Warren Buffett is viewed as one of the most successful investors in history. He is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire Hathaway. He has been consistently ranked amongst the world’s wealthiest people. He has been a role model for numerous fund managers. His investment philosophies and principles can be adapted even by ordinary investors to safeguard their investments and generate decent return on their investments.
Warren Edward Buffett was born on August 30th, 1930, in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. His father was a local stock broker. Since childhood, he was good at numbers. At the age of eight, he had started reading his father’s books on stock markets. Buffett attended the business school at the University of Nebraska. At that time, he got an opportunity to read a book on investing “The Intelligent Investor” written by Columbia Professor Benjamin Graham. He was so impressed with Benjamin Graham that he applied to Columbia Business School so that he gets an opportunity to study with Graham. After completing his graduation from Columbia with a master’s degree in economics, Buffett worked for two years in Graham’s company, the Graham-Newman Corporation.
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In 1965, Buffett acquired a controlling interest in textile and clothing manufacturer Berkshire Hathaway. He initially maintained Berkshire’s core business of textiles, but by 1967, he started expanding into the insurance industry and other investments. Since then, there has been no looking back for him.
His net worth as on date is more than 70 Billion dollars.
Warren Buffett’s Investment Secrets for an ordinary investor
Before we start, we need to identify if we have the time and skill sets to decipher financial information. If the answer is yes, then we should try and adopt Buffett’s winning strategies. However if all this is too much work for us and we are into a regular job or business, then Buffett’s advice is to go for “Index Funds”. Otherwise also, one can start with investing in Index Funds and other Mutual Funds. With time, as we gain experience, we can start putting money in stocks.
Today we will discuss lessons to be learnt by an ordinary investor from the experiences of this living legend.
“Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget Rule No.1.”
Warren Buffett always emphasise on the need to ensure safety of Capital. He believes that as an investor, we should aim for reasonable returns but safety of our investment is of paramount importance. Hence we should avoid investment in riskier assets which may result in erosion of our capital.
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
“Stocks are simple. All you do is buy shares in a great business for less than the business is intrinsically worth, with management of the highest integrity and ability. Then you own those shares for ever.”
“Great investment opportunities come around when excellent companies are surrounded by unusual circumstances that cause the stock to be misappraised.”
“Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You cannot buy what is popular and do well.”
The above quotes tell us that Buffett always believes one should consider buying shares of a company as if you are buying the business of that company. Accordingly spend time understanding business. Integrity of management running the business should be one of the important deciding factors while purchasing stocks.
The next step should be to wait for an idle opportunity when the stock is available cheap. In the short term, lot of factors may lead to substantial fall in the prices of these stocks. Some of the factors could be shortage of supply of raw material, strike in the factory, quality issues arising in a particular product, fire at a plant site disrupting production in the short run etc.
As per Buffett, if you have sufficient reasons to trust the integrity and competency of the management, then you know that ultimately management will be able to overcome these issues. Hence these are the times when such stocks are available at cheap prices although the actual worth of that stock in the long term is much more. One should grab such opportunities to buy stocks.
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However we find that an ordinary investor buys stocks when the markets are rising and there is so much buzz in the market. He invests because he gets tempted and gets jealous of people in his circles who had made decent money from stock markets in recent past. He feels left out and wants to catch up. In the haste, he forgets the basic investment principles and is ready to pick stocks on the advice of even amateurs.
“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behaviour is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”
“When you have able managers of high character running businesses about which they are passionate, you can have a dozen more reporting to you and still have time for an afternoon nap”.
“In the long run, trouble awaits management’s that paper over operating problems with accounting manoeuvres.”
“We don’t have to be smarter than the rest. We have to be more disciplined than the rest.”
In the above quotes, he advises us to spend our precious time with wise people. This will positively impact our thought process and improve the quality of our financial decisions. He further explains that when the managers running businesses are intelligent, highly energetic and passionate about their work and at the same time display highest standards of integrity, then as an investor you know that your businesses are in safe hands. Such companies don’t indulge in manipulation of books of accounts. Our aim should be identifying such companies. There is no rocket science in this philosophy. It’s more to do with disciplined approach to investing.
“The market is there only as a reference point to see if anybody is offering to do anything foolish.”
“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”
We need to identify great companies that are run by managements which are honest and competent. We should look for Companies who have past track record of consistent profitability. Our equity portfolio should have 10 to 20 quality companies which we can track easily. Our investment horizon should be long term ranging between 5 to 10 years. Hence we should avoid looking at the prices of our equity stocks on a day to day basis because this will unnecessarily bother us. If the prices are high in short term, we will be tempted to book profits without reaping full benefits of excellent investments. Similarly if prices are low, it will create unnecessary anxiety and fear. After investing in quality managements, we should not allow short term volatility to bother us.
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If you keep practicing these investment principles, you will become more confident while taking financial decisions and will be able to do a lot better with your investments. If you want to study in detail the investment strategies of Warren Buffett, then you can read the New York Times Bestseller “The Warren Buffett Way” by Robert G. Hagstrom.