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Your post: When they recommend the 15 to 20 solid stocks in your portfolio, are they referring to just individual companies, or is it common to include some broad based index funds, such as the S&P 500 and others with the individual stocks? Or should index fund investing be done in another brokerage account? Thank you

How you approach your investing depends greatly upon the demands of your life. When I was working full-time, newly married, raising a kid, starting a small business, and managing my portfolio, one year my portfolio under performed the market by 24% (market up 22%, portfolio down 2%) I realized I was over loaded. Since managing my portfolio was the only task I could off-load, that's what I did. The management fees are a lot less than a 24% under performance. After I retired (still managing my and now my mom's small business, about 500 hr/year) I found I didn't have the time or interest to manage my portfolio, there are just to many other things to do in life which are fun.

I bought my first stock in 1965. Let's look at how the term "diversification" changed since then, at first it meant owning 15-20ish US large cap stocks, generally in different market segments because in the 50's and 60's there wasn't much international competition (it's amazing how blowing up other countries industrial bases lowers competition -WWII) then diversification expanded to include small and medium, then diversification expanded again to include international (thanks, for paying us to rebuild your industrial base, rats, global competition starts). As you are experiencing there are many, many, many ways to diversify.

Until you have more knowledge a couple of varied index funds (which didn't exist in the 70's & 80's) such two of as a US Large Cap, Small Cap, and International probably is sufficient diversification. Start learning with phony money accounts, then set aside a few $10k to use while practicing buying and selling individual stocks, it's amazing how having real money in the market helps you focus.

Just a note, the guy who manages my money has $1.5B under management, a full-time staff of 20, something like 30-40 years of experience. And he's a small-time money manager. When you're buying individual stocks you're competing against him. Who do you think will win the most often? There are folks on the Fool who claim to regularly outperform the market, and BTW I believe them. Learn from them, understand the risk/ reward profile they're using, and realize you're competing with them as well.
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