“Honey, how about if we buy some Apple stock? It’s a bargain at $13 a share,” I said, hoping to catch her attention with something about money.
That was a few years ago and Apple’s stock price today has never been higher. Most of the period between 2000 and 2007 the stock market just bounced; up a little, down a little, then down a lot. Think of the period as seven years of uncertainty following seven years of rising prices, just before a few years of droop.
The exception was Apple’s stock, AAPL. During the boom years of the dot-com bubble and stock market records, Apple’s stock did not fare as well as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a steady marker of economic health.
AAPL is the place to be if you bought the stock five years ago. At $310 a share it seems a bit expensive and it turned out to be cheap. At double the price. And that’s the problem.
A chart of Apple’s stock price over the past 20 years shows mostly up, which accounts for those periods in my life when I did not have money to invest. The rest of AAPL’s history, the stock was depressed, and so was my bank account. The time to buy is when a stock is depressed, and when your money is not.
The 1980s and early 1990s were kind to owners of Apple’s stock, the mid-1990s were not, as the company’s fortunes sagged with dropping sales and profits amid the competition of PCs running Microsoft’s ubiquitously buggy Windows operating system.
The stock price was too expensive just years ago at a paltry $13 a share. “Honey, Apple has about $8 a share in the bank. The company must be worth more than that,” I said without conviction. She must have heard the tone of uncertainty in my voice.
Whenever we’re driving around and lost, I use my wife’s inner map to find our way. Here’s how it works. “Honey, which way should we go?” She says left, or right, or straight ahead or whatever. I just go in the opposite direction. It works every time.
So it is with our stock purchases. If I think a stock is worth buying, she’s ready to run in the opposite direction. I thought Apple stock was worth buying at $13 a share, and she didn’t run. Hell froze over. But not completely. We didn’t buy the stock. We waited. Remember that problem of stocks being “a bit expensive?” Think of it as a disease that eats at the core of a gambler’s heart. Buying a stock is gambling.
At $20 a share we thought AAPL was “a bit expensive.” Sure enough, the stock price dipped a bit, but then started climbing. Before we knew it, AAPL was over $40 a share. “That’s ridiculous,” I thought. “Talk about over priced.” Apple was prospering and doing well, but $45 a share seemed, well, “a bit expensive.”
When AAPL topped $60 a share I had a story to tell. “I was gonna buy Apple at $13 a share, now it’s pushing $70.” My friends would ooh and aah as if I was a prognosticator of the market’s ebb and flow, when, in reality, all I did was pass up the stock buy of the new millennium all because Apple’s stock price at the time was “a bit expensive.”
And so it remained. To be fair, AAPL went up and down, finally breaking records at well over $100 a share, then splitting, then doing it again. All the while the price remained “a bit expensive.” After all, who wants to buy a stock at $150 a share when they already passed up a chance to buy at $13, $28, $48, $100? That’s looney. No one does that, right? Right? So I thought. Obviously someone was doing what I dared not. For every buyer, there’s a seller.
In the past couple of years Apple’s stock price has risen like a Boeing 757 taking off from Honolulu International Airport. All the buyers can see are blue skies during a steady ascent to the stratosphere. Apple’s market valuation has topped Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Microsoft, to make it the most valuable technology company.
Apple is on a major roll. Macintosh computers are selling in record numbers and gobbling up market share statistics that haven’t been seen since the early 1990s. Everyone’s favorite portable music player is the iPod, with a commanding 70-percent market share. Apple’s iPhone is the standard for smart phones. It’s selling like crazy and surveys show it to have the highest customer satisfaction rating of any cell phone ever. The iPad? Yes, it sells in crazy numbers, too, and there’s danger the iPad could be eating into PC sales. Already we’re living in the post PC era.
But $660 a share is just a bit expensive, don’t you think?