Warren Buffett is among the world's most successful investors as demonstrated by his $113 billion net worth. He's also the chairman and CEO of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, which owns more than 60 companies. He made his first stock buy at age 11 and now has 80 years of profitable investing experience on his resume.
Buffett is a value investor, which means he seeks out companies that are trading below their intrinsic value. That sounds simpler than it is. The approach relies on seeing profit potential that others don't.
As a novice investor, finding investable diamonds in the rough may not be a skill you have -- or want. And that's OK because there are other, simpler ways to imitate Buffett and better your own investing performance. Here are two novice-friendly strategies you can copy from Buffett, plus one you should avoid.
Do this: Buy companies you know
"Never invest in a business you cannot understand." -- Warren Buffett
A working knowledge of a company's products and business model helps you make better decisions about buying and holding that company's stock. You'll also reduce the role luck must play in your success.
Things you should understand before investing in a stock:
- How the company makes money.
- Who the customers and competitors are.
- What internal and external factors pose a threat to the company's profit potential.
You can find this information by reading analyst reports. The company should also cover these points in its own reporting, but reviewing multiple, even conflicting analyst opinions gives you a broader perspective.
Note that narrowing your field of investable stocks could lead you to miss potentially great opportunities. This happened to Buffett, who passed on the Google IPO, now trading as parent company Alphabet (GOOG -1.22%). Still, Buffett has done well without an investment in a business model he didn't grasp -- and you can too.
Do this: Don't watch the market too closely
In a 2016 interview, Buffett had this advice for investors when the market is rocky: "I would tell them don't watch the market too closely."
Buffett practices buy-and-hold investing, meaning he prefers investing in good companies that he can keep for decades. To do this, you must differentiate between temporary and fundamental changes in a stock's performance.
A down market is temporary. Do nothing and the downturn will likely be irrelevant in 10 years, as the market will recover and your stocks should return to growth. But watch every dip and blip and you may decide that selling is your best option. Unfortunately, the result of selling in a downturn is that you part with good stocks for rock-bottom prices.
Solid companies can power through downturns and come out stronger on the other side. Use Buffett's advice, keeping your distance from financial news, to manage the emotions that arise with tough markets and stay committed to your investing plan.
Don't do this: Hold a few good stocks
"Diversification is protection against ignorance." -- Warren Buffett
One stock -- Apple (AAPL -0.60%) -- comprises more than 40% of Berkshire Hathaway's stock portfolio. That flies in the face of conventional advice to diversify your holdings into 20 or more stocks.
Diversification spreads your risk across multiple positions, so that no one of them can break you. From Buffett's perspective, diversification is only useful if you don't understand the companies you own. That makes sense coming from someone whose nickname is "Oracle of Omaha." The rest of us, who have lower levels of business and investing skill, could benefit from protection against what we don't know and can't predict.
In truth, concentrating your wealth in a few positions can create higher returns -- but only if your stocks are mostly winners. That's a calculated risk you might take later when you've gained more investing experience and confidence. For now, diversify even if Buffett doesn't.
Novice investing lessons from Buffett
Buy stocks you know and hold them through hard times even if you must disconnect from market news temporarily. Accept the role diversification can play in your young investing career. Yes, it's protection from what you don't know, but that's important. An early mistake could dissuade you from investing forever. You can always change course later -- but only if you're still in the game.