Value Investing: Don’t Buy a Pig in a Poke

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Part of an occasional series on Value Investing

Don’t buy a pig in a poke. It’s an old expression that traces its usage to the Middle Ages when unscrupulous merchants would sell what was supposedly a suckling pig to unsuspecting victims only to have them later find that their bags contained a cat or a dog.

How does that apply to Value Investing? Simple. Know your investment.

If you are a Value Investor your goal is to understand what a business is, not just what it claims to be, or what others say it is.

Before you invest, have you closely studied the stock you are buying?

What are the past 10 years of earnings? Are they consistently growing?

What is the return on equity?

What does the company do with retained earnings?

Have you read the past 10 years of annual reports?

How strong is the management team? Do they align with shareholders’ interests?

What is the company’s intrinsic value?

What is the company’s price history? Can you provide a reason why you should buy now?

If this all sounds like too much work, there’s nothing wrong with building a balanced portfolio of index funds. However, if you are the kind of investor that likes to hunt for opportunities, likes to know about the individual companies you are buying, and doesn’t want to buy a pig in a poke, then answering these questions will be essential to using a Value Investing approach.

There’s a whole financial industry designed to take the thinking out of investing. Whether it is from talking heads on TV or the Internet, or investment company recommendations, and they can be a poor substitute for your own research and your own studious analysis.

In the end, it comes down to knowing your investment, so you don’t buy a pig in a poke.

Or as Warren Buffett once said: “Any time you combine ignorance and borrowed money you can get some pretty interesting consequences.”*

*1994 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting

© 2019 David Mazor


Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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