Warren Buffett's long-term approach has allowed Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRKB)(NYSE:BRKA) book value to grow by a compounded 19.7% annually over the past 49 years, and in the process, that's translated into an impressive 17.6% annual return for his investors since 1977. Clearly, Warren Buffett knows a thing or two about investing success, and fortunately, he isn't shy about sharing the secrets he's learned over the years. His annual reports to investors are packed with folksy investing wisdom, including these gems, each of which could help make you a more successful investor in 2017.
No. 1: Quality over quantity
It's better to have a partial interest in the Hope diamond than to own all of a rhinestone. -- Warren Buffett in 2013
The Hope diamond is a 45-carat blue diamond that's so rare and beautiful that it's among the most valuable jewels in the world. You can't buy the Hope diamond (it's been on display at the Smithsonian since 1958), but if it were for sale, then owning even a tiny fraction of it would be more valuable than owning 100% of a common rhinestone.
While Warren Buffett prefers buying companies outright, he recognizes that some great companies simply aren't for sale. In those cases, rather than settle for second best, Buffett's willing to own a partial interest in them. That quality-first mindset is something that every investor ought to embrace.
No. 2: Accept uncertainty
Long ago, Charlie [Munger] laid out his strongest ambition: All I want to know is where I'm going to die, so I'll never go there. -- Warren Buffett in 2009
This joke highlight the fact that, even though Warren Buffett does his homework before he buys a stock, not even Warren Buffett knows what's going to happen in the future. Like most things in life, stocks can be unpredictable, and despite your best efforts, decisions will be based on assumptions that may or may not pan out.
No. 3: Cash is king
We will never become dependent on the kindness of strangers. Too-big-to-fail is not a fallback. -- Warren Buffett in 2009
Warren's cash stockpile is legendary, and while that cash can hold back his returns sometimes, it protects him when markets sour, and importantly, it gives him the financial flexibility to take action and buy when prices are right. That's a winning combination that suggests all investors ought to keep some of their money in cash.
No. 4: Avoid inaction
We would rather suffer the visible costs of a few bad decisions than incur the many invisible costs that come from decisions made too slowly -- or not at all -- because of a stifling bureaucracy. -- Warren Buffett in 2009
Warren Buffett doesn't hesitate when he's presented with an idea that hits the mark. He recognizes that he won't be right every time, but he also believes that taking action is critical to realizing the potential of an opportunity. Ultimately, having the confidence to take action is as important as doing due diligence.
No. 5: Eyes on the prize
Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies. And if they insist on trying to time their participation in equities, they should try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful. -- Warren Buffett in 2004
Rather than being swayed by the market's inevitable pops and drops, Warren Buffett concentrates on his investment discipline. A healthy cash position and a long-term mindset gives him the confidence necessary to avoid chasing stocks higher, and it gives him the flexibility to profit when markets fall. However, Warren Buffett's success is due more to his consistency in following his discipline, not attempting to time the market.
No. 6: Pick your spot
Berkshire has no "exit strategy." We buy to keep. We do, though, have an entrance strategy, looking for businesses in this country or abroad ... available at a price that will produce a reasonable return. -- Buffett in 2005
Warren Buffett is willing to pay a fair price to invest in great businesses. Sometimes, he'll get a big bargain, as he did in the Great Recession when he picked up bank stocks for a song. Other times, he pays market value, if he thinks he can generate a solid return. By considering the importance of entry point more than exit point, Warren Buffett can control his risk.