No matter how inexperienced you may be when it comes to the stock market, chances are you've heard of Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett, nicknamed the "Oracle of Omaha," is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-B)(NYSE:BRK-A) and is one of the most famous investors of all time. In the past, I have written about Buffett and his investing methodology:
While Buffett has used many different techniques and strategies to make money, I was interested in the most basic theme of his investment philosophy: Value investing.
The idea behind value investing is to identify quality companies whose stocks are trading at a lower price than they should be for a temporary reason or for no apparent reason at all. Value investing is based on the belief that the stock market eventually values companies appropriately and that temporary fluctuations in stock price will correct themselves over time.
It certainly sounds simple enough, and I like simple. Buffett has consistently used the following strategy: Identify companies that are undervalued, buy shares, wait, and sell them when their market value has increased.
To say this strategy has worked for him would be an understatement, as Buffett is currently ranked the worlds forth richest person according to Forbes. But there's no way that the great Warren Buffett, who is a notorious philanthropist, would be after your money, right? Don't be so sure.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Over the years, Buffett's success has inspired many imitators that focus on identifying undervalued companies. However, many of these imitators fall short of Buffett-like success, and it has nothing to do with the companies they choose or the shares that they buy.
It has to do with the next step in Buffett's process: The waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
One of my favorite Buffett quotes is, "The stock market is a device for transferring money from the impatient to the patient." The pitfall of many investors is that they want profits, and they want them fast! With the hundreds of tickers scrolling feverishly across the TV screen all day every day, you'd think all of us could be rich by the end of the week if we just picked the right stocks to buy, right?
Buffett wins the waiting game
Unfortunately, the market is not as efficient as we'd like to think, and often undervalued companies can remain undervalued for months and even years at a time.
For example, one of Buffett's most profitable investments over the years was the Washington Post. Buffett took his initial position in the Washington Post in 1973 for $10 million. Incredibly, by 2004, Buffett had an unrealized gain of $1.7 billion on the position. With 30 years of hindsight, this buy is clearly one of the greatest purchases of all time. However, about a year after his initial investment, he had endured a 20% unrealized loss on the position.
In fact, it wasn't until 1976, three years after the initial purchase, that Buffett made it comfortably above water on the purchase.
A more recent example of Buffett's patience and foresight is his purchase of Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) warrants in August of 2011. The warrants were part of a $5 billion investment in Bank of America and can be redeemed by Berkshire Hathaway at any point before 2021, allowing the company to buy 700 million shares of Bank of America stock at a price of $7.14 per share.
When the deal was announced, shares of Bank of America were trading at $6.88 per share. By December, 2011, shares of B of A had dropped under $5.00 per share, a price that was more than 30% below the purchase price guaranteed by the warrants.
However, more than two years later, with Bank of America shares now trading above $15 per share, Buffett's warrants look like yet another grand slam for the Oracle of Omaha.
It (literally) pays to be patient
Many investors are aware that patience is an important part of success in the stock market. They realize that part of making money is waiting for share prices to climb. But can you wait four months? Can you wait three years? Longer?
If you aren't prepared to be patient and give the market as much time as it needs to adjust, Warren Buffett just might be taking your money. And I might be taking it too!
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Wayne Duggan owns shares of Bank of America.
His book, Beating Wall Street with Common Sense, is now available on Amazon and contains an entire chapter devoted to explaining the mysteries of value investing. And, of course, my website tradingcommonsense.com is always available on your local Internet!
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