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A Dozen Things Taught by Warren Buffett Cheat Sheet by

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A Dozen Things Taught by Warren Buffett

1. “We are limited, of course, to businesses whose economic prospects we can evaluate. And that’s a serious limita­tion: Charlie and I have no idea what a great many companies will look like ten years from now.”
“My experience in business helps me as an investor and that my investment experience has made me a better busine­ssman. Each pursuit teaches lessons that are applicable to the other. And some truths can only be fully learned through experi­ence.”

Treat an investment security as a propor­tional ownership of a business! A security is not just a piece of paper. Not all businesses can be reasonably valued. That’s OK. Put them in the “too hard pile” and move on.

2. “Perio­dic­ally, financial markets will become divorced from realit­y.”
“For those investors who plan to sell within a year or two after their purchase, I can offer no assura­nces, whatever the entry price. Movements of the general stock market during such abbrev­iated periods will likely be far more important in determ­ining your results than the concom­itant change in the intrinsic value of your Berkshire shares. As Ben Graham said many decades ago: ‘In the short-term the market is a voting machine; in the long-run it acts as a weighing machine.’ Occasi­onally, the voting decisions of investors – amateurs and profes­sionals alike – border on lunacy.”

Make bi-polar Mr. Market your servant rather than your master

3. “A business with terrific economics can be a bad investment if it is bought for too high a price. In other words, a sound investment can morph into a rash specul­ation if it is bought at an elevated price. Berkshire is not exempt from this.”
Buy at a bargain price which provides a margin of safety!

4. “As Tom Watson, Sr. of IBM said, ‘I’m no genius, but I’m smart in spots and I stay around those spots.'”
Circle of compet­ence! Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.

5. “Decades ago, Ben Graham pinpointed the blame for investment failure, using a quote from Shakes­peare: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in oursel­ves.'”
Most investing mistakes are psycho­log­ical! Investing is simple, but not easy. Buffett has a great system, but his emotional and psycho­logical temper­ament is especially suitable for investing. Like Charlie Munger, he is highly rational as human beings go. Everyone, including Buffett, makes mistakes. You can do very well in investing by just avoiding stupid mistakes.

Warren Buffett


6. “It is entirely predic­table that people will occasi­onally panic, but not at all predic­table when this will happen. Though practi­cally all days are relatively uneven­tful, tomorrow is always uncertain. (I felt no special appreh­ension on December 6, 1941 or September 10, 2001.) And if you can’t predict what tomorrow will bring, you must be prepared for whatever it does. Investors, of course, can, by their own behavior, make stock ownership highly risky. And many do. Active trading, attempts to “time” market movements, inadequate divers­ifi­cation, the payment of high and unnece­ssary fees to managers and advisors, and the use of borrowed money can destroy the decent returns that a life-long owner of equities would otherwise enjoy. Indeed, borrowed money has no place in the investor’s tool kit: Anything can happen anytime in markets. And no advisor, economist, or TV commen­tator – and definitely not Charlie nor I – can tell you when chaos will occur. Market foreca­sters will fill your ear but will never fill your wallet.”

Buy at a bargain and wait! You can determine that buying an investment now is a bargain that creates a margin of safety based on a valuation process, but you cannot predict when the price will rise. So you wait.

7. “Gains won’t come in a smooth or uninte­rrupted manner; they never have.”
Investing results will always be lumpy!

8.”Stock prices will always be far more volatile than cash-e­qui­valent holdin­gs. Over the long term, however, curren­cy-­den­omi­nated instru­ments are riskier invest­ments – far riskier invest­ments – than widely­-di­ver­sified stock portfolios that are bought over time and that are owned in a manner invoking only token fees and commis­sions. That lesson has not custom­arily been taught in business schools, where volatility is almost univer­sally used as a proxy for risk. Though this pedagogic assumption makes for easy teaching, it is dead wrong: Volatility is far from synonymous with risk. Popular formulas that equate the two terms lead students, investors and CEOs astray.”

“It is true, of course, that owning equities for a day or a week or a year is far riskier (in both nominal and purcha­sin­g-power terms) than leaving funds in cash-e­qui­val­ents. That is relevant to certain investors – say, investment banks – whose viability can be threatened by declines in asset prices and which might be forced to sell securities during depressed markets. Additi­onally, any party that might have meaningful near-term needs for funds should keep approp­riate sums in Treasuries or insured bank deposits.”

Risk is not the same as volati­lity!

9. For the great majority of investors, however, who can – and should – invest with a multi-­decade horizon, quotat­ional declines are unimpo­rta­nt. Their focus should remain fixed on attaining signif­icant gains in purchasing power over their investing lifetime. For them, a divers­ified equity portfolio, bought over time, will prove far less risky….”

Most investors should buy a divers­ified portfolio of low fee index funds/­ETFs! See my postson John Bogle and asset alloca­tion.

10. “Huge instit­utional investors, viewed as a group, have long underp­erf­ormed the unsoph­ist­icated index-fund investor who simply sits tight for decades. A major reason has been fees: Many instit­utions pay substa­ntial sums to consul­tants who, in turn, recommend high-fee managers. And that is a fool’s game.”

Follow the cost matters hypoth­esis!

11. Cash, though, is to a business as oxygen is to an indivi­dual: never thought about when it is present, the only thing in mind when it is absent.” “When bills come due, only cash is legal tender. Don’t leave home without it.”

The only unforg­ivable sin in business is to run out of cash!** The need for some cash as dry powder applies to everyone, the only question is how much cash to have on hand.

12. “We will never play financial Russian roulette with the funds you’ve entrusted to us, even if the metaph­orical gun has 100 chambers and only one bullet. In our view, it is madness to risk losing what you need in pursuing what you simply desire.”

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