Category Archives: Lessons From Warren Buffett

Lessons From Warren Buffett: Future Cash Flow Determines Intrinsic Value

Key to Warren Buffett’s efforts to find a company worth buying, whether it is the whole company, or just a minority stake, is his determination of the company’s intrinsic value. For Buffett, that intrinsic value is all about the future cash flow of the business. In his mind, those cash flows are like the interest paid on a bond, but unlike with bonds, the interest rate is not printed on a share of stock as it is with a bond.

“If we could see in looking at any business what its future cash inflows or outflows from the business to the owners, or from the owners, would be over the next, we’ll call it a hundred years, or until the business is extinct, and then could discount that back at the appropriate interest rate, which I’ll get to in a second, that would give us a number for intrinsic value,” Warren Buffett said at the 1997 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “In other words, it would be like looking at a bond that had a whole bunch of coupons on it that was due in a hundred years. And if you could see what those coupons are, you can figure the value of that bond compared to government bonds, if you want to stick an appropriate risk rate in. Or, you can compare one government bond with 5 percent coupons to another government bond with 7 percent coupons. Each one of those bonds has a different value because they have different coupons printed on them. Businesses have coupons that are going to develop in the future too. The only problem is they aren’t printed on the instrument, and it’s up to the investor to try to estimate what those coupons are going to be over time.”

Buffett’s full explanation on determining intrinsic value

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© 2021 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.

Lessons From Warren Buffett: You Have to Hit a Few Shots in the Woods from Time to Time

Investors can spend a lot of time rehashing the mistakes they’ve made, be it the money they have lost, or just from imagining the money they could have made if they had done something differently. However, Warren Buffett points out that “You know, if every shot you hit in golf was a hole-in-one…the game would soon lose interest. So you have to hit a few in the woods occasionally just to make it a little more interesting.”

Now, Buffett is not really preaching that you should go out and deliberately make mistakes, and he has tried hard to learn from his own, including the investments he didn’t make.

“Well, the mistakes we made, and we made them, some of them big time, are of two kinds. One is when we didn’t invest at all in something that we understood that was cheap, maybe because we weren’t even working hard enough at looking at the whole list, or because, for one reason or another, we just didn’t, we didn’t take action,” Warren Buffett said at the 2004 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “And the second was starting in on something that could have been a very large investment and not maximizing it. Charlie (Munger) is a huge believer in the idea that you don’t sit around sucking your thumb when you can, when something comes along that should be done that you pour into it.”

Hear Buffett’s full explanation

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© 2021 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.

Lessons From Warren Buffett: Volatility is a Huge Plus for the Real Investor

When stocks make sharp moves downward, the news is often full of commentaries decrying volatility. However, for Warren Buffett, volatility is just what he is hoping for.

“Volatility is a huge plus to the real investor,” Warren Buffett said at the 1997 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “Ben Graham used the example of ‘Mr. Market’…And Ben said, ‘You know, just imagine that when you buy a stock, that you in effect, you’ve bought into a business where you have this obliging partner who comes around every day and offers you a price at which you’ll either buy or sell. And the price is identical.’ And no one ever gets that in a private business, where daily you get a buy-sell offer by a party. But in the stock market you get it. That’s a huge advantage. And it’s a bigger advantage if this partner of yours is a heavy-drinking manic depressive. The crazier he is, the more money you’re going to make. So you, as an investor, you love volatility. Not if you’re on margin, but if you’re an investor you aren’t on margin. And if you’re an investor, you love the idea of wild swings because it means more things are going to get mispriced.”

Buffett’s full explanation on volatility

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© 2021 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.

Lessons From Warren Buffett: It’s Hard to Regain a Lost Competitive Advantage

Once a company loses its competitive advantage, it is very rare that it can regain it, according Warren Buffett. He has seen it on occasion, but he certainly wouldn’t bet on it.

“In terms of competitive advantage and then regain — lost and then regained — there aren’t many examples of that,” Warren Buffett said at the 2003 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “… I’ve got a friend who always wants to buy lousy companies with the idea he’s going to change them into wonderful companies. And I just ask him, you know, ‘Where in the last hundred years have you seen it happen?’”

See the complete Lessons From Warren Buffett series

© 2021 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.

Lessons From Warren Buffett: Diversification Makes Very Little Sense If…

Diversify your portfolio. It is a bedrock tenet that gets preached over and over. However, to Buffett, if you know what you are doing, that doesn’t make sense. Why? Because there are only a limited number of great companies that are worth owning. So, why do people do it? “Diversification is a protection against ignorance,” Warren Buffett says. However, he notes that its not the secret to great wealth. As he points out, “If you look at how the fortunes were built in this country, they weren’t built out of a portfolio of fifty companies.”

“We think diversification is, as practiced generally, makes very little sense for anyone that knows what they’re doing,” Warren Buffett said at the 1996 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “I mean, if you want to make sure that nothing bad happens to you relative to the market, you own everything. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, that is a perfectly sound approach for somebody who does not feel they know how to analyze businesses. If you know how to analyze businesses and value businesses, it’s crazy to own fifty stocks or forty stocks or thirty stocks, probably, because there aren’t that many wonderful businesses that are understandable to a single human being, in all likelihood. And to have some super-wonderful business and then put money in number thirty or thirty-five on your list of attractiveness and forego putting more money into number one, just strikes Charlie and me as madness.”

Buffett’s full explanation on diversification

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© 2021 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.

Lessons From Warren Buffett: Asset Allocation Formulas are Pure Nonsense

Rebalancing your portfolio is something that is constantly preached by the financial industry, and if you don’t do it yourself, they are happy to create an account or a fund that does it for you automatically. However, Warren Buffett scoffs at the whole concept and sees it to be more about marketing than good investing.

“The idea that you have, you know, you say, ‘I’ve got 60 percent in stocks and 40 percent in bonds,’ and then have a big announcement, now we’re moving it to 65/35, as some strategists or whatever they call them in Wall Street do. I mean, that has to be pure nonsense,” Warren Buffett said at the 2004 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “What you ought to do is have (as) your default position is always short-term instruments. And whenever you see anything intelligent to do, you should do it. And you shouldn’t be trying to match up with some goal like that… But so much of what you see when you talk about asset allocation, it’s just merchandising. It’s a way to make you think that if you don’t know how to determine whether it should be 60/40 or 65/35, that you need these people. And you don’t need them at all in investing.”

Hear Buffett’s full explanation

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© 2021 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.

Lessons From Warren Buffett: Should You Wait for a Price Decline Before Buying a Great Stock?

You have done your research and identified a great company. It’s a company that you think will grow and bring great returns for the next 20-30 years, and you are dying to add it to your portfolio. But then a little voice creeps into your head, saying “Maybe I should wait for a price decline?” So, should you wait for price declines before buying great companies?

“I think it’s better just to own them,” Warren Buffett said at the 1996 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “So, to sit there and hope that you buy them in the throes of some panic, you know, that you sort of take the attitude of a mortician, you know, waiting for a flu epidemic or something… I’m not sure that will be a great technique.”

(Note: That this doesn’t mean that you should buy at any price, and that Buffett says that he wouldn’t buy a stock if it is selling at an “egregious price.”)

Buffett’s full explanation

See the complete Lessons From Warren Buffett series

© 2021 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.

Lessons From Warren Buffett: The Difference Between an Investor and a Speculator

There is a big difference between investing and speculating (gambling), but if you ask a lot of people what that difference is they won’t be able to tell you in a clear, succinct way. Thankfully, Warren Buffett did just that.

“If you’re an investor, you’re looking at what the asset is going to do,” Warren Buffett said at the 1997 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “If you’re a speculator, you’re primarily focusing on what the price of the object is going to do independent of the business…”

For Buffett, the bottom line is simple: “Investment is putting out money to get more money back later on from the asset. And not by selling it to somebody else, but by what the asset, itself, will produce.”

Warren Buffett on the Investor and the Speculator

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© 2021 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.

Lessons From Warren Buffett: It’s Not the Bathtub That’s the Key Factor

In 2011, in the heart of the Great Recession, Warren Buffett had the bold idea to make a $5 billion investment in Bank of America at a time when investing in banks looked extraordinarily risky. Buffett admits it was a moment of inspiration that came to him while he was sitting in his bathtub. Over the years, his Bank of America investment paid off handsomely, bringing him over $22 billion. However, Buffett is quick to note that it’s not the bathtub that is the key factor. It was the decades of knowledge he accumulated on the banking industry that enabled a moment of inspiration.

“It was mentioned how I got the idea about buying the Bank of America, or making an offer to Bank of America on a preferred stock, when I was in the bathtub, which is true. But the bathtub really was not the key factor,” Warren Buffett said at the 2013 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “The truth is I read a book more than 50 years ago called Biography of a Bank. It was a great book, about A.P. Giannini and the history of the bank. And I have followed the Bank of America, and I’ve followed other banks, you know, for 50 years.”

Buffett’s full explanation on learning about an industry

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© 2021 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.

Lessons From Warren Buffett: When It Comes to Earnings, It’s the Future That Counts

People spend a lot of time looking at P/E ratios (Share Price divided by Earnings) when deciding whether to buy a stock. However, Warren Buffett notes that “It isn’t a multiple of today’s earnings that is primarily determinate of things.”

“It’s the future that counts,” Warren Buffett said at the 1995 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting, using an all-time hockey great’s words to illustrate his point. “Wayne Gretzky says to go where the puck is going to be, not where it is… We want to be in the business that 10 years from now is earning a whole lot more money than it is now, and that we will still feel good about the prospects of the business at that time. That’s the kind of business we’re trying to buy all of, and that’s the kind of business that we try and buy part of.”

Buffett’s full explanation on future earnings

See the complete Lessons From Warren Buffett series

© 2021 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.