Investing vs Speculating
The definition of investing, which we aim to follow carefully, was defined by Benjamin Graham as an operation which, upon thorough analysis provides safety of principal and a reasonable return.* Unfortunately, much of what is done today in the world of finance would have difficulty meeting this definition. As we all know, often times it’s the things we don’t do that matter more than the things we do. Avoiding speculation is one of those unseen but very important protections for the investor.
Price vs Value
Most people involved in the stock market track the value of their holdings based upon the current stock price. Few stop and ask whether they believe this price is cheap, reasonable, or expensive based on their assumptions behind the business. Value and price are two very different things. Depending on which one you track as an investor, you will have remarkably different experiences. We follow the value of our holdings and try to ignore short-term price swings. We aim to get more in value than the price we pay.
Margin of Safety
Here is a secret many of you already know, advisors are not very good fortune tellers. Turns out, neither are economists, Wall Street, politicians, and the like. We have found only one consistent method of protecting against the unpredictability of the world and markets. Demand a purchase price that allows for uncertainty and prices in a measure of difficulty. The more conservative the assumptions the more room left for error. The future is going to surprise all of us, we recommend one buy accordingly.
Position of Strength
We believe in operating from a position of strength. Many investors we work with are retired. We want them to be able to take advantage of stock market bargains. An inability to buy when everything goes on sale is a huge disadvantage for the investor. As a result, we are comfortable in holding cash when we are unable to identify quality investments. Being able to act when everyone else is paralyzed makes investing with a margin of safety far easier.
Think Like an Owner
We think about every investment as if we were buying the whole company and coming on as a silent partner. We want to admire the business, its prospects, leadership, vision, culture, and most importantly their price. The more we can think in this way and encourage our clients to think similarly, the better chance they have of being a long-term investor. Business owners are very rational, short-term traders on the other hand, are well…
*Graham, Benjamin. The Intelligent Investor: The Classic Text on Value Investing. New York: HarperBusiness, 2005. Print.