A recent article in the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) offers insights from author William Green, whose new book “Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life” chronicles observations and lessons he gathered from discussions with some of the greatest investing minds of our time.
Here are highlights from Green’s comments:
- “If you’re going to be an extraordinary investor, you have to be willing to diverge from the crowd. Doing so requires a certain type of courage, strangeness and idiosyncrasy.” For the average investor, Green suggests they ask themselves, “Am I inclined to panic when the market’s tumbling? Am I inclined to get overexcited or chase into fads when things are going fantastically?”
- In his interviews with investors, Green observed a common thread of contrarianism, both in terms of exhibiting restraint during bullish periods and “getting greedy” during bearish times.
- He references a discussion with Sir John Templeton, who shared the following six guiding principles for investors:
- Beware of emotion
- Beware of your own ignorance
- Diversify broadly
- Be patient
- Focus on assets that have performed poorly over the last 5 years to find bargains
- Don’t chase fads
- “Simplicity, I think, is a master principle in investing and many other areas of life,” Green says, referring to the scientific principle of Occam’s razor–which states that the simple solution is usually the best.
- Discipline, according to Green, “is one of the absolute defining characteristics of the great investors. There’s this almost fanatical discipline.”
- “One of the most important insights that struck me repeatedly in interviewing the greatest investors,” says Green, “is the importance of consciously removing fragility from your portfolio and your life. And one of the best ways to do that is by recognizing first what not to do.” He offers examples of what he called “standard stupidities like buying funds with excessive fees, trading too often so that taxes and expenses eat away at your returns, getting caught up in fads, betting on cyclical stocks at the top of the cycle and investing in companies you don’t understand.”
Green concludes with some general advice: “Investors need a set of core principles that they really believe in and the self-awareness to decide what game they are suited to play. Then they need the discipline to keep plugging away calmly and patiently until they reach that desirable destination.“