unacceptable when it comes to your portfolio and luckily I have yet to have to deal with this. However, this did make me realize that several characteristics of your portfolio are analogous to members of a football team. So, in honor of last night's big game, here are some things I’ve noticed.

Quarterback – The QB is the face of your franchise; he is reliable and you’d like to build around him. He’s the one who pops up in commercials and on billboards and he’s the one you and your friends talk about the most. But keep in mind that you can never be overinvested in one position (fear of injury). A good fit for this role is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Things are looking very good for the tech giant, even with Steve Jobs’ leave of absence. The Verizon (NYSE:VZ) iPhone is dropping soon and could help distance the company from the competition. Also, analysts increase their target on Apple on a frequent basis and we’ve yet to see just how dominant this company can be.

Wide Receiver - The WR also receives a lot of media attention, but not as much as the man throwing the ball to him. You’d like him to be one of the tallest men on your team standing head and shoulders over the competition. He is poised for the highlight reel big-play but you can throw to him on 3rd and 7 and be assured that he’s going to move the sticks. Companies that fit this description are McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) and Exxon (NYSE:XOM). Both are on the Dow, giving credence to their reliability and both are light-years ahead of their competition. For example, The market cap of McDonald’s is more than three times that of Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM). These companies are not going anywhere and pay good dividends, but be careful with your entry points because both have been performing recently like they’re looking for a new contract (not including the last month and a half for McDonald’s, but it's still much higher than the mid-$60s that it has been stuck at over the summer).

Running Back – Your RB should be deft, agile and carry some bravado. You’ll want to boast about his abilities when he’s performing, but be quick to rattle off the mistakes of others when he’s not. When he has the ball EVERYONE wants to knock him down but he is resilient, can dodge others in unthinkable ways, and is built on a sturdy foundation; much like (NYSE:CRM). I know I might catch some flack on this one, but all the shorts on CRM have been wrong time and time again. At one point this site featured an expert saying that if he could pick just one stock he’d short CRM. That was at around $100; CRM is now at $138 with a 52-week high of $151. The cloud computing fad is not quite over; heck it may still be just beginning and CRM is a best of breed for business cloud work that continues to go on long runs.

Cornerback – An integral part of your defense, the top CB covers the other teams’ top receiver week in week out. He should be extremely fast, but poised and patient, capable of smart coverage. (It helps if he likes to run his mouth and refer to himself as an island.) My analogous stock here is Nike (NYSE:NKE), which has fallen a bit recently, making it attractive for an entry. Nike can walk the walk and is a top pick in everything it does: running, casual, athletic, and fashion footwear. They also own several very strong brands, like Hurley, Jordan, and the Tiger Woods line. Personally, I would still pick Nike over Under Armour (NYSE:UA) as a stock based on the tighter P/E ratio and Nike’s dividend.

Offensive-Line – The O-line has very little commercial appeal, though they are the largest men on the team and protect the face of the franchise. They do get to introduce themselves at the start of the game, but after that it is unlikely that you’ll hear any of their names again. You won’t find yourself saying, “Oh, did you see that move last night” when talking about the line. However, these men are the backbone of your team/portfolio. I could think of many stocks that would fit this description (high yielding dividends with no price appreciation) but I’ve decided to go with junk bond funds. Two of my favorites are JNK and HIX; the latter being a closed-end fund. These are collections of junk bonds from large corporations with good yields. For example, some Ford Preferred’s are major holdings in each. They pay out monthly and have yields around 10% annually. You do not have to watch them too much and accumulating dividends payoff big in the long run.

Kicker – This is not your typical football player and there’s a good chance that he is a head case. You probably want to avoid him on game days, but if you’re lucky he’ll be able to perform in the clutch. Games may be won or lost on the foot of this man. When it comes to stocks you’d want to limit your positions to limit losses but capitalize on the prospect of huge gains. A good fit here is Sirius/XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI), which has had a lot of ups and downs over the years. Right now it is in the middle of a pretty large upswing but there is still upside potential and upcoming earnings could be very indicative of this. Other similar acting stocks would be Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) based on their relatively high P/E ratios and their ability to separate themselves from the rest of the field. (Yes, I realize that some of my football connections here are a bit sparse.)

Pass Rush – I was not sure whether to include this one, but these guys are capable of big plays at important times, though they are generally few and far between. Often it can seem like they are just there but they are indeed significant players. Example: Citi (NYSE:C) which moves every once in a while, going from the mid to upper $3.00s to the high $4s recently. It is still one of the nation’s biggest banks but often does not get the respect it deserves; and its volume is one of the highest every day. Sorry, but I cannot offer an informed opinion on Citi, just know that it is there and short term plays can be made.

Head Coach – This would be you, the investor. You are responsible for realizing when a stock/player is not living up to potential and deciding if you need to make a substitution. Winning and losing is often dependant on the decision to pull the gun because timing is obviously very important. Equally important is practice; becoming a great investor takes time and cannot be accomplished overnight.

Disclosure: I am long AAPL, VZ, MCD, HIX, SIRI, C.