Friday, March 03, 2006

How Buffett does it

The book, "How Buffett Does It", is a step-by-step guidebook for investing like Buffet in any market environment. This book presents 24 ideas Buffet has followed from day one:

1. Choose Simplicity over Complexity
When investing, keep it simple. Do what's easy and obvious. If you don't understand a business, don't buy it.

2. Make Your Own Investment Decisions
Don't listen to the brokers, the analysts, or the pundits. Figure it out for yourself. Become a value investor. It's proven to be a very rewarding technique over the long term.

3. Maintain Proper Temperament
Let other people overreact to the market. To succeed in the market, you need only ordinary intelligence. But in addition, you need the kind of temperament to help you ride out the storms and stick to your long-term plans. If you can stay cool while those around you are panicking, you can surely prevail.

4. Be Patient
Think 10 years, rather than 10 minutes. Don't dwell on the price of stocks. Instead, study the underlying business, its earnings capacity and its future. If the question is, "How long will you wait?" ¨C "If we're in the right place, we'll wait indefinitely" says Buffet.

5. Buy Business, Not Stocks
Once you get into the right business, you can let everyone else worry about the stock market. Business performance is the key to picking stocks. Study the long-term track record of any company that is on your buy list. Buffet looks for following five main things before investing in a company.
(i) Business he can understand
(ii) Companies with favorable long-term prospects
(iii) Business operated by honest and competent people
(iv) Businesses priced very attractively
(v) Business with free cash flow
Don't think about "stock in the short term." Think about "business in the long term".

6. Look for a Company that is a Franchise
Some businesses are "franchises". Franchise generates free cash flows.

7. Buy Low-Tech, Not High-Tech
Successful investing is rarely a gee-whiz activity. It's less often about rockets and lasers and more often about bricks, carpets, paint, shaving blades and insulation. Do not be tempted by get-rich-quick deals involving relatively complex companies (e.g., high-tech companies). They are the most unpredictable in the long run. Look for the absence of change. Look for the business whose only change in the future will be doing more business, e.g Gillette Blades.

8. Concentrate Your Stock Investments
A the "Noah's Ark" style of investing ¨C that is, a little of this, a little of that. Better to have a smaller number of investments with more of your money in each. Portfolio concentration ¨C the opposite of diversification ¨C also has the power to focus the mind. If you're putting your eggs in only a few baskets, you're far less likely to make investments on impulse or emotion.

9. Practice Inactivity, Not Hyperactivity
There are times when doing nothing is a sign of investing brilliance. Be a decade's trader, not a day trader.

10. Don't Look at the Ticker
Tickers are all about prices. Investing is about a lot more than prices. It is about value. It is about wealth. Abstain from looking at share prices every day. Study the playing field and not the scoreboard. Know the value of something rather than the price of everything.

11. View Market Downturns as Buying Opportunities
Market downturns aren't body blows; they are buying opportunities. Change your investing mind-set. Reprogram your thinking. Learn to like a sinking market because it presents great buying opportunity. Pounce when the three variables come together. When a strong business with an enduring competitive advantage, strong management, and a low stock price come onto your investment screen.

12. Don't Swing at Every Pitch
What if you had to predict how every stock in the Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500 would do over the next few years? In this scenario you have very poor chance of being correct. But if your job was to find only one stock among those 500 that would do well? In this revised scenario you have a good chance. A few good investments are all that is needed.

13. Ignore the Macro; Focus on the Micro
The big things ¨C the large trends that are external to the business ¨C don't matter. It's the little things, the things that are business-specific, that count. It's possible to imagine a cataclysm so terrible that the markets would collapse and not bounce back. Externalities don't matter ¨C and you can't predict them, anyway. And what can you do about them? Focus on what you can know: the workings of a good business.

14. Take a Close Look at Management
The analysis begins ¨C and sometimes ends ¨C with one key question: Who's in charge here? Assess the management team before you invest. A investing in any company that has a record of financial or accounting shenanigans, (creative accounting, accounting jugglery). Weak accounting usually means weak business performance. Strong companies do not have to resort to tricks.

15. Remember, The Emperor Wears No Clothes on Wall Street
Wall Street is the only place where people go to in Rolls Royce to get advice from people who take the subway. Ignore the charts. A value investor is not concerned with charts. Invest like Benjamin Graham. Graham told investors to "search for discrepancies between the value of a business and the price of small pieces of that business in the market." This is the key to value investing, and it's far more productive than getting dizzy studying hundreds of stock charts. Offer documents of most mutual funds say ¨C in small print ¨C that past performance is no guarantee of future success. Buffet says the same thing about the market: If history revealed the path to riches, librarians would be rich.

16. Practice Independent Thinking
When investing, you need to think independently. Make independent thinking one of your portfolio's greatest assets. Being smart isn't good enough, says Buffet. Lots of high-IQ people fall victim to the herd mentality. Independent thinking is one of Buffet's greatest strengths. Make it one of your own.

17. Stay within Your Circle of Competence
Develop a zone of expertise, operative within that zone. Write down the industries and businesses with which you feel most comfortable. Confine your investments to them.

18. Ignore Stock Market Forecasts
Short-term forecasts of stock or bond prices are useless. They tell you more about the forecaster than they tell you about the future. Take the time you would spend listening to forecasts and instead use it to analyze a business's track record. Develop an investing strategy that does not depend on the overall movement of the market.

19. Understand "Mr. Market" and the "Margin of Safety"
What makes for a good investor? A good investor is one who combines good business judgment with an ability to ignore the wild swings of the marketplace.

When the emotions start to swirl, remember Ben Graham's "Mr.Market" concept, and look for a "margin of safety". Make sure that you also understand Buffet's concepts of Mr. Market and the margin of safety.

Like the Lord, the market helps those who help themselves. But, unlike God, the market doesn't forgive those who "know not what they do".

Bide your time, and wait for Mr. Market to get depressed and lower stock prices enough to provide a margin-ofsafety buying opportunity.

20. Be Fearful when Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful
You can safely predict that people will be greedy, fearful, or foolish. Trouble is you just can't predict when or in what order. Buy when people are selling and sell when people are buying.

21. Read, Read Some More, and Then Think
Mr. Warren Buffet spends something like six hours a day reading and an hour or two on the phone. The rest of the time, he thinks. He therefore advises to get in the habit of reading. The best thing to start is to read Buffett's annual reports and letters. Finally, restrict your time only to things worth reading.

22. Use All Your Horsepower
How big is your engine, and how efficiently do you put it to work? Warren Buffett suggests that lots of people have "400 ¨C horsepower engines" but only 100 horsepower of output. Smart people, in other words, often allow themselves to get distracted from the task at hand and act in irrational ways. The person who gets full output from a 200-horse-power engine, says Buffett, is a lot better off. Make sure that you have the right role models. Strive for rational behaviour, good habits, and proper temperament. Write down the habits, practices and philosophies that you want to make your own. Then be sure to keep track of them and eventually own them. Financial success is a "matter of having the right habits".

23. Learn from the Costly Mistakes of Others
This is self explanatory and need no comments!

24. Become a Sound Investor
Buffet says that Ben Graham was about "sound investing". He wasn't about brilliant investing or fads and fashions, and the good thing about sound investing is that it can make you wealthy if you are in not too much of a hurry, and it never makes you poor. To become a sound investor, you need to develop sound investing habits. Always fight the noise to get the real story. Always practice continuous improvement. It's about finding and stepping over "one-foot hurdles" rather than developing the extraordinary skills needed to clear sevenfoot hurdles.

Excerpt from "deepwealth"


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