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John Mauldin - Buffett’s Annual Letter: What You Can Learn from My Real Estate Investments

February 27, 2014 | About:

Buffett’s annual letter: What you can learn from my real estate investments

John Mauldin

February 26, 2014

It does not hurt to be reminded once in a while about what it means to be a “true investor,” and who better to remind us than Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio)? Today’s Outside the Box comes to us from the pages of Fortune magazine (hat tip to my good friend Tom Romero of Capital Research Partners, who is a pretty fair investor in his own right).

Fortune seems to have had the inside scoop on Mr. Buffett’s pronouncements over the years. I still keep some old Fortune magazines with interviews of Mr. Buffett to remind myself about the basics. For whatever reason I was up at 5 o’clock this morning and began reading this piece, and it functioned just as well as coffee as a wake-up call.

Warren starts off by telling us the stories of two relatively minor real estate investments he made, one in the ’80s and the other in the ’90s, but where he’s going is straight to the heart of some fundamental investing principles.

Most of us get all wrapped up, from time to time, in the daily or weekly movements of our investments; but Warren wants us to remember that “Games are won by players who focus on the playing field – not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard. If you can enjoy Saturdays and Sundays without looking at stock prices, give it a try on weekdays.”

Easier said than done; but he’s right, of course. Now, it’s certainly OK dwell at length on the macroeconomic big picture, right? I mean, that’s half my fun most days! No, says Warren,

Forming macro opinions or listening to the macro or market predictions of others is a waste of time. Indeed, it is dangerous because it may blur your vision of the facts that are truly important. (When I hear TV commentators glibly opine on what the market will do next, I am reminded of Mickey Mantle's scathing comment: “You don't know how easy this game is until you get into that broadcasting booth.”)

So Warren wants our feet planted squarely on the field of play; he doesn’t want us up in the stands or, heaven forbid, watching the game on TV. And forget reading some commentator’s analysis of yesterday’s game or his take on the rest of the season!

Well, OK. So if this is the last Outside the Box or Thoughts from the Frontline you ever read, at least I got you this far, right?

But read on, and be sure not to miss Warren’s very pithy (and timely!) quotation from the late Barton Biggs.

And let me point out that when Warren suggests a future portfolio of 90% S&P index funds, he is talking about very, very long-term portfolio design and not something that retirees who need income or have a shorter-term focus (less than multiple decades) should be thinking about.

And to be fair, Buffet’s process of choosing which investments to put into his portfolio would not allow him to end up with very many components of the S&P 500. So I don’t share his bias against active management, though I have to agree that most of what passes for active management is problematic. But there is a lot we need to remember and ponder in Buffett’s Benjamin Graham old-style value investing.

I have never met the man, but I would like to. I think we might have more in common than some readers would imagine. Including hamburgers.

Continue reading here.

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