“Wait until you get a pitch right where you want it!”

One of the most successful investors in history received the only A+ from Professor Benjamin Graham (of Graham and Dodd “Security Analysis” fame) at Columbia: the chairman and chief executive officer at Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., which traded as low as $38 per share in the early 1970s and now trades around $219,000 per share. If you haven’t guessed who by now, it’s Warren Buffett. How does he do it? Well, the following are excerpts from financial media interviews back in the late 1980s:

“The most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect. You don’t need tons of IQ in this business. You don’t have to be able to play three dimensional chess or duplicate bridge. You need a temperament that neither derives great pleasure from being with the crowd or against the crowd. You know you’re right, not because of the position of others, but because your facts and your reasoning are right. . . . Most investors do not really think of themselves as owning a piece of the business. The real test of whether you are investing from a value standpoint or not is whether you care if the stock market opens tomorrow. If you’ve made a good investment, it shouldn’t bother you if they close down the stock market for five years. You own a piece of business at the right price and that’s what’s working for you. . . . In 30 years of investing I have never bought a technology company. I don’t have to make money in every game. There all kinds of things I don’t know about—like cocoa beans. But, so what! I don’t have to know about everything. The securities business is the perfect business. Every day you literally have thousands of the major American corporations offered you at a price, and a price that changes daily, and nothing is forced upon you. There are no called strikes in the business. The pitcher just stands there and throws balls at you and you can let as many go by as you want without a penalty. In real baseball, if the ball is between the knees and the shoulders, you either swing or you get a strike called on you. If you get three strikes, you’re called out. In the securities business, you stand there and they throw U.S. Steel at $28 and General Motors at $80, and you don’t have to swing at any of them. They may be wonderful pitches, but if you don’t know enough, you don’t have to swing. And you can stand there and watch thousands of pitches, and finally you get one right there where you want it, something that you understand and is priced right – and then you swing . . .”

 

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