CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Barbara James has a daily morning routine that includes checking a few stock market lists, investors' websites and talking with a trading buddy over the phone, according to a new book written by West Virginia native Amy Smith.
Surveying stocks regularly hasn't always been a hobby for the former executive secretary, though.
After losing her husband of 30 years to a heart attack and getting laid off from her job in 2004, James started studying the market, charts and more.
"The key is creating a routine that works for you, something you will continue to do on a consistent basis, every day," James told Smith for "How to Make Money in Stocks Success Stories." "I sold real estate and was a secretary, so if I can become a successful investor, anyone can."
Smith, a West Virginia native and 1978 Elkins High School graduate, is a market commentator for Investor's Business Daily. But she said she didn't know anything about the stock market before she attended a free seminar where William O'Neil, chairman and founder of Investor's Business Daily, spoke.
"I'm the proof that anybody can be a successful investor," said Smith, a University of Southern California theater major who worked in fitness training for nearly 20 years before she discovered her passion for investing.
"I won't say the stock market isn't complicated, but when you boil it down, what makes a stock go up? It's always earnings and it's because a company is doing something right."
Stocks in the United States have trended up since November, Smith said.
Starting last week, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index climbed for four straight days. The S&P and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at new record highs throughout the week.
The Dow average on Friday had dropped 0.08 point, to 14865.06, snapping a three-day streak of all-time closing highs, according to MarketWatch. The S&P lost 4.52 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1588.85, ending a two-day streak of record closing highs.
"The S&P went to new high grounds this week ... and it has everybody excited," Smith said Thursday. "We are just above where we were in 2000 and that is positive. When we hit this before in October 2007, we backed way off of it so we're watching to see if the indexes continue higher."
Casual restaurant chains and fast food restaurants, such as Papa John's, Panera, and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, have been doing well in the market recently, she said.
Travel and leisure markets, like car rental companies Hertz and Avis, have been on the uptrend, too.
Homeaway, an online vacation rental marketplace, saw its earnings increase 100 percent in the most recent quarter.
US Airways' earnings were up 100 percent, too, in the same period, Smith said.
"When is the last time we thought about investing in airline stocks?" she said.
"If we get good earnings numbers and these companies are doing well, then that bodes well for the economy," Smith said. "If we did get some sort of pullback, it doesn't mean that the market is finished, the market just ebbs and flows and some sort of a pullback would not be a horrible thing, it would be a very normal thing for the market to correct a little bit."
Smith said investors thought the market was going to correct two weeks ago, but it "turned right around and took off again."
When the market does retract, that's time for individual investors to step to the sidelines, she said.