Top positive review
Investing is more a matter of ‘character’ than ‘brain’
14 August 2018
This book is perhaps the most important and insightful book on investing, and an eternal classic. It is not a book that promises ‘How to become rich…’ or ‘Mastering Stock market in a week….’ or ‘Beating the market made easy…’ or any shortcut to a quick buck. The book teaches three powerful lessons of how one can:
- minimize the odds of suffering irreversible losses
- maximize the chance of achieving sustainable gains
- practice emotional control and behavior to help the investor achieve full potential.
The book is about investing and having said that, investing is for the long term. Short term investing is like saying one is a spendthrift miser. While long term investors buy stocks or bonds for its intrinsic value and hold them, the 'short termers' play on its price like a video game, high on dopamine, ‘seeing price patterns’. While the intrinsic value of the security is stable, the markets, built upon the greed and fear of speculators, fluctuate widely and it is this constant flow of price movements that is the juice of speculation.
The intelligent investor is the one who estimates the value of a stock based on some key parameters like the company’s long-term prospects, quality of management, financial strength and capital structure, dividend record, and current dividend.
Graham lists two types of intelligent investors. The ‘active’ or ‘enterprising’ who does continuous researching, selecting and monitoring a dynamic mix of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. The ‘passive’ or ‘defensive’ investor on the other hand, creates a permanent portfolio that runs on autopilot and requires no further effort (but generates very little excitement) argues the author so elegantly. Quoting the investment thinker Charles Ellis, ‘’the enterprising approach is physically and intellectually taxing, while the defensive approach is emotionally demanding’’.
For the long-term defensive investor, who has abundant emotional courage not to be distracted by daily price movements, there is no need to look at the daily price. In fact, the investor ‘’would be better off if his stocks had no market quotation at all, for he would be spared the mental anguish caused by other persons’ mistakes of judgement.’’ We don’t check the price of our house every hour! The intelligent investor would make use of any opportunity if a good company is facing a temporary crisis and add more shares to his portfolio at lower price. (In cases of extreme exuberance, it is also wise to sell if the price seems too high to be real). A prudent investment methodology would be to add on more of high quality stocks on a regular basis, thus paving way for ‘dollar cost averaging’. A well-diversified stock and bond portfolio ensures long term risk mitigation.
Though the book is highly acclaimed in investment circles, in practice, only a miniscule of market participants adhere to the key principles the world over. Hence, situations like the Dot com bubble, the financial crisis of the last decade and the collapse of high priced so called ‘high growth stocks’ of unworthy and nefarious companies happen repeatedly.
‘’A man is known by the books he reads” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Invest in companies that have proven track record, stellar management capabilities and high ethical standards of corporate citizenry. Being an intelligent investor is more a matter of ‘character’ than ‘brain’, is the key message of this great tome.