Tags:

Warren Buffett

A day in the life of a value investor

Published on:
May 2, 2020
Reading time: 3 Minutes.
Last Update:

"There is a difference between solitude and loneliness," explains Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow. While both experiences result is the same, solitude is a desired state of mind while loneliness is not. In his words: 

"How one copes with solitude makes all the difference. If being alone is seen as a chance to accomplish goals that cannot be reached in the company of others, then instead of feeling lonely, a person will enjoy solitude and might be able to learn new skills in the process." 

He continues: 

"On the other hand, if solitude is seen as a condition to be avoided at all costs instead of as a challenge, the person will panic and resort to distractions that cannot lead to higher levels of complexity." 

This wordy prelude to the difference between solitude and loneliness is my way of introducing a day in my work life. The typical day consists of many hours where I sit, read, and think. And this is done from the quiet of my home office.

A day in the life of a value investor 

As a value investor, I spend most of the time reading. Usually, at 7:00 am, I sift through general business journals such as The Economist, Financial Times, and The Wall Street Journal.  I also subscribe to Barrons, Fortune, and Forbes magazine to keep up with financial news. And about once a week, I'll read about industry-specific publications such as American Banker

After reading a bit of financial news, I move to read reports by individual businesses from their public filings[1]. I find that when annual reports are written for investors, and not to please regulators, they reveal a great deal about an industry, business strategy, and competitive landscape [2].

When annual reports are written for investors, and not to please regulators, they reveal a great deal. 

Next on my reading list are books. My reading list is not structured. The reading list includes anything from autobiographies of CEOs, to marketing and business lessons. While in the early years, I only read books about business and finance, I moved to psychology, philosophy, and history.

General reading, unrelated to business or investing, I believe, makes a difference. I am not sure how to define that difference, but I know that reading about history and human psychology has many benefits and application to capital markets. Reading a broad range of topics also affects my wellbeing. Reading a wide range of topics gives a sense of perspective, reduces the urge to act, and promotes a kinder self.

_____
WORK WITH NOAM

Look for a second opinion, especially when considering big changes to your portfolio or strategy. Unbiased, professional insights can help you reexamine your assumptions and reduce emotional decisions.

Join the waitlist to learn more.

_____

I also like to spend an hour or two a day on my portfolio holdings. I own 19 stocks in different industries (from computer hardware chip manufacturer as Micron to the graphite electrode manufacturer Graftech to pharmaceutical companies such as Teva.) So I try to learn something new every day about their business or their industry. 

So, about 4 to 5 hours of my day are used for reading. The remaining hours are for independent thinking[3]. While financial press compresses information and business insights into sound bytes, it takes a long time to understand a business truly.

For example, I heard a reputable investor this week describe his lengthy conversation with Indian regulators. He was attempting to decipher how will regulators behave if (or, rather, when) Indian rating agencies will falter. In short, it takes a long time to understand a business. 

 But it takes even longer time to understand the value of a business. Consider Coke-Cola, for example. The big picture is obvious: here's a company selling a product that consumers are buying. 

But why did Coca Cola survive where others have failed? How come competitors were unsuccessful in copying their business? The answer to these questions, perhaps, a topic for the future essay, requires deep thinking. To answer, we have to delve into branding, distribution, and biology [4].  

***

"A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live," writes Bertrand Russell in The Conquest of Happiness

Because the typical lifestyle of a value investor is so different than that of a day trader, I thought it would be worthwhile to write about briefly. 

To write about a day in the life of a value investor was inspired by a Youtube video I saw last week. Titled A Day in the Life of Day Trader, the Youtuber mentioned the word "markets" 13 times. She explained her trading methods when the markets open. When markets are volatile. When markets close. And how she scans markets for opportunities.  

In a recent CNBC interview, Warren Buffett was asked how Todd Combs will manage a $13 billion portfolio, run Geico, oversee Haven, be on the board of JPMorgan[5]. "Portfolio management is not something you do every day," he explains. "Portfolio management is something you learn over decades." 

FOOTNOTES: [1] Such as 8-k, 10-k, 10-q, and proxy filings. [2] My goal is to read annual reports of the top five businesses in every industry. [3] Charlie Munger once said: "We both insist on a lot of time being available almost every day just to sit and think." [4] You can drink an endless amount of Coke. But you can only drink a glass or two of milk. [5] The interview is two hours long. Skip to 65:45 to see this section. 

Why I decided to call Charles Schwab for market orders

Published on:
May 4, 2019
Last Update:

"We face danger whenever information growth outpaces our understanding of how to process it," wrote Nate Silver in The Signal and the Noise. "The last forty years of human history demonstrate that it can still take a long time to translate information into useful knowledge and that if we are not careful, we may take a step back in the meantime."

Indeed, I had taken a step back this week and wanted to bury my head in the sand. This was the result of the movements in my stock portfolio.

I was overwhelmed with information. Companies reported annual earnings this week - which set an immediate price reaction by Mr. Market. Frontier Communication, my largest position, and one that represents almost 10% of my stock portfolio, reported higher-than-expected revenue which translated to a $4,000 increase in unrecognized market gain. Mr. Market also welcomed news from management of Stericyle, a position I began in January, which described began its business transformation. The reported goods news resulted in an increase of $1,500 in recognized market gain.

But the stock of Oprah Winfrey's Weight Watchers (which I bought in January) tumbled by 27%. The 2018 earnings per share of over $3 per share were abnormally high noted management. Management also lowered the 2019 earnings per share forecast to be about a dollar per share. Management reported on a gloomy outlook (some would say realistic) given "competitive pressures." and the market was infuriated. The dreary news resulted in $4,000 unrecognized market loss.

Management of Victoria’s Secret, a position I started last year, reported to shareholders that it will close 53 Victoria's Secret stores this year. L Brands stock fell by 10% shortly after, to $25 from $28, a $2,000 unrecognized market loss for me.

The unrealized market gains were offset by unrealized market losses. But I was not dispassionate about the whole thing. On days my portfolio value was elevated by 30% gains, I felt great. I happily talked to everyone and even showed a somewhat, jovial stride.

Yet on days my portfolio was is down 30%, I shut the my offie's door. And instead of walking outside, admiring the beauty of San Diego weather, I made repeated trips to the break room to fill with coffee my empty cup. The emotional toll from market fluctuations was real and unpleasant.

The vagaries of Mr. Market

The emotional toll has a real emotional toll but hardly anyone in finance or in business talks about it. In The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship, Jessica Bruder writes of "entrepreneurs who have begun speaking out about their internal struggles in an attempt to combat the stigma of depression and anxiety that makes it hard for sufferers to seek help."  

Yet Wall Street has not caught up with Silicon Valley. On Wall Street, you don't talk about emotions. "And if you do," said a Wall Street veteran who asked to remain anonymous, "It's a sign of weakness."

Over the weekend, after markets had closed, I realized how idiotic my behavior was. To track daily or even weekly the market value of my stock portfolio was sill. I had no plans to sell stocks so what investors were willing to buy the stocks for was meaningless. I manage my own money and no investors I need to report to on the portfolio value. And I never buy stocks on margin so there was no risk of a margin call.

Calling Charles Schwab

A few years ago I read in a book by Nassim Taleb that if I was to daily check the price movement of the stock portfolio, by the nature of statistics, the amount of losses would be greater than the gains.

In Fooled by Randomness, he wrote:

"A minute by minute examination of a portfolio means that each day you will have 21 pleasurable minutes against 239 unpleasurable minutes, amounting to 60,688 and 60,271, respectively, per year." 

Yet knowing that something is harmful and doing something about it is not the same. Hence, my solution going forward is to call Charles Schwab for market orders.

The problem with trading over the Internet is that it forces you to log into your brokerage account. That in turn forces you to see the price movement of your stock portfolio. And if that's not enough, all brokerage platforms add a visual cue. Just in case you don't remember what was your cost basis, they color the gains in shiny green and losses in bright red.

***  
In Jewish philosophy it is said that where penitents stand, even the wholly righteous do not stand. I bring this sentence of wisdom as a means of an excuse. I knew that watching price movements was wrong. Great investors, from Warren Buffett and Guy Spier to Nassim Taleb, commented on this issue in the past. But I had to feel for myself the emotional distress in the present to finally do something about it. Sometimes, lessons are learned only by experience.

The bullish case for Hawaiian Airlines

Published on:
April 22, 2019
Last Update:

Once Warren Buffett disclosed an ownership stake above 10% in Delta Airlines, Wall Street is mad on airline stocks. Since his announcement, the NYSE Arca airline index, an index that tracks the performance of publicly traded airline companies, is up by 2.74%. So, this week I looked at buying Delta shares but ended up owning shares in Hawaiian Airlines instead. And this story is the topic of this week's meditation.

Prologue

In January of this year, I flew to New York with Delta. It was a fantastic experience. The airplane left the terminal on time, the staff was courteous and professional, the seats were comfortable and the breakfast served in the Delta lounge at JFK was so remarkable that I practically ate for two people. It does not surprise me that Delta was named the top U.S. airline in the WSJ's Middle Seat Scorecard.

Flying with Delta was a wonderful experience? Yes. But is Delta's stock reasonably priced? No.

At $57 per share, Delta Airlines (DAL on Nyse) trades at a 15-year high. In 2018 the price peaked at $60.71 which is not far from its current pricing. Delta shares trade at about 9 times the 2018 earnings per share and about 2.5 times the book value. Compare that to Hawaiian Airlines, which trades at less than 6 times the 2018 earning per share and at about 1.4 times the reported book value.  

For Marty Whitman, of Blessed Memory, purchasing a stock at 1.4 times its book value would be outrageously expensive. He emphatically once wrote: 

At Third Avenue, we only acquire interest in companies where the common stock is selling at prices that reflect a discount from readily ascertainable Net Asset Value as of the latest balance sheet date.

So, to meet his standards, I was determined to adjust the Hawaiin Airlines book value. Reference page 33 of the latest 10-k report where management says that, "$603.7 million of our current liabilities are related to our advanced ticket sales and frequent flyer deferred revenue, both of which largely represent revenue to be recognized for travel within the next 12 months and not actual cash outlays." Post the adjustment for this non-cash obligation outlay, at the $27 per share, Hawaiian trades at par.

Hawaiian Airlines valuation    

Reflecting on another of Whitman’s famous sayings, "A bargain that stays a bargain is not a bargain," I wondered whether Hawaiian’s current valuation was appropriate.

Between 2015 and 2017, the average price to earnings per share were 13 times. And during that 3-year timeline, the average price to book value was 3 times.

Not only is Hawaiian’s current valuation below its prior years' valuations, it is also less than what low-fare airline companies, such as Allegiant AIR (ALGT on Nasdaq) and Spirit Airlines (SAVE on Nyse), are trading for.

With a market capitalization of $2.21 billion, ALGT traded at 14 times the earnings per share and 3 times the book value. With $3.71 billion in market capitalization, SAVE traded at 24 times the earnings per share and 2 times the book value.

Not a single airline traded at less than double digits valuation to earnings per share, the average 10-year epsfor the Hawaiian's peer group was $2.49, practically identical to Hawaiian’s 10-year earnings per share of $2.53. And not a single airlines traded at less than 2 times the book value, the average 10-year earnings per share for the peer group was 18 times and the 10-year average earnings per share for Hawaiian was 11 times.

_____
ADVERTISEMENT

Founded in 2004, by Charlie Tian PHD, GuruFocus provides institutional-quality financial stock research for the individual investor.

GuruFocus hosts many value screeners and research tools and regularly publishes articles about value investing strategies and ideas. One of the features I use most is the 30-year financial information on businesses. Visit the 30-year analysis on Hawaiian Airlines to see more.

_____

Hawaiian Airlines management

The current valuation is attractive. But its management is even more. The first noble thing management did was to buy its own stock. In the fourth quarter of last year, management bought 1.42 million shares at about $33 per share, which cost the company $48.96 million. The board of directors budgeted up to $100 million by December 2019. And an additional $100 million may be bought by December 2020.

Management shares with readers how it measures the performance of the business. Management shares metrics, such as Passenger Revenue Per RPM, also known as Yield in the industry, which measures how much profit is earned for every mile of flight. It also explains in detail what the RAPM is (Passenger load factor per Available Seat Mile, a measure that tracks efficiency). For the long-term investor, reading annual reports from Hawaiian has an educational purpose.

Reading the well-crafted annual report allows to reader to better understand the airlines industry.

Peter Ingram, Hawaiian’s boss, has been with the company since November 2005. He owns almost 300,000 shares now worth about $8.7 million. He is the largest private shareholder excluding Larry Hershfield, who owns about 350,000 shares [1].

Epilogue

The current hype over airlines stocks, like most things in life, is temporary. Students of financial history will note that Delta sought protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 in September 2005.

Two months prior to that, Hawaiian filed for Chapter 11 for the second time in its history.

Legendary value investors, such as Peter Lynch, Mario Gabelli and Warren Buffet owned U.S. Airways stock that went into bankruptcy too. Perhaps, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines, got it right. "If you want to be millionaire," he once said, "Start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline.” With my purchase in Hawaiian, I look forward to proving him wrong.

FOOTNOTES: [1] Hershfield is the founder of Ranch Capital, an investment fund that specializes in growth opportunities.

There are plenty of myths on Wall Street

Published on:
August 24, 2018
Last Update:

1. Risk and Return

Common convention is that to earn a reasonable return in the stock market you need to take risk. This belief results in investors purchasing stocks that operate industries they know little of; hoping that this assumption of the relationship between risk and return will prevail as a given law.

Wall Street prefers to see risk as the relationship of a stock price to
the overall price of the stock market. Known as beta, the idea goes as follows: if a certain stock goes up in price while the overall stock market increases then Beta is positive. If the price of the stock declines as the price of the overall stock market increases then Beta is negative.

With this naive definition of risk in mind, your stock advisor may suggest that if the price of the overall stock market is going up, then you will be better off purchasing high beta stocks.

But risk should be defined as a level of uncertainty. And the more uncertain you are about what you invest in, the more risk that you take. For example it is risky to marry someone that you know little about. And so to successfully achieve a reasonable return in the stock market, you should be aware of what you do not know.

Risk is dependent on uncertainty. Not unlike the choice to whom you marry.

A suggestion: One of the ways to become knowledgeable about a publicly-traded company is to read its public filings. Visit the investor relations section of their website to read more about the company’s strategy, competition and past operating results.

2. Relative Versus Absolute Comparison

Value in the stock market is measured both by relative and by absolute comparison. An example of a relative valuation is to compare the current price of a stock with the overall price of the stock market. An absolute valuation is when a stock investor buys a stock only if the current earnings multiple is no greater than 10 times the prior year's earnings.

Today the discussion around the purchase of a stock only evolves around relative valuation. How did Samsung perform when compared to Apple. And whether Apple's earnings this year were higher compared to last year. 

Yet the weakness to relative valuation is that there is no maximum price that an investor will pay for a stock. The second concern is that a constant comparison to others promotes short term thinking. One day you feel great because the quoted price of a stock is up. On other days you feel glum because the quoted price is lower. Mood swings do not promote rationale thinking.

A suggestion: Delete from your phone any applications that track on a daily basis the price of your stocks.

3. Money Managers

The story why you would want someone else to manage your money goes like this: You are busy; with so much to do and so little time. And since stock investing requires knowledge, expertise, technical skills and evidently time, you are to trust a mutual fund manager to do the work for you.

But your interest and your manager's interest are not always aligned. Most managers strive to augment the size of their assets they manage. This is because the greater the size of the mutual fund the greater the management fees. But the more capital a mutual fund has, the more the likely it is that its performance will be penalized. Warren Buffet commented on this phenomenon. In his words: 

Our equity capital is more than twenty times what it was only ten years ago. And an iron law of business is what it growth eventually dampens exceptional economics. Just look at the records of high-return companies once they have amassed even $1 billion of equity capital. None that I know of has managed subsequently, over a ten-year period, to keep on earning 20% or more on equity while reinvesting all or substantially all of its earnings.

A suggestion: Refrain from investing in mutual funds where managers have little of their own money invested in the fund. And avoid any manager that charges a management fee higher than 1.0%. You will be better off with a passive investing strategy such as purchasing an exchange traded fund.

4. Speculation Versus Investment

"Investments throw off cash flow for the benefit of the owners," wrote Seth Klarman. "Speculations do not. The return to the owners of speculations depends exclusively on the vagaries of the resale market."

What Klarman suggested is that there are two types of assets: an investment and a speculation. An investment is an asset that yields cash flow (think rental income generated from renting a condo). And speculation is simply any other asset that does not meet the definition. Accordingly, Bitcoin and gold are speculative assets. This implies that when you save for retirement, or for the education of your children, you must buy investments - and not speculate.

Investment is an asset that yields cash flow; Any asset that does not meet this definition is speculative.

A suggestion: How and whether a business generates cash flow should be the first question you ask prior to buying the stock. 

5. The Nature of the Brokerage Business

Just as you would be skeptical of an advice about how to gamble given by a poker table dealer, you should refrain from taking advice from
financial brokers.

The nature of these financial intermediaries is that they are hungry to earn commissions. Read: most brokers prefer a frantic, stock trading behavior than a lethargic one. 

In addition the broker does not know you. Each investor has a specific time horizon, tax situation, risk and return objectives and unique financial circumstances that must be considered prior to making an investing decision. 

A recently-wed couple for example, who would like to purchase their first home in nine months, has a different time line than an individual who would like to invest in the stock market and is not planning to use the funds prior to retirement.   

A suggestion: Stop listening to advice about the investments from people that don't know you.

A Much Better Read Than Your Typical How-to Book

Published on:
April 20, 2018
Last Update:

Lessons#1: Focus

"At Berkshire what counts most are increase in our normalized per-share earning power. That metric is what Charlie Munger, my long-time partner, and I focus on - and we hope that you do, too."

Commentary: Vanity metrics such growth in EBITDA are distracting. And do not translate to an increase in book value over the long term.

Lesson#2: Business is a people’s game

"Betting on people can sometimes be more certain than betting on physical assets."

Commentary: In this quote, found in page 6, The Oracle from Omaha admits he knows little about the manufacturing operations. And had relied instead on the judgement of the CEO of Precision Castparts, Mark Donegan, in acquiring Wilhelm Schultz GmbH, a German maker of corrosion resistant fittings and piping systems. 

Lesson#3: Self Reliance

"Charlie and I never will operate Berkshire in a manner that depends on the kindness of strangers - or even that of friends who may be facing liquidity problems of their own. During the 2008-2009 crisis, we like having Treasury Bills - loads of Treasury Bills - that protected us from having to rely on funding sources such as bank line or commercial paper. We have intentionally constructed Berkshire in a manner that will allow it to withstand economic discontinuities, including such extremes as extended market closures."

Commentary: To sleep well at night, you need to rely on - and to be accountable to - one person: yourself.  

Lesson #4: Judgement

"Amortization charges were an additional $1.3 billion. I believe that in large part this items is not a true economic cost."

Commentary: It is the analyst’s job to understand which accounting conventions represent a true, economic reality.

Lesson #5: Goals

"Berkshire's goal is to substantially increase the earnings of its non-insurance group. For that to happen, we will need to make one or more huge acquisitions."

Commentary: Having clear investment goals is one of the best gift you can give yourself.

Lesson #6: Margin

"Berkshire, itself, provides some vivid example of how price randomness in the short term obscure long-term growth in value. For the last 53 years, the company has built value by reinvesting its earnings and letting compound interest  work its magic. Year by year, we have moved forward. Yet Berkshire shares suffered four truly major dips. Here are the glory details:
March 1973 to January 1975:  High $93 and Low of $38. A 59.1% drop in stock price.
October 2, 1987 to October 27, 1987 as high as $4,250 as low as $2,675. A 37.05% drop in stock price.
June 19, 1998 to March 10, 2000 as high as $80,900 and low as $41,300. A 48.94% drop in stock price.
September 19, 2008 to March 5, 2009 high as $147,000 low as $72,400. A 50.7% drop in stock price.
This table offers the strongest argument I can muster against even using borrower money to own stocks. There is simply no telling how far stocks can fall in short period. Even if your borrowings are small and your positions are not immediately threatened by the plunging market, your mind may well become rattled by scary headlines and breathless commentary. And an unsettled mind will not make good decisions."

Lesson #7: Intelligence

"The bet illuminated another important investment lesson: Though markets are generally rational, they occasionally do crazy things. Seizing the opportunities then offered does not require great intelligence, a degree in economics or a familiarity with Wall Street jargon such as alpha and beta. What investors need instead is an ability to both disregard mob fears or enthusiasm and to focus on a few simple fundamentals. A willingness to look unimaginative for a sustained period - or even to look foolish - is also essential."

Lesson #8: Risk

"Investing is an activity in which consumption today is foregone in an attempt to allow greater consumption at a later date.”Risk" is the possibility that this objective won't be attained."

Lesson #9: Shareholders

"We do not follow the common practice of talking one-on-one with large institutional investors or analysts, treating them instead as we all other shareholders. There is no one more important to us than the shareholder of limited means who trusts us with a substantial portion of his or her savings. As I run the company day-to-day - and I write this letter - that is the shareholder whose image is in my mind."

Commentary: In 1921, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution seeked to end the legal distinctions between men and women. And Berkshire demonstrates how that amendment translates in a corporate setting. I refer to, of course, the Equal Rights Amendment.

Lesson #10: Attention

"After our purchase, however, some very strange things took place in the bond market. By November 2012, our bonds - now with about five years to go before they matured - were selling for 95.7% of their face value. At that price, their annual yield to maturity was less than 1%. Or, to be precise, 0.88%.
Given the pathetic return, our bonds had become a dumb - a really dumb - investment compared to American equities. Over time, the S&P 500 - which mirrors a huge cross-section of American business, appropriately weighted by market value - has earned far more than 10% annually on shareholders' equity (net worth).”
In November 2012, as we considering all this, the cash return from dividends ont he S&P 500 was 2.5% annually, about triple the yield on our U.S. Treasury bond. These dividend payment were almost certain to grow. Beyond that, huge sums were being retained by the companies comprising the 500. These businesses would use their retained earnings to expand their operations and, frequently, to repurchase their shares as well. Either course would, over time, substantially increase earnings-per share. And - as has been the case since 1776 - whatever its problems of the minute, the American economy was going to move forward.
Presented late in 2012 with the extraordinary valuation mismatch between bonds and equities, Protégé and I agreed to sell the bonds we had bought five years earlier and use the proceeds to buy 11,200 Berkshire "B" shares. The result: Girls Inc. of Omaha itself receiving $2,222,279 last month rather than the $1 million it had originally hoped for.

Commentary: Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves said Lord Chesterfield in 1747.

Great Reads About Value Investing

Published on:
December 22, 2017
Last Update:

Standard & Poors 500 Guide 2013

The 2013 guide provides a 10-year operating performance on 500 companies. Forget sifting through annual reports. The balance sheet items and income statement ratios are at your fingertips. And most importantly, the guide allows you to see how a hypothetical investment would materialize now, after a reasonable five-year holding period. This is a mental exercise I enjoy greatly.

The guide is organized alphabetically. So flip through it randomly and come across very different businesses, from firms that provide filters for healthcare and aerospace industries, such as Pall Corporation to companies that underwrite an array of personal and commercial lines of insurance, such as Progressive Corp. In short, the guide offers a unique, bird’s eye glance at the operations of businesses and allows you to test investment concepts.

Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders 1965 to 2014

The last time I read Warren Buffett's letters to shareholders was in 2011. My goal at the time was simply to understand his business lingo. I studied amorphic terms such as “intrinsic value” and “moat” and a bit more technical ones, such “tangible book value,” “earnings per share” and to how to look at depreciation estimates. I learned greatly and so will you. But now my purpose is different.

This time, I will be looking for observations about business. Most of us can recite the clichés: that it is only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked. Or that price is what you pay but value is what you get. But this time, I will be looking for the overlooked, unpopular thoughts and reflections. For example, in 1983 Buffett commented on free market:

We are aware of the pie-expanding argument that says that such activities improve the rationality of the capital allocation process.  We think that this argument is specious and that, on balance, hyperactive equity markets subvert rational capital allocation and act as pie shrinkers.  Adam Smith felt that all noncollusive acts in a free market were guided by an invisible hand that led an economy to maximum progress; our view is that casino-type markets and hair-trigger investment management act as an invisible foot that trips up and slows down a forward-moving economy

Or, in 1994, he commented on the value of macroeconomics in making investment decisions:

We will continue to ignore political and economic forecasts, which are an expensive distraction for many investors and businessmen. Thirty years ago, no one could have foreseen the huge expansion of the Vietnam War, wage and price controls, two oil shocks, the resignation of a president, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a one-day drop in the Dow of 508 points, or  treasury bill yields fluctuating between 2.8% and 17.4%.

By the way, while many authors have written about Buffett’s principles and wisdom, to discover some of the principles for yourself will make you remember them better. But finding enduring principles is really the topic of our next book.

The Intelligent Investor

To rediscover investing principles, I plan to read again Benjamin Graham’s book. His principles endured from the lure of investing in conglomerate companies in the 80s to investing in tech stocks in the late 90s. The same principles, written in the late-40’s, apply to us almost 70 years later. Besides, the principles are pragmatic. I bought shares in Famous Dave and Terra Nitrogen, only because I was looking for companies that Graham would find agreeable to invest in.

At this point, the careful reader would realize that I love financial history. And the Intelligent Investor offers plenty of historical wisdom that is relevant to today's capital markets. Graham discusses how the airline industry, a marvelous discovery that forever changed the way we travel and commerce, proved to be a poor place in which to invest. Using a pen and paper, Graham provides us an overview of market irrationalities throughout the book. 

Yet Graham will leave students of finance unsatisfied. In the Intelligent Investor, he hardly offers valuation formulas, nor provides us with financial statement analyses. For that, we will need to head to the next book choice.   

Security Analysis: Sixth Edition

When I read Security Analysis for the first time, I must have felt the same joy that Darwin experienced when he walked the Galapagos Island for the first time in 1835. Read Security Analysis and you will get a new, profound appreciation of the profession of stock investing. You will realize how each rock must be turned before making a stock purchase; you will see how tricky it is to truly understand financial statements. And besides, it is a very practical read. When I wrote What Rait Financial Taught Me, I based the entire analysis using preferred stock adjustment methods discussed in chapter 14: The theory of preferred stocks.  

Security Analysis focuses on equity and bond investing. And readers may argue that the intense focus on those two asset classes is really its weakness. Our investing world now consists of esoteric asset classes from currency to derivative trading. So, for those who favor the hedgehog over the fox view on investing, the final set of books  will do the trick for you. 

CFA Program Curriculum 2018 Level 1 Volumes 1-6 Box Set

This curriculum includes a wide array of topics, from probability and descriptive statistics to corporate finance issues, such as mergers and acquisitions. The last time I reviewed the level 1 material was in 2010 and because in my day to day work I don't follow macroeconomics nor wealth planning, I could use a refresher.

I view the Level 1 material as a gym for the (financial) mind. Knowing how to value bonds with embedded options and how the theory behind the optimal capital structure works is most likely meaningless in what you do. But it will make you better at what you do.

A word of caution, unless you intend to participate in the CFA program: The price of the curriculum for the six-volume CFA Institute Level 1 curriculum is a hefty $233 price tag. Write to me if you can't afford to register for the program or the curriculum. 

For five individuals, I will contribute 50% of the curriculum costs in 2018. 

Finally, two points of disclosure. First, while I am an active board member of CFA Society of San Diego and a current CFA charter holder, I do not receive any compensation from the CFA Institute. I recommended the level 1 curriculum solely because I think it’s the best resource out there for students and practitioners who are interested in expanding their knowledge in investment management.

Second, if you purchase any of the books using the links above, Amazon pays me up 10% of the proceeds. I donate 100% of these Amazon proceeds. Write to me if you would like to know which charities I support or if you have a specific charity in mind.