The gross profits in many workouts appear quite small. It's a little like looking for parking meters with some time left on them. However, the predictability coupled with a short holding period produces quite decent average annual rates of return after allowance for the occasional substantial loss.
Investors have to remember: corporate profits are going up, but stocks are going up faster. How can that continue indefinitely? Investors can only earn what companies themselves can earn; the government or the markets themselves don't kick anything in. How can you get anything more out of a farm than what it grows?
The approach and strategies are very similar in that you gather all the information you can and then keep adding to that base of information as things develop. You do whatever the probabilities indicated based on the knowledge that you have at that time, but you are always willing to modify your behaviour or your approach as you get new information. In bridge, you behave in a way that gets the best from your partner. And in business, you behave in the way that gets the best from your managers and your employees.
Generally speaking, investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you. They can run up huge deficits and the dollar can become worth far less. You can have all kinds of things happen. But if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.
We rarely use much debt and, when we do, we attempt to structure it on a long-term fixed rate basis. We will reject interesting opportunities rather than over-leverage our balance sheet. This conservatism has penalized our results but it is the only behavior that leaves us comfortable, considering our fiduciary obligations to policyholders, depositors, lenders and the many equity holders who have committed unusually large portions of their net worth to our care.
You ought to be able to explain why you’re taking the job you’re taking, why you’re making the investment you’re making, or whatever it may be. And if it can’t stand applying pencil to paper, you’d better think it through some more. And if you can’t write an intelligent answer to those questions, don’t do it.
The time to buy stocks is consistently over time. You should never buy your investments with the idea, 'I have to get a certain return.' You should look at the best return possible and learn to live with that. But you should not try to make your investments earn what you feel you need. It doesn't work that way. The stock doesn't know you own it.
The problem with commodities is that you are betting on what someone else would pay for them in six months. The commodity itself isn't going to do anything for you....it is an entirely different game to buy a lump of something and hope that somebody else pays you more for that lump two years from now than it is to buy something that you expect to produce income for you over time.
Intrinsic value can be defined simply: It is the discounted value of the cash that can be taken out of a business during its remaining life. The calculation of intrinsic value, though, is not so simple. As our definition suggests, intrinsic value is an estimate rather than a precise figure, and it is additionally an estimate that must be changed if interest rates move or forecasts of future cash flows are revised.
Too often, executive compensation in the U.S. is ridiculously out of line with performance. That won't change, moreover, because the deck is stacked against investors when it comes to the CEO's pay. The upshot is that a mediocre-or-worse CEO - aided by his handpicked VP of human relations and a consultant from the ever-accommodating firm of Ratchet, Ratchet and Bingo - all too often receives gobs of money from an ill-designed compensation arrangement.
Ben's Mr. Market allegory may seem out-of-date in today's investment world, in which most professionals and academicians talk of efficient markets, dynamic hedging and betas. Their interest in such matters is understandable, since techniques shrouded in mystery clearly have value to the purveyor of investment advice. After all, what witch doctor has ever achieved fame and fortune by simply advising 'Take two aspirins'?
There is no question that an important service is provided to investors by investment companies, investment advisors, trust departments, etc. This service revolves around the attainment of adequate diversification, the preservation of a long-term outlook, the ease of handling investment decisions and mechanics, and most importantly, the avoidance of the patently inferior investment techniques which seem to entice some individuals.
I've learned mainly by reading myself. So I don't think I have any original ideas. Certainly, I talk about reading Graham. I've read Phil Fisher. So I've gotten a lot of my ideas from reading. You can learn a lot from other people. In fact, I think if you learn basically from other people, you don't have to get too many new ideas on your own. You can just apply the best of what you see.
I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.
Long ago, Sir Isaac Newton gave us three laws of motion, which were the work of genius. But Sir Isaac's talents didn't extend to investing: He lost a bundle in the South Sea Bubble, explaining later, I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men. If he had not been traumatized by this loss, Sir Isaac might well have gone on to discover the Fourth Law of Motion: For investors as a whole, returns decrease as motion increases.