Saturday, 31 October 2015

Blinded by Buffett: Why Buffett May Have Done More Harm than Good to Stock Investors

When it comes to stock investing, the one name which commands most admiration is Warren Buffett. Indeed, Buffett is the greatest investor that stock markets over the world have witnessed, yet he may have done more harm than good to stock investors.

Swarms of investors—both new and experienced—live by Buffett's wisdom. In this process they tend to apply his tenets of investing, about which they come to know through the annual reports of Berkshire Hathaway. Mountains of books have been written on Buffett's style, the primary source of which is again his speeches in Berkshire's annual letters.

Assuming that the content about Buffett in circulation is correct, the problem with aping Buffett's methods remains that most people can't imitate them. Take the concept of “moats,” for example. A moat is a company that has some competitive advantage that can't be encroached upon. Novice investors, and for this matter even experts, don't have an idea of how to find out moats. I have seen people interpreting just anything as a moat and then feeling proud of their intelligence. Though the stock price keeps sliding due to lower profitability, the “value investor” keeps clinging to the stock in the hope that it's a multi-bagger with some “temporary” problem.

The availability of role models, like Buffett, is both a good and a bad thing. Sure we all can learn something from our role models. However, when we try to imitate them, we may not succeed. What works in the stock market is originality and a well-crafted stock strategy that you can stick to. You must find your own winning formula. There are multiple ways in which you can make money in the market, so you need to find one that works for you. What worked for Buffett may not work for us, for we don't have his mind.

Neither do you need to set Buffett as your benchmark. Most small stock investors buy just a few shares of a company, unlike Buffett, who buys the entire company. Though his investment track record may be enviable, yet you should aim at getting “good” returns rather than “Buffett-like” returns. This simple change in mindset will increase the chances of your success manifold. 

The simpler your approach is the better it is. Complex models and methods are not only difficult to implement, the market also doesn't care about what method you are using. We need not be Buffett;  we can succeed in the market being ourselves and following our methods as well.

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