The Mutual Investment Club of Detroit was founded early in 1940 when friends joined to invest around $10 a month in stocks. Fifty years later the club was worth $1,801,255.92.

That achievement was accomplished with a total investment of $227,887, but that's just part of the story. Members also withdrew $1,069,004 to buy homes, begin businesses, finance educations, travel widely and retire successfully.There's a point to this story:

Forecasts and resolutions, which proliferate at this time of year, often are made of whispy dreams and vaporous wishes about the future. Observations wisely extracted from experience are far more reliable.

The message for contrary investors, therefore, is to learn the lessons of the past and let the resolutioners, forecasters and dreamers take their chances on the future. Resolutions don't last. History's lessons do.

So, clear your mind of clutter and consider some of the lessons:

1. Investing in stocks is not quite the complex challenge it is made out to be. It is not trading. It is not buying and selling within a few weeks on the basis of tips or guesswork, with accompanying brokerage and tax costs.

Investing is long term, as opposed to trading, which is short term. It does not require high-cost advice, inside information or complicated formulas. Using basic concepts and information available to all, you can outperform many so-called professionals.

"Stop listening to the professionals!" says Peter Lynch, who during the 1980s headed the Magellan Fund, which compiled one of the best long-term records of any mutual fund in history.

In his book, "One Up On Wall Street," Lynch says: "Twenty years in this business convinces me that any normal person using the customary 3 percent of the brain can pick stocks just as well, if not better, than the average Wall Street expert."

2. It is very difficult for an ordinary investor to invest short-term and win consistently over a period of years. What occasional winnings result from such activity - and, admittedly, some winnings can be huge - are often lost on subsequent trades, taxes and commissions. The record is clear on this.

Nevertheless, the investment community and the media tend to emphasize short-term movements and seek to explain them. The ever-changing market is a news (and commission) creator, stressing change by the minute, hour and day.

3. Short-term fluctuations in the economy are almost impossible to forecast with any degree of reliability. Equally unlikely is the chance that you will be able to foresee how the market will interpret unforeseen fluctuations.

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4. There are statistically proven methods for investing.

Perhaps the most basic is to invest in the American economy through well-chosen stocks that reflect its economic growth, and allowing these stocks to compound. The U.S. economy grows, if not every year then over time.

5. Have a plan - and stick to it until it is proved wrong. Almost every experienced, successful investor will tell you this. An investor without a plan grounded in common sense and knowledge is at the mercy of the market.

And: You find this knowledge in the past, not in expectations about the future.

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