I have alluded in past posts allowing Warren Buffett to invest money for me for the last 15 years. As I noted lately, I believe that your best guide for investing is actual past data as opposed to rank speculation about the future. I also believe in continuing my education so as to remain dynamic in one’s thinking. Many of the places I do my reading are on the internet and unfortunately tend to get worse instead of better as they get more popular and democratic.
I am pleased that this site has continue its high quality to this point, but the fact remains that anyone with a computer can now post their opinion on various sites, no matter whether it is based on real data or rank speculation. One such site I have been reading for a while now is “(insert one of a thousand terrible sites here)” Frankly, if I were just starting to read it now, I would not continue as it is full of baseless opinion about investing from folks of dubious intent. Many of the same excellent posters still post, but are drowned out by the noise of the rabble. It would be very difficult now to find those diamonds among the posts.
Opinions of Warren Buffett
Take opinion on Warren Buffett and his company Berkshire Hathaway for example. Interestingly, many of the same opinions about Berkshire are being spawn about that we heard at the end of the last century.
“His investing strategies don’t work now, the world has changed.”
“Buffett’s recent returns indicate he has lost his touch.”
And the latest critiques:
“He only makes money because of his roledex that allows him to make deals the average person can’t.”
“His buddies in the current Obama administration allow him to benefit from policy.”
The list goes on and on. From reading these opinions you would think Berkshire Hathaway was falling apart as a company. But let’s look at how it has done in reality. Buffett uses “book value” and a good indicator of progress in intrinsic worth and over long period of time the price of the stock follows book value so we will use that for our analysis. I started buying Berkshire Hathaway in 1997. Since that time the book value has made the following returns:
Does that look like the returns of a man who has lost his way or that time has left behind? $1,000 invested in Berkshire at the same time I first invested would be worth $3,919 at the end of 2011 [2012 annual report is not out yet]. As a comparison the same $1,000 would be worth $1,662 invested in the S&P 500 with no expenses taken out. In fact, comparing the returns from the entire history of Berkshire to the S&P 500 over that time period renders a similar difference [19.8% average versus 9.2% which works out to an overall total return of 513,055% to 6,397%]
The Two Simple Questions to Ask Yourself
The point of all this is not to convince you to buy Berkshire Hathaway, but to point out that much of what you read out there is rank speculation posted by folks who have no clue or at least no track record to lend authority to their opinions. When I made my decision to change my strategy and start accumulating Berkshire Hathaway, I started by asking two simple questions.
- What does the data demonstrate about the past?
- Has anything fundamentally changed?
It is amazing how those two questions when really thought through can cut through all the clutter of opinion and speculation.
Imagine you are familiar with these numbers on Berkshire Hathaway and you read multiple times about how Buffett has lost his way. Are you going to worry about what those people post? Truth is that they were saying that about Buffett the first couple years I was buying. But I ignored the rabble and kept asking those two questions.
Knowing your numbers, understanding the history, and evaluating current conditions allows you to ignore all the rabble and make the best decision you can make. Doesn’t guarantee success, but it is the foundation to success.
When you are evaluating real estate do you ask those two questions?
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