Monday, 30 October 2017

Warren Buffett's Ground Rules (Words of Wisdom from the Partnership)

Warren Buffett set some ground rules for those who joined his earliest partnership in Omaha.  The new partners were each carefully taken through the ground rules.

"These ground rules are the philosophy.  If you are in tune with me, then let's go.  If you aren't, I understand."


1.  In no sense is any rate of return guaranteed to partners.  Partners who withdraw one-haLf of 1% monthly are doing just that - withdrawing.  If we earn more than 6% per annum over a period of years, the withdrawals will be covered by earnings and the principal will increase.  If we don't earn 6%, the monthly payments are partially or wholly a return of capital.

2.  Any year in which we fail to achieve at least a plus 6% performance will be followed by a year when partners receiving monthly payments will find those payments lowered.

3.  Whenever we talk of yearly gains or losses, we are talking about market values; that is, how we stand with assets valued at market at year end against how we stood on the same basis at the beginning of the year.  This may bear very little relationship to the realized results for tax purposes in a given year.

4.  Whether we do a good job or a poor job is not to be measured by whether we are plus or minus for the year.  It is instead to be measured against the general experience in securities as measured by the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, leading investment companies, etc.  If our record is better than that of these yardsticks, we consider it a good year whether we are plus or minus.  If we do poorer, we deserve the tomatoes.

5.  While I much prefer a five-year test, I feel three years is an absolute minimum for judging performance.  It is a certainty that we will have years when the partnership performance is poorer, perhaps substantially so, than the Dow.  If any three-year or longer period produces poor results, we all should start looking around for other places to have our money.  An exception to the latter statement would be three years covering a speculative explosion in a bull market.

6.  I am not in the business of predicting general stock market or business fluctuations.  If you think I can do this, or think it is essential to an investment program, you should not be in the partnership.

7.  I cannot promise results to partners.  What I can and do promise is that:
     a.  Our investments will be chosen on the basis of value, not popularity;
     b.  That we will attempt to bring risk of permanent capital loss (not short term quotational loss) to an absolute minimum by obtaining a wide margin of safety in each commitment and a diversity of commitments; and
     c.  my wife, children and I will have virtually our entire net worth invested in the partnership

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