Reblog: Fearless


When I was younger I would immediately take big positions. If I liked something, I would go all in. I was fearless.

This strategy worked until it didn’t.

Today I buy a third to a half of a full position after due diligence and I’ll add more as management executes. Inexperience almost always underestimates risk. The more you experience the more you respect what you are up against.

But it’s a balancing act.

Investing’s greatest lessons can’t be taught in a book or in a classroom. They have to be experienced and often times the teacher is loss. And losses can be painful.

The most painful part of loss isn’t financial but mental.  The battle scars left behind can paralyze you. The spirit of courage you were born with turns to fear. Fear slows you down. Indecision can be an investors biggest adversary.

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Reblog: 6 Things I Learned From Big Mistakes


Michael Batnick’s new book, Big Mistakes: The Best Investors and Their Worst Investments came out this week.

There are far too many investing books that dissect the past successes of history’s greatest investors. These books make it easy for investors to assume emulating these greats should be effortless. I know that’s what I thought when I read about Buffett and Graham when I first started investing.

Most investors would be far better off trying to avoid mistakes than replicate their favorite billionaire’s track record. This book chronicles every mistake imaginable in the markets and it does so in a refreshing way by showing even the most intelligent among us screw up.

Here are six things I learned from the book:

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Reblog: Diversification Overrated? Not a Chance!


In February 2000, a financial advisor named Bob Markman wrote an article that got a huge amount of attention online. Called “A Whole Lot of Bull*#%!” (that’s how the original was spelt) and published by Worth magazine, the article attacked the idea of diversification, arguing that any money put into currently underperforming investments was money wasted. Internet and other technology stocks had been so hot for so long that nothing else was worth owning, Markman argued. He was far from alone in saying that.

Markman and I exchanged long emails and even longer letters (that’s how people communicated in those Neolithic days), but the “debate” boiled down to one point: Can the typical investor predict the future with precision, or not? Markman insisted the answer was yes. I felt then, as I still do, that the answer was no.

In Markman’s defence, there is a case to be made that if you have inside knowledge or superior analytical ability, then you should bet most or all of your money to capitalize on it. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have long argued exactly that. If you are as analytically brilliant as Buffett or Munger, diversification will lower your returns. The rest of us, however, should have much less courage about our convictions. And inside knowledge or superior analytical ability are best applied to individual securities, not to broad market views.

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Reblog: What Investing Legends Do When the Stock Market Stumbles


Stocks have been all over the map this week.

Here are some top investing tips to consider amid the market volatility.

Ben Graham

Widely regarded as the “father of value investing,” Graham’s surgical analysis of stocks made him and his clients a great deal of money. But before he became Warren Buffett’s mentor or earned Wall Street’s reverence, Graham lost most of what had already become a small fortune in the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. It was then that Graham learned a hard lesson about risk-taking.

After that, Graham became one of the first to make investments based solely on financial analysis. Before his death in 1976, Graham’s philosophy was simple: invest in companies whose shares trade below the firm’s liquidation value. He implemented smart analysis of market psychology, investing by numbers when others did so by fear or greed.

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Reblog: Risk Is Not High Math


Smead Capital Management letter to investors  titled,”Risk Is Not High Math.”

Dear fellow investors,

Long term success in common stock ownership is much more about patience and discipline than it is about mathematics. There is no better arena for discussing this truism than in how investors measure risk. It is the opinion of our firm that measuring a portfolio’s variability to an index is ridiculous, because it is impossible to beat the index without variability.

We believe that how you measure risk is at the heart of how well you do as a long-duration owner of better than average quality companies. In a recent interview, Warren Buffett explained that pension and other perpetuity investors are literally dooming themselves by owning bond investments that are guaranteed to produce a return well below the obligations they hope to meet.

Buffett defines investing as postponing the use of purchasing power today to have more purchasing power in the future. For that reason, we see the risk in common stock ownership as a combination of three things; What other liquid asset classes can produce during the same time period, how the stock market does during the time period, and how well your selections do in comparison to those options. Why would professional investors mute long-term returns in a guaranteed way? The answer comes from how you define risk.

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Reblog: Charlie Munger – How to Develop Your Own Investing Style


When it comes to the world’s best investors, Charlie Munger (Trades, Portfolio) is in a league of his own. For most of his career, Munger has been the right-hand man of Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio), which has, to some degree, limited his impact on the world of investing (although not by much). When people think of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A)(NYSE:BRK.B), it is Buffet, not Munger, who first comes to mind.

But that does not mean Munger has no investment skill. Indeed, before he joined Berkshire, he ran his ownq partnership where returns we as good as, if not better than, those of Buffett.

Still, for the past several decades, Munger has been known as Buffett’s right-hand man, so it is extremely likely he has had more influence on Buffett’s strategy than anyone else.

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Reblog: Charlie Munger on Getting Rich, Wisdom, Focus, Fake Knowledge and More


“In the chronicles of American financial history,” writes David Clark in The Tao of Charlie Munger: A Compilation of Quotes from Berkshire Hathaway’s Vice Chairman on Life, Business, and the Pursuit of Wealth, “Charlie Munger will be seen as the proverbial enigma wrapped in a paradox—he is both a mystery and a contradiction at the same time.”

On one hand, Munger received an elite education and it shows: He went to Cal Tech to train as a meteorologist for the Second World War and then attended Harvard Law School and eventually opened his own law firm. That part of his success makes sense.

Yet here’s a man who never took a single course in economics, business, marketing, finance, psychology, or accounting, and managed to become one of the greatest, most admired, and most honorable businessmen of our age. He was noted by essentially all observers for the originality of his thoughts, especially about business and human behavior. You don’t learn that in law school, at Harvard or anywhere else.

Bill Gates said of him: “He is truly the broadest thinker I have ever encountered.” His business partner Warren Buffett put it another way: “He comes equipped for rationality… I would say that to try and typecast Charlie in terms of any other human that I can think of, no one would fit. He’s got his own mold.”

How does such an extreme result happen? How is such an original and unduly capable mind formed? In the case of Munger, it’s clearly a combination of unusual genetics and an unusual approach to learning and life.

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Reblog: The Illusion Of Risk


When we find an attractive stock to invest in, we outlay money, aka invest, to earn an attractive return and the investment will involve a degree of risk.

One of the most dangerous, commonly accepted and ill thought out concepts in investing is the risk / return trade off.

That is: high returns equals high risk.

Unfortunately, Investopedia continues to spread this type dogma, as you can see by the graph below.

Illusion Of Risk

Volatility (standard deviation) is not risk!

The appropriate definition of risk is from the Oxford dictionary (or any other branded non-financial dictionary) as: Exposure (someone or something valued) to danger, harm, or loss.

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Reblog: A Real Life Example of the Philip Fisher Scuttlebutt Approach


One of the greatest investors of all time, a man named Philip Fisher, developed a famous approach to investing research known as the “scuttlebutt”. He said that there was a lot of knowledge about a company that could give insight into its investment merits if the investor could merely find it out and synthesize it into a somewhat accurate and cohesive view of an entire corporation. Peter Lynch, arguably the greatest mutual fund manager in history, engaged in this when he was jumping on beds at La Quinta and driving around town checking out a new food chain known as Dunkin’ Donuts.

My husband and I drove quite a distance to check out some companies that had finally hit our “severely undervalued” targets after years and years of watching the stocks. One of the firms happened to be a confectioner. We spent the day speaking with a small business owner who had extensive experience with this particular company and bought more than $500 worth of products to take back to our office, have analyzed, and compare to the other manufacturers in the industry. We learned a great deal about the business that is common knowledge to those who work in the sector but you can’t necessarily glean from the regulatory filings such as the 10-Kand annual report.

For instance, there appears to be a struggle at headquarters between two factions: Those who want to dilute this particular brand and sell it through mass distributions outlets and those who want to keep it a premium product sold through a chain of heavily-controlled storefronts.

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Reblog: The Individual Investor’s Edge


“The goal of the non-professional should not be to pick winners – neither he nor his “helpers” can do that – but should rather be to own a cross-section of businesses that in aggregate are bound to do well. A low-cost S&P 500 index fund will achieve this goal.” — Warren Buffett, 2013 Letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders

As Albert Einstein wisely stated, compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world:  He who understands it earns it while he who doesn’t pay it.  The vast majority of individuals who take the initiative to accumulate savings should follow Warren Buffett’s advice on using index funds and dollar cost averaging to achieve satisfactory returns over time.  For those earning at or above the median wage in the United States, it would be very difficult to end up poor if one simply saves ten to fifteen percent of gross income and dollar cost averages into the S&P 500 over several decades.

But what about non-professional individual investors who want to achieve better than average results?  In the short run, the stock market resembles a manic-depressive character who bids up prices one day and sends them down the following day without much of a reason for the change in sentiment.  Benjamin Graham’s “Mr. Market” character perfectly personifies the psychology of financial markets in the short run.

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