You heard me. Wha-woo-Bu-doo? What would Buffett do?
It's a question I've been asking myself more and more over the past few weeks, as the market has gone insane. (OK, more insane than usual.) Up, down, up, down, maybe a little sideways. (It looks a lot like a fishing bobber when a finicky walleye is sizing up the bait. There. I hated to waste that metaphor, but enough of my cornponery.)
Don't look for answers in the financial headlines. "Sell, sell, sell!" That's what I remember from the first week in August, before a cross-country move disconnected me from the Internet news feeds. (Thank all that is holy.) Now that stocks have had a few up days, I see a lot more of "Buy, buy, buy!" If you followed that advice, congrats. You likely sold low and bought back high, probably paying some nice brokerage fees along the way.
In case you're new to this game, that's NOT the path to prosperity.
Of course, there are various routes to stock market riches. Unfortunately, unless you are already rich as sin, all of them require the expenditure of brainpower. Yes, that. Despite my penchant for lazy investing, sometimes this means getting down to some serious number-crunching. At other times, it means stepping back and making a touchier-feelier appraisal of the situation at hand.
Channeling the oracle
Before we begin, let me assure you my Alexandria-to-Omaha mind meld is not just some cheap attempt to get page views. (OK, maybe a little. But ha, made you click!) Just check your nearest bookstore; published attempts to bottle Buffett's wisdom are responsible for the heartless murder of thousands of trees. Everyone tries it, so why not some punk kid (me) who has yet to make it through all the Berkshire letters?
It comes down to this. As a stock investor, I'm just like you. When the market gets manic, and shares of some of your favorite companies, such as my beloved SanDisk
What would Buffett do? When I pose that question to myself, these are the answers I get.
1. Take a chilly with a Dilly
That's right. Chill out for a minute. This is serious stuff, and sometimes the best way to mental clarity is to start with something silly. Do what Buffett does, and take a little trip to the nearest Berkshire Hathaway Dairy Queen for a Dilly Bar and a Coca-Cola
2. Stop acting like a jittery little sissy
Does that sound too harsh? Sorry, but it's time for some tough love. (And if you can't tell yourself to stop with the sissy act, who can?) The problem with jangled nerve syndrome isn't the emotion itself: It's how the emotion can cloud your thinking. When you're staring at red type and shaking like a cat in a rocking chair showroom, all that advice to "Sell Now and Avoid Capital Loss" -- probably from some clown who was telling you to buy everything in sight a week before -- can start to look downright Foolish, but it's not. Take control of the nerves, and move along to the next step.
3. Ignore the market
Yeah, you heard me. Stop staring at the indices. If you're investing in excellent individual companies, as a Fool should, you aren't worried about the short-term popularity contest, nor the broader measure of institutional navel-staring that is the market as a whole. Like Buffett, you shouldn't care if the whole outfit closed down for a year, or a decade. What's that? You haven't been exactly applying the strictest selection criteria to your individual stock picks? Then maybe it's time to take a lesson from step 4.
4. Get back to business
Note, I said business; not stocks, not stock charts. Your share price is just a fleeting opinion of the value of your stake in the thing that matters: the business. If you're really concerned about a big market plunge, or some other macroeconomic trend, ask yourself what it means to the businesses in which you are part-owner.
5. Go shopping
Put down the car keys. I'm not talking about a cleansing trip to the mall. I'm talking about taking a look around the stock market and picking up on some of the recent bargains. I'm one of those people who believes that there are always decent buys out there -- think of McDonald's
Indeed, after months of doom and gloom observations from our own Buffett watchers, even the Oracle himself -- or his company, anyway -- is finding businesses worth buying. A long-punished Pier 1 Importsattracted a pile of Berkshire's investment capital earlier this week.
Personally, I find Pier 1 to be pretty noncompelling. It's too easy for me to imagine the world bubbling along just fine without it or its now-commonplace products. But if I think of emulating Buffett's past habit of picking up on solid, beaten-up brand names -- remember Coca-Cola? -- I come up with a few ideas that pass my own version of Buffettology.
I'm betting that imaging chip provider OmniVision Technologies
Motley Fool Stock Advisor
pick Marvel Enterprises
What should you do? Most importantly, don't let that little panicky segment of your psyche take charge. Investing is not an endeavor where success is measured in weeks or months. It will take years to realize your financial future: You owe it to yourself to stop, think, and emulate one of the greats. You may not be as smart, charming, funny, or buff as Buffett, but if you try to channel his spirit of patience, perseverance, and deliberation, you'll almost certainly do better than the herd.
If you're interested in Foolish frugality, you might want to take a free trial of Fool community member-turned advisor Philip Durell's Inside Value .
Having been too lazy to run a paper route in his youth, Seth Jayson knows he doesn't make a great Warren Buffett, but he's pretty sure the big guy would agree with most of what he's written here. He owns shares of Marvel, FARO, SanDisk, Nokia, and long Nokia calls. View his Fool profile here. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.