With another tax year under our belt, it's time to pause for reflection, assess what we've learnt about investing, and hopefully boast about how our smarts led us to bag some big winners.

Unfortunately, I have nothing to boast about this year. My portfolio was down 6.2% during the (tax) year, compared to a positive return of 2.8% for the ASX (FTSE All-Share). I therefore lagged the the index by around 9%, a truly pitiful performance. I haven't underperformed that bad since the 90's.

What went badly?

  • Story stocks – specifically, an investment in Plethora, a pharma company aimed at tackling premature ejaculation. I was convinced it was onto something big (no pun intended!), and in late stage development. Alas, so far it has turned out to be a typical AIM serial disappointer. The only saving grace is that it was only a small part of my portfolio, and I am hoping it will still come good. Try not to read too many double entendres into that. I should have followed Lynch's advice: wait until a company turns a profit before investing
  • Catching falling knives. “It can't possibly get any cheaper" has been the siren call that has lured me onto the rocks. Buying into miners was the main culprit. Buying companies that are of only mediocre cheapness was not a good idea. I bought Netplay and SpaceandPeople before their big fall.

I think, if you're going to buy value stocks, you really need to buy them in deep discount territory. Buying them when they're “merely OK" does not seem a particularly good strategy.

I am underwater in miner KAZ Minerals, having bought in at 303p in June 2014. Price declines followed, and I bought again in January 2015 at 180p. The price has recovered to 220p at the time of writing. So buying cheap might work, or it might not.

Lonmin has been another disappointing buy on my part. I'm down 31% on that one. It's now on a PBV of 0.37, and I'm holding on because I think it represents good value. It's loss-making, and the PBV is the lowest it's been for a decade. The pain is possibly not yet over. Glencore has a big stake in LMI, which it plans to distribute to its shareholders later this year. There is therefore a major overhang on this stock, and I…

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