The most common cause of low prices is pessimism - sometimes pervasive, sometimes specific to a company or industry. We want to do business in such an environment, not because we like pessimism but because we like the prices it produces.
Well, one time some attractive woman sat next to Charlie and asked him what he owed his success to, and, unfortunately, she insisted on a one word answer. He had a speech prepared that would have gone on for several hours. But when forced to boil it down to one word, he said that was "rational". You know, he comes equipped for rationality, and he applies it in business. He doesn't always apply it elsewhere, but he applies it in business and that has made him a huge business success.
The speed at which a business success is recognized, furthermore, is not that important as long as the company's intrinsic value is increasing at a satisfactory rate. In fact, delayed recognition can be an advantage: It may give us the chance to buy more of a good thing at a bargain price.
Time is the friend of the wonderful business. It's the enemy of the lousy business. If you're in a lousy business for a long time, you're going to get a lousy result, even if you buy it cheap. If you're in a wonderful business for a long time, even if you pay a little too much going in, you're going to get a wonderful result if you stay in a long time.
If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further. But I think that people at the high end - people like myself - should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it.
The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how much it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage.
I bought a company in the mid-'90s called Dexter Shoe and paid $400 million for it. And it went to zero. And I gave about $400 million worth of Berkshire stock, which is probably now worth $400 billion. But I've made lots of dumb decisions. That's part of the game.
I have a house that I bought 55 years ago. It's warm in the winter; it's cool in the summer. It has everything I wanted, plus it has all kinds of good memories. Like my kids, I have good thoughts about that. I can't imagine living any better.
Yeah, we don't consider many stupid things. I mean, we get rid of 'em fast...Just getting rid of the nonsense -- just figuring out that if people call you and say, 'I've got this great, wonderful idea', you don't spend 10 minutes once you know in the first sentence that it isn't a great, wonderful idea...Don't be polite and go through the whole process.
You don't need to be an expert in order to achieve satisfactory investment returns. But if you aren't, you must recognize your limitations and follow a course certain to work reasonably well. Keep things simple and don't swing for the fences.
More investment sins are probably committed by otherwise quite intelligent people because of "tax considerations" than from any other cause. One of my friends-a noted West Coast philosopher-maintains that a majority of life's errors are caused by forgetting what one is really trying to do. This is certainly the case when an emotionally supercharged element like taxes enters the picture (I have another friend-a noted East Coast philosopher who says it isn't the lack of representation he minds-it's the taxation).
An irresistable footnote: in 1971, pension fund managers invested a record 122% of net funds available in equities - at full prices they couldn't buy enough of them. In 1974, after the bottom had fallen out, they committed a then record low of 21% to stocks.
Getting fired can produce a particularly bountiful payday for a CEO. Indeed, he can 'earn' more in that single day, while cleaning out his desk, than an American worker earns in a lifetime of cleaning toilets. Forget the old maxim about nothing succeeding like success: Today, in the executive suite, the all-too-prevalent rule is that nothing succeeds like failure.
The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.
If you know how to value businesses, it's crazy to own 50 stocks or 40 stocks or 30 stocks, probably because there aren't that many wonderful businesses understandable to a single human being in all likelihood. To forego buying more of some super-wonderful business and instead put your money into #30 or #35 on your list of attractiveness just strikes Charlie and me as madness.
We only want to link up with people whom we like, admire, and trust. ... We do not wish to join with managers who lack admirable qualities, no matter how attractive the prospects of their business. We've never succeeded in making a good deal with a bad person.