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Monday, August 29, 2011

Golden Lessons from the Legends of Investing

Golden Lessons from the Legends of Investing 

Have you ever wondered how the world’s greatest investors think? That was the question I asked myself nine years ago when I started to dive into the world of investing and found my burning passion from making money from the markets.
Over the years, my investing success has been shaped by the teachings and lessons from world’s most legendary investors like Peter Lynch, Warren Buffet and the father of value investing, Benjamin Graham. 

What is remarkable about these investing legends is that their investing philosophies are very similar and go against what the majority of professional money managers and amateurs do. When everyone is selling and stocks are cheap, they are buying. And when everyone is buying and stocks get expensive, they are selling.

Their are independent and totally contrarian approach is what allows them to make consistent profits in the markets years after year. Here is a compilation and distillation of philosophies.

Peter Lynch’s Golden Rules

Peter Lynch was the manager of Fidelity’s Magellan mutual fund from 1977 until 1990. He grew the fund from $18 million to $19 billion in assets. 

Peter Lynch’s compounded average annual investment return during the 13 years was 29.2%. A thousand dollars invested the day Lynch took over Magellan would have been worth $28,000 when he left.

“Over the past three decades, the stock market has come to be dominated by a herd of professional investors. Contrary to popular belief, this makes it easier for the amateur investor. You can beat the market by ignoring the herd.”

“In every industry and every region of the country, the observant amateur can find great growth companies long before the professionals have discovered them.”

“Often, there is no correlation between the success of a company’s operations and the success of its stock over a few months or even a few years. In the long term, there is a 100 correlation between the success of a company and the success of its stock. This disparity is the key to making money; it pays to be patient, and to own successful companies.”

“Owning stocks is like having children- don’t get involved with more than you can handle. The part-time stock picker probably has time to follow 8-12 companies. There don’t have to be more than 5 companies in the portfolio at any one time.”

“Avoid hot stocks in hot industries. Great companies in cold, non-growth industries are consistent big winners”.

“When stocks are attractive, you buy them. Sure, they can go lower. I’ve bought stocks at $12 that went to $2, but then they later went to $30. You just don’t know when you can find the bottom”.

“Go for a business that any idiot can run – because sooner or later, any idiot probably is going to run it”.

“You should invest in several stocks because out of every five you pick, one will be very great, one will be really bad, and three will be OK.”

“Bargains are the holy grail of the true stock picker. The fact the 10 to 30 percent of our net worth is lost in a market sell-off is of little consequence. 

We see the latest correction not as a disaster but as an opportunity to acquire more shares at low prices. This is how great fortunes are made over time.”

“Nobody can predict interest rates, the future direction of the economy, or the stock market. Dismiss all such forecasts and concentrate on what’s actually happening to the companies in which you’ve invested”.

“If you study 10 companies, you’ll find 1 for which the story is better than expected. If you study 50, you’ll find 5. There are always pleasant surprises to be found in the stock market-companies whose achievements are being overlooked on Wall Street”.

Benjamin Graham’s Golden Rules

Benjamin Graham was the father of value investing and the mentor of Warren Buffett. He authored ‘The Intelligent Investor’ and ‘Security Analysis’. His firm, the Graham-Newman achieved an average annual return of 17%, one of the highest at the time.

“Nobody ever knows what the stock market will do, but we profit by reacting intelligently to what it does do”.

“The individual investor should act consistently as an investor and not as a speculator. This means… that he should be able to justify every purchase he makes and each price he pays by impersonal, objective reasoning that satisfies him that he is getting more than his money’s worth for his purchase.”

He coined the phrase “margin of safety” to explain his common-sense formula that seeks out undervalued companies whose stock prices are temporarily down, but whose fundamentals, for the long run, are sound. 

The margin of safety on any investment is the difference between its purchase price and its intrinsic value. The larger this difference is (purchase price below intrinsic), the more attractive the investment.

Benjamin Graham’s Parable of Mr. Market

Imagine you are partners in a private business with a man named Mr. Market. Each day, he comes to you and offers to buy your shares in the company or sell you his. The problem is that Mr. Market s emotionally unstable. At times, he suffers from excessive highs and at other times, suicidal lows.

When he is in a very good mood, his offering price for the business is high as well, because his outlook for the company is wonderful, so he is only willing to sell you his stake in the company at a premium. At other times, he goes into a bad mood and all he sees is a dismal future for the company.

He becomes so depressed that he is willing to sell you his part of the company for far less than it is worth. All the while, the value of the company may not have changed – just Mr. Market’s mood.

The best part is that you are free to ignore him if you don’t like his price. The next day, he’ll show up at your door with a new price. The more emotionally unstable he is, the more opportunity you will have to take advantage of him.

As long as you have a strong conviction of what the company is really worth, you will be able to look at Mr. Market’s offers and reject or accept them… the choice is yours.

This is exactly how the intelligent investor should look at the stock market – each stock that is traded is merely a part of a business. Each morning, when you look at the stock market, you can find Mr. Market’s prices. It is your choice whether or not to act on them and buy or sell. 

If you find a company that he is offering for less than it is worth, take advantage of him and buy. Surely enough, as long as the company is fundamentally strong, one day he will come back in a good mood and offer to buy the same company from you for a much higher price.

Warren Buffett’s Golden Rules

Known as “the Oracle of Omaha”, Buffett is Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and arguably the greatest investor of all time. His wealth fluctuates with the performance of the market but as of 2008 his net worth was estimated at $62 billion, making him the richest man in the world.

“Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it”

“Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years. I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years”

“Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1”

“We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful”.

“Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing”

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing”

“We’ve long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortunetellers look good. Even now, Charlie and I continue to believe that short-term market forecasts are poison and should be kept locked up in a safe place, away from children and also from grown-ups who behave in the market like children”

“In the short run, the market is a voting machine. In the long run, it’s a weighing machine”

“I only invest in businesses I understand. That narrows it down to just 10% of the companies out there. You have to stay within your circle of competence, and pick companies that sell for less than what they’re worth”.

Adam Khoo
Wealth and Investment Tips

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