Warren Buffett, in a public media interview, openly stated that making money in the stock market is actually super simple; it’s just that 90% of investors haven’t found the right approach.
Read How Buffett Explain
In the beginning, I too went in the wrong direction, but once I learned this truth, making money became simple. Here’s how he explained it:
In 1942, I took all my savings, $114.75, and bought three shares of preferred stock in a well-known company called City Service Company. It ranked as the fourth-largest company in the United States based on the number of shareholders. The stock price was $38 at the time, and during the Great Depression, the company had stopped paying dividends. However, its cumulative dividends amounted to $60-70. Every morning during breakfast, I would pay attention to the stock, read related materials, and keep an eye on the overall market.
By the time I was 11 years old, I had read all the books about the stock market available in the library. Some books I even read twice. I even studied in detail the processing mechanisms behind trade orders.
Initially, like most people, I picked stocks when I first entered the stock market. But my thinking was entirely wrong; I observed the ups and downs of stocks, thinking that stocks were only about rising and falling, and even drew charts for it. I read books on technical analysis, such as those by Edwards and Magee, which I thought were the most classic works at the time. I read them over and over, hundreds of pages at a time. I also read Garfield.
In the first eight years of my investment career, I read everything. I thought the most important thing in investing was forecasting, predicting what a stock would do, and predicting how the stock market would move.
Benjamin Graham Changed Buffett Forever
However, when I was 19 or 20, I read a book by Graham. I realized that my previous approach was completely wrong, but my background in technical analysis didn’t prevent me from changing my mindset. After reading “The Intelligent Investor,” I stopped buying stocks, and I started buying businesses, albeit publicly traded ones.
I became the owner of businesses, and I didn’t care whether a stock would rise or fall next week, next month, or next year. I didn’t know how the stock market would change, but I understood the business. I don’t consider myself a so-called investing genius; I’m just infinitely interested in investing, so I’ve been doing it all my life.
No Need High IQ In Order to Invest in Stock
Investing is not actually difficult; anyone can do it, and do it well. You don’t need to be a highly intelligent genius; you might need an IQ of 120, but someone with an IQ of 170 won’t necessarily do better than someone with an IQ of 120; in fact, they might do worse. Investing doesn’t require a genius mind; it requires the right direction. 90% of people don’t think in the right way; all they want is a stock that will go up in the market next week. If the stock goes down, they feel terrible, whereas I feel even better.
What I seek is the value of a company 10 or 20 years from now. I hope the stock price will decline when I buy because then I can buy more, and I know over time I will beat others. If you understand this truth, investing is a very, very simple thing.
What Does Buffett Actually Mean?
Here’s a simple summary of what Buffett meant: In the stock market, don’t just focus on trading stocks; remember that stocks represent ownership in companies. So, you should see yourself as a capitalist, buying businesses that happen to trade publicly as stocks. If you understand the essence of investing, making money becomes straightforward.
Since you’re buying businesses, don’t expect immediate profits. A business takes time to make money. True investors don’t engage in short-term trading. Instead, they embrace price declines in stocks they like because it allows them to buy more.
Buffett seeks the value of a company 10 or 20 years ahead and is content with the stock price going down when he buys since it gives him an opportunity to accumulate more. Over time, he believes he’ll outperform others.
Buffett’s impressive track record indeed shows that he has outperformed 99.99% of the market. Most investors struggle to achieve such consistent success. Many people claim to follow his value investing philosophy but often engage in short-term speculation instead.
Being a successful value investor requires patience and the ability to think long-term. It’s not a skill that can be easily learned; some people are naturally suited for it. Most investors are short-term thinkers and lack the patience required for value investing.
Buffett’s success is a result of compounding over time, which demonstrates the power of long-term investing. He may not achieve high returns every year, but his wealth accumulation over several decades is impressive.
Ultimately, Buffett’s message is that 90% of investors lack the right approach. Finding the correct direction is crucial for success in the stock market. If you want to make money from investing, it’s essential to stay on the right path.
So everyone must distinguish between luck and ability. Of course, I’m not saying that speculation is wrong and only investment is right. In the stock market, there are indeed speculation masters, like the famous James Simons, whose hedge fund has achieved outstanding performance. However, his fund is not managed by humans but by computers.
His approach is quantitative investing, where all buying and selling decisions are made based on computer algorithms. This strategy is feasible because computers are emotionless and can overcome human weaknesses. His investment style is often referred to as “gecko-style quantitative investing,” focusing on short-term arbitrage and frequent trading.
Like a gecko quietly waiting on a wall until a mosquito appears, then swiftly catching and eating it before returning to a calm state, he captures fleeting opportunities in the market. Although gecko-style quantitative investing involves short-term trading, it is not about heavy speculation and quick in-and-out trades like some speculative players in the market.
In public interviews, Simons mentioned that his fund makes over 10,000 trades per day, and the position of each stock in the portfolio changes every other day on average. On average, a portfolio holds 2,500-3,000 different stocks. High-frequency trading is not guided by intuition but relies on mathematical and statistical models, which explains his success in the speculative game of the stock market.
Speculation is a zero-sum game, where your gains are someone else’s losses. To win, you must eliminate other speculators. In this zero-sum battlefield, human traders cannot compete with machines because humans have emotions, while machines do not. Moreover, humans cannot simultaneously operate over 2,000 stocks to capture fleeting profit opportunities through high-frequency trading.
In this zero-sum game, machines ultimately prevail. If you want to speculate successfully, you must take the path of quantitative trading. However, this path is now crowded as many players have entered the field, leading many American quant funds to make little profit.
In the end, everyone is trading with computers, and this remains a zero-sum game. To profit, one must ensure their models are superior to others, which is not an easy task as Wall Street is full of smart people.
For most ordinary investors, the path of quantitative trading is not viable due to its high barriers. Only Buffett’s value investing approach remains practical.
In essence, value investors make money from the growth of companies, not from other investors in the stock market. Therefore, it is not a zero-sum game, and this strategy can withstand the test of time. As long as capitalism exists, value investing will remain effective because value investors are essentially capitalists.
Quotes by Buffett
Finally, I’d like to share some insightful quotes from Buffett:
“If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.”
“You’re Neither Right nor Wrong Because People Agree With You or Disagree.”
“When someone forces you to break through yourself, be grateful to them. They are your mentors in life. Perhaps you will change and transform because of them. When no one forces you, force yourself, because true change comes from within, and the process of transformation can be painful, but each transformation brings surprises of growth.”
“To make thorough changes, it doesn’t entirely depend on how much time you spend, but more on whether you have put your heart into it and found the right methods.”
“You need a temperament that can remain calm and composed, both in a crowd and in solitude. Regardless of others’ attitudes, it shouldn’t affect your decisions. You make decisions based on facts and your own judgment.”
“No matter how talented you are and how hard you work, some things take time. You can’t make nine women have a baby in a month.”
“If you can’t patiently listen to criticism, you won’t be able to accept new things.”
“Investing must be rational; if you don’t understand it, don’t do it.”
“To succeed in the stock market, you must eliminate your human nature. Sell when others are greedy, and buy when others are fearful.”
“To become the best, learn from the best.”