Monday, 19 January 2015

A creditable, if unspectacular, result can be achieved by the lay investor with a minimum of effort and capability.

One thing badly needed by investors - and a quality they rarely seem to have - is a sense of financial history.  In nine companies out of ten the factor of fluctuation has been a more dominant and important consideration in the matter of investment than has the factor of long-term growth or decline.

Yet the market tends to greet each upsurge as if it were the beginning of an endless growth and each decline in earnings as if it presaged ultimate extinction.

Investments may be soundly made with either of two alternative intentions:

(a)  to carry them determinedly through the fluctuations that are reasonably to be expected in the future, or
(b) to take advantage of such fluctuations by buying when confidence and prices are low and by selling when both are high.

Neither policy can be followed with intelligence unless the investor, or his adviser, has a broad comprehension of the effects of the economic alternations of the past, and unless he takes them fully into account in planning to meet the future.

The art of investment has one characteristic which is not generally appreciated.  A creditable, if unspectacular, result can be achieved by the lay investor with a minimum of effort and capability, but to improve this easily attainable standard requires much application and more than a trace of wisdom.  If you merely try to bring just a little extra knowledge and cleverness to bear upon your investment program, instead of realizing a little better than normal results, you may well find that you have done worse.

Since anyone - by just buying and holding a representative list - can equal the performance of the market averages, it would seem a comparatively simple matter to "beat the averages"' but as a matter of fact the proportion of smart people who try this and fail is surprisingly large.

Even many of the investment funds, with all their experienced personnel, have not performed as well over the years as has the general market.

Allied to the foregoing is the record of the published stock-market predictions of the brokerage houses, for there is strong evidence that their calculated forecasts have been somewhat less reliable than the simple tossing of a coin.

Benjamin Graham
Intelligent Investor

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