My Partner Is Much Richer Than I Am – So Why Don’t I Invest Like He Does?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

 

Delray Beach, FL.- Bill Bonner (partner/mentor/friend) made a massive fortune by investing 80% of his time and money in a single business. He is a cautious investor. But he’s also – from my perspective – a very courageous and committed investor. He sticks to one thing.

 

I’ve made my fortune, less impressive than Bill’s, by hedging my bets. I invest 80% of my time but less than half of my investible income on my main business. The rest is in proven, income-producing assets that grow without much prodding from me.

 

I don’t regret investing the way I do. Had I followed Bill’s path, my net worth might have been only a fraction of what it is today.

 

It comes down to this: To my mind, the most important factor in investment success has to do with psychology. Not the market’s insane psychology, but my own. That’s what I was thinking while reading an interview with Aswath Damodaran, a finance professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, in Forbes recently.

 

I liked this bit particularly:

 

I tell people that the person you have to understand best to be a good investor is yourself. It’s not enough to understand what Warren Buffett does and [what] Peter Lynch does. It might surprise people, [but] I spend very little time reading investment books…

 

We live in a Google Search world. People think that if they search long enough, they can [find] answers to their questions, when in fact what they need to do is to stop and think about the questions and think through their answers.

 

We need to own our own investment philosophies. We need to think through what we think about markets.

 

If you have a deep understanding of macroeconomics, the investment markets, and you are a courageous and committed investor, you should invest the way Bill does. But if you have only a superficial understanding of those worlds and limited confidence, you may be better taking my approach: Work your ass off, focus on income, favor investments that you understand, and employ the three cardinal rules of investment safety: diversification, position sizing, and stop-loss strategies.

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Are You Top Dog….Or Second Banana?

Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett’s right-hand man. And one of the richest men in the world. As vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Munger has a net worth of $2.4 billion (according to Forbes).

Most people recognize Warren Buffett’s name, but few know his very talented partner. Does that minimize Charlie Munger’s wealth or success? Absolutely not.

It may sometimes seem like I’m always pushing you in the direction of becoming No. 1 – of having your own business and being your own boss. And I won’t deny that I spend a lot of time talking about the advantages of entrepreneurship and equity. But some people are better off as No. 2.

In my career, I’ve been both. There’ve been times when I’ve been the unknown No. 2 in a business someone else started. I’ve also been No. 1 in businesses I started myself. But whenever I’ve been the head honcho, I’ve installed a CEO as fast as I could. That’s because I firmly believe that almost any business will do better if it is run by two people.

One person should have the majority of power. But he needs a partner (or sometimes two partners) he can rely on to do things that he can’t do as top dog. He needs a partner to balance out his personality, to excel in the areas where he is weak. If you can provide these skills to the person who owns the business you work for, you can make an extremely good career for yourself as No. 2.

Now I’m not talking about being an assistant. I’m talking about being a full-fledged partner – someone with almost as much power and influence as the No. 1 guy, but with slightly less equity in the business. In fact, being No. 2 can be a fantastic deal for chicken entrepreneurs and ambitious career execs who want the benefits of being the head of a business without having to invest as much time or money as No. 1.

Your goal is probably to be the one on top. If so, that’s fine – because what we are helping you do with ETR will put you there. But realize that it’s possible to have more success, make more money, achieve more, and more fully enjoy your life’s work in the No. 2 position.

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Discovering Warren Buffet’s Secret

During my trip to South Africa and Australia last year, my business partner Bill Bonner and I had a conversation that should interest you. For those of you who don’t know, Bill and I worked together to found Agora publishing.

We were speaking about our company’s future. Right now, Agora is a $400-plus million publishing business with high profitability and good growth. By any conventional standards, it is a great business. But Bill is not satisfied. His goal is to make Agora a business that will last a hundred years. Very few businesses are able to do that.

To accomplish Bill’s goal, Agora will have to develop what Warren Buffet calls a “long-term, durable competitive advantage.”

Coca-Cola is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Coca-Cola has been selling the same product since 1892. It spent money inventing its core product over one hundred years ago. Today, it spends very little money on research and development. It also has low manufacturing costs, since the machinery required to make Coke rarely needs updating.

These factors give Coca-Cola a big, long-term advantage. They can devote all the money they don’t spend on research, development, and manufacturing to marketing. That is how Coca-Cola stays way ahead of its competition.

This got me thinking about investing. Coca-Cola is one of the companies that Warren Buffet invested in many years ago. After losing money by investing in some speculative opportunities, Buffett realized he would be much better off investing in businesses that were more established and had distinct competitive advantages—businesses like Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, and American Express. Berkshire Hathaway, his holding company, owns these kinds of companies. He buys them and holds them. If their share prices drop, he doesn’t sell them. He buys more shares. His goal is not year-by-year profits, but owning more and more shares of great companies.

This strategy is very different from what most professional investors use. Yet, it works. In fact, it works very well. Everyone acknowledges that Buffet is the most successful investor in history.

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Obama Versus Romney Who Will Win? And Does It Matter?

Over the past several weeks, readers have expressed their interest in the upcoming presidential election and its impact on America’s future. More particularly, many readers see this election as a contest between freedom and capitalism and some newfangled version of socialism… and they are worried that if Obama wins, they will become a lot poorer.

Well, here’s what I think. As far as your financial future is concerned, it doesn’t matter who is elected. Despite differences in ideology and rhetoric, our next president will take essentially the same path in terms of “saving” the economy.

I’m not saying that there is no difference between the candidates’ economic views. Obama wants to redistribute wealth. Romney wants to diminish social spending. But neither of them will make much long-term headway at realizing their ambitions. What they will succeed at is what both Republicans and Democrats have been doing nonstop since World War II: expanding the federal government by increasing its debt.

I’m not an economist. In analyzing our country’s economic policies, I take a businessman’s perspective. Businesses have many goals, some altruistic and some selfish, but they are all ruled by the logic of the balance sheet. Without a positive balance sheet, no business can last.

The Economy Is Out of Control

Our economy, I’m sure we can agree, is in ruins, and our federal government has unprecedented levels of debt. On top of our outstanding debts, we keep spending more money than we’re taking in. But only a partisan fool would suggest that this is due to Obama. The national balance sheet was already $9.9 trillion in the red when he took office. He has done a good job of pumping that up to $15.9 trillion. But had McCain been elected in 2008 we would be in roughly the same place.

The reason for that is simple. Every modern-day president knows that his only chance of being elected or re-elected depends on the economy. If the electorate believes that the president is “doing a good job” with the economy, it will re-elect him. If it believes he has made things worse, it will elect his opponent, who will be arguing that he can fix it.

But today there is no way to fix the economy.

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