They'll need a dash more discipline and a measure of humility, analysts say.
Being fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful may be Warren Buffet's rule of thumb. But the carnage in stocks, bonds, and real estate that humbled many investors last year may require more important personal qualities.
Indeed, an extra dose of humility – alongside a few other time-tested virtues – may be just what investors need in order to capitalize on 2009's opportunities.
Knowing one's limits helps avoid mistakes that repeatedly plague investors. Overconfidence can lead them to pay too much for assets, observers say. Arrogance keeps them from learning from their mistakes.
"Some managers will think they're right and the market is wrong, and that's the kiss of death," says Lois Peltz, CEO of hedge-fund tracker Infovest 21 and author of "The New Investment Superstars: 13 Great Investors and Their Strategies for Superior Returns."
The best investors, by contrast, are both disciplined and intellectually curious, she adds. That means they stick with their chosen methods day in and day out but nevertheless make a point to learn from missteps.
As an example of an investor whose habits have made him a great one, she points to John Henry, a hedge-fund manager and principal owner of the Boston Red Sox. He aims to make his biggest money when markets stumble, so he wasn't hitting many home runs during the long bull run from 2003 to 2007.
But 2008 brought vindication of his disciplined methods, which include staying in commodity and currency markets when they get super-volatile and short-selling when necessary to profit from tumbling prices. Through mid-December, his six investment programs were posting returns of 35 to 83 percent for the year.