Warren Buffett has now been in the business of running Berkshire Hathaway for 53 years, and counting. In his newly released 2017 letter to shareholders, he reminds us why his name has grown over those years to be nearly synonymous with sound business practice here in America and as a master communicator of the money world.
As usual, his latest letter is filled with advice worth heeding. First, as we previewed in December 2017, Buffett shared the final results of the 10-year bet he placed against hedge funds. He won so dramatically that his opponent threw in the towel last May, before the decade was even through. Reflecting on his win, Buffett wrote (emphasis ours):
The bet illuminated another important investment lesson: Though markets are generally rational, they occasionally do crazy things. Seizing the opportunities then offered does not require great intelligence, a degree in economics or a familiarity with Wall Street jargon such as alpha and beta. What investors then need instead is an ability to both disregard mob fears or enthusiasms and to focus on a few simple fundamentals. A willingness to look unimaginative for a sustained period – or even to look foolish – is also essential.
The wager was all the more telling, in that Buffett often bills himself as a person who avoids unnecessary risks. In this year’s letter, for example, he reiterated:
Our aversion to leverage has dampened our returns over the years. But Charlie and I sleep well. Both of us believe it is insane to risk what you have and need in order to obtain what you don’t need. We held this view 50 years ago when we each ran an investment partnership, funded by a few friends and relatives who trusted us. We also hold it today after a million or so ‘partners’ have joined us at Berkshire.
Exactly. This is our perspective at HIG as well. Take care of your clients above all else. Help people focus on their own goals and the financial fundamentals – regardless of what’s hot and what’s not in trending techniques. Excel at these essentials, and the rest will likely take care of itself.