“The individual investor should act consistently as an investor and not as a speculator. This means.....that he should be able to justify every purchase he makes and each price he pays by impersonal, objective reasoning that satisfies him that he is getting more than his money's worth for his purchase.” Ben Graham
“Most of the time common stocks are subject to irrational and excessive price fluctuations in both directions as the consequence of the ingrained tendency of most people to speculate or gamble... to give way to hope, fear and greed.” - Graham on Market Moods
"The one principal that applies to nearly all these so-called "technical approaches" is that one should buy because a stock or the market has gone up and one should sell because it has declined. This is the exact opposite of sound business sense everywhere else, and it is most unlikely that it can lead to lasting success in Wall Street. In our own stock-market experience and observation, extending over 50 years, we have not known a single person who has consistently or lastingly made money by thus "following the market." We do not hesitate to declare that this approach is as fallacious as it is popular." Graham on market Startegy
Childhood Struggles and the Natural Investor
Benjamin Graham was born in London in 1894, the son of an importer. His family migrated to America when Ben was very young and opened an importing business. They did not do well, Graham’s father dying not long after moving to America and his mother losing the family savings in 1907 during an economic crisis.
Destiny had something else for this Genius
Graham was a star student. He managed to get to Columbia University and after graduation, offered a teaching post. However, destiny had somethign else in store for this genius and he took a job as a chalker on Wall Street with Newburger, Henderson and Loeb. It did not took him long when he began doing financial research for the firm and he became a partner in the firm.
Learning the hard way
In 1926, Graham formed an investment partnership with another broker called Jerome Newman. He also started lecturing at night on finance at Columbia, a relationship that was to continue until his retirement in 1956.
The Crash of 1929 almost wiped Graham out but the partnership survived with the assistance of friends and the sale of most of the partners’ personal assets. Graham’s wife was forced to return to work as a dance teacher. Graham was soon back on his feet but he had learned valuable lessons . These lessons build the edifice for the greatest book to be ever written on Investment.
The partnership between Graham and Newman continued until 1956 but never again lost money for its investors, earning an annual return of about 17 per cent.
In 1934, Benjamin Graham together with David Dodd, another Columbia academic, published the classic Security Analysis which has never been out of print. Despite the crash, the book proposed that it was possible to successfully invest in common stocks as long as sound investment principles were applied. Graham and Dodd introduced the concept of ‘intrinsic value’ and the wisdom of buying stocks at a discount to that value. This books has been regarded as the "Bible " for the students of Investments for a decades. However this was just a beginning and the history had yet to unfold another gem written by benjamin.
The Intelligent Investor
The Intelligent Investor was published in 1949, is a widely acclaimed book on investing. Famous investor and billionaire Warren Buffet describes it as "by far the best book on investing ever written".
Ben Graham taught investments for 28 years at Columbia University, and perhaps his success as a professional investor is matched by his success as an academic, which is most unusual. His published works have instructed many thousands of students and, indeed, his strength as an academic is derived from his many years experience on Wall Street.
Understanding Ben Graham's Investment Philosophy
Margin of Safety
"To have a true investment, there must be a true margin of safety. And a true margin of safety is one that can be demonstrated by figures, by persuasive reasoning, and by reference to a body of actual experience" - Benjamin Graham
Graham was most insistent that any security purchased should represent good value. He felt stocks should be bought like groceries, not like perfume, and he distilled his investment philosophy down to just three words, "MARGIN OF SAFETY". By margin of safety, he meant that any stock bought should be worth considerably more than it costs. He sometimes suggested at least 50 percent more. Stocks bought with a margin of safety give some assurance that one has invested wisely. And stocks bought with a margin of safety should be low risk, high return investments.
Selecting Unpopular Stocks If an investor is to do better than average, Graham argued that his or her investment policies should not be popular. He believed that most Wall Street professionals tend to seek out stocks with the best growth prospects and to ignore other stocks. This bias causes unpopular stocks to become undervalued and good buys.
Benjamin Graham’s investment principles
Know the business
The investor needs to become knowledgeable about the business or businesses carried on by the company in which they propose to invest – what it sells, how it operates, what is the competitive environment, what are the threats and opportunities, the strengths and weaknesses.
An investor who bought a fruit shop, or a shoe factory, without investigating these things, and knowing them, would be foolish. The same applies to share investment. An investor who does not understand the business should not be investing in it.
Know who runs the business
An investor who cannot operate the business for himself or herself, needs a manager. This is the position of the average share investor, who owns a share of an enterprise that is run by others.
The owner of a business in this position would want a manager who will manage the business competently, efficiently and honestly. The share investor should not be satisfied with less. Unless the investor believes, through sound research, that the company is managed efficiently, competently and honestly, in the best interests of the shareholders, the investment should not be made.
Invest for profits
An investor would not normally buy a business that did not, on proper research, appear to have reasonable expectations of producing good profits over time. Share investors should take the same approach and buy, as Graham says, "not on optimism, but on arithmetic".
Graham encourages investors to properly research their investments and, if they believe their investment judgment to be sound, to act on it. He cautions investors in this position against listening to others.
"You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right [or wrong] because your data and reasoning are right [or wrong]."
Let's Salute the wisdom of this Investing legend who has been referred to as "Father of Value Investing" for propogating the Investment wisdoms through his everlasting writings.Read More!