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The funds that help Blades sleep at night include Vanguard Index and Vanguard Health Care, which happens to be the top-performing fund of any kind over the past 20 years. He is zealous about diversification, and he rebalances his portfolio annually to ensure that it does not become top-heavy with the best-performing categories. His top performers include Harbor International, which has a solid long-term record. A proprietary real estate fund within his IBM k plan and his own property holdings make up a little more than one-fourth of his investments.

His devotion to diversification helped him survive the dot-com crash earlier this decade relatively unscathed. His tenacity is paying off.

The 7 Secrets of Extraordinary Investors

This fall, Blades will compete in his 70th triathlon, and if the market performs reasonably well, his portfolio should hit seven digits. Focus: Blue-chip stocks. What stands out: Unusual patience and discipline. His advice: Buy and hold the market leaders. Vince Tranchita bought his first stock, Pittsburgh Plate Glass, in Although its name has changed it's now called PPG Industries , he remains a fan because of its consistent profitability and loyal customers. Says Tranchita: "When I buy a stock, I plan to hold on to it for the long term. Tranchita has taken that statement to the bank.

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His other hard-and-fast rules: Stick primarily to industry leaders, and buy growing, dividend-paying blue chips when they're selling at reasonable prices. And insist on companies with ethical managers who align their interests with those of shareholders. The approach has paid off handsomely for Tranchita, who has built a substantial nest egg from his investments in the stock market.

Tranchita, who lives in the small town of Cassville, Wis. That's why I didn't get into tech and telecom in the late s.

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Central to Tranchita's success is that he enjoys investing and devotes a lot of time to it. You need to do your homework before you buy a stock. When he latches on to a good company, he will often buy more shares when the price dips. He's owned Intel for seven or eight years and has regularly added to his position. He's also sticking with General Electric and Microsoft, two stocks that have made him money in the past but haven't moved in years.

Microsoft is still the leader, and it has a ton of cash. When those stocks drop, I buy more. What has probably helped Tranchita as much as his knowledge is his equanimity. You need to be able to sleep at night. If you can't, you should give your investments to someone else to manage.

Tranchita doesn't ignore mutual funds. He owns such long-term winners as Fidelity New Millennium and Columbia Acorn which he bought before it imposed a sales fee on new investors. All told, he has a third of his money in stock funds, a third in stocks and a third in municipal bonds. Started investing: , in his second year of college. Focus: Hot stocks in hot sectors. What stands out: Huge gains with tech stocks in the late s, then the good sense to bail out before the collapse.

His advice: Always talk over your investments with a trusted friend. Jim Geister trades too much, isn't well diversified and loves hot sectors.

The 7 Secrets of Extraordinary Investors

And he accomplished what few investors did: rode the Internet wave to its crest, and then, through a combination of skill and instinct, sold most of his winners just before the crash. Critical to his success was having someone with whom he could kick around ideas. Geister and Jay Payne, 49, a friend since junior high, talked stocks day and night for years. Each brought different attributes to the table. Geister had a finance degree. Payne is a tech wizard who used to be an aerospace executive and now invests full time.

We worked together to keep our egos in check. For many years, Geister's investing performance was uninspiring. In , Payne visited Geister's Austin, Tex. Payne noticed Geister's stock portfolio on the computer screen and told him, "I'd like to do some investing.

Payne pushed Geister into unfamiliar territory. Payne prodded Geister to embrace the market's measure du jour for Internet stocks: the number of users, or eyeballs, that Web sites attract. Diversification, he argues, dilutes performance. But even as he and Payne were racking up ridiculous gains on dot-com stocks, Geister was trying to keep a grip on reality.

The signal that the party was ending, says Geister, came when button-down gurus such as Louis Rukeyser turned bullish on Internet stocks. Geister persuaded Payne to lighten up. They sold in late and early The next two years, he lost some money but remained miles ahead of the game. Today, his stock-investing fortune is comfortably in eight figures. He has big holdings in about ten stocks, many of them in energy.

Secret #2: it’s about pig-headed discipline and determination

Focus: Leveraged real estate deals. What stands out: Built wealth on a modest income and with virtually none of his own equity. His advice: Save, save, save. Take prudent risks. How did he do it? Answer: Shrewd investing in southern California real estate using other people's money. Says Ulivi: "Real estate is the lazy man's way to make money.

But give Ulivi his due.

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A professor of finance at Cal State Dominguez Hills, he has a head for numbers. He's also a keen observer. Ulivi runs a small financial-planning practice that doesn't generate much income but teaches him valuable lessons.

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But how do you buy investment properties when you have five mouths at home those of wife Lily and four kids to feed on a professor's salary, which isn't enough to inspire a bank lending officer? Well, it helps if your residence keeps appreciating. The trick, of course, is to generate enough rental income to cover the loans. By the late s, Ulivi was making money on all his properties. Ulivi is also a patient, prudent man.

Focus: Small-company stocks. What stands out: Sticks to his discipline even when it's out of fashion. His advice: Find easy-to-understand small businesses with predictable earnings and don't overpay. Ed Farrell started investing by reading "every book I could get my hands on about the stock market.

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