Charlie Munger is Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a close friend of Warren Buffett. Buffett has earned a reputation as a super-successful value investor with a contrarian touch, but Charlie Munger is also an avid follower of the value investing philosophy.
He previously ran his own investment partnership in the 1960s and 1970s and later became chairman of Wesco Financial Corporation, now part of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway corporate empire.
What makes them so alike is how they approach the complex topic of investing. Their approach to value investing is refreshingly sound and easy to emulate. That's right: Everyone can read up on investing, learn about the importance of understanding financial statements when valuing businesses, and follow classic value investing principles such as "staying away from trading" and "investing in quality companies."
Let's take a look at three crucial things Munger can teach us.
1. Read a lot, read intentionally
Sometimes it can be as simple as that: If you want to expand your knowledge base and increase your circle of competence, you've got to read a lot, proactively seek out new ideas, and be willing to be proven wrong. Education is a constant process, and if you enjoy reading in the first place, the thirst for knowledge should serve you well.
Reading does not only pertain to annual and quarterly company reports, but also industry research, newspapers, magazines, and books of a wide range of topics.
Or take it from Munger himself, who stated: "In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time -- none, zero. You'd be amazed at how much Warren reads -- at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I'm a book with a couple of legs sticking out."
2. Be a contrarian, sometimes
There are really only two positions you can take when it comes to investing: With or against the crowd.
Most people go with the crowd (that is why its called crowd in the first place) and buy stocks everybody else buys. However, successful investors have no problem going against the flow and taking a controversial stance.
If you are actively investing, you need to discount the obvious and make a bet on the unexpected. This is how money is ultimately made in the stock market -- although, of course there is always going to be the risk that you're wrong. But when you've got a powerful thesis that the market is undervaluing, there is opportunity.
Munger phrased it differently, but nonetheless hit the nail on the head: "And the wise ones bet heavily when the world offers them that opportunity. They bet big when they have the odds. And the rest of the time, they don't. It's just that simple."
3. Work for people you admire
Of all the information I have gathered about Munger and his way of thinking, this piece of advice clearly stands out.
If you are looking for success in investing or in any other area of your life, you've got to work for people you admire and you would want to be like. If you seek out a certain group of people, you will eventually gravitate in the same direction they do.
In Charlie Munger's original words: "Avoid working directly under somebody you don't admire and don't want to be like."
Munger's willingness to share his investing wisdom as one of two super-investors of Berkshire Hathaway is a big win for investors who look for straightforward investing guidance and who want to emulate his investment success.
The Foolish bottom line
In a world of constant noise and pressure to be active, it is refreshing to see people like Munger and Buffett, who stay true to their beliefs -- the buy-and-hold, value investing philosophy.
Investors can learn a lot from Munger and his calm, reflected, and common-sense approach to investing as well as life. Remember: You don't have to be a billionaire to invest like one.
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