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