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Customer Review

40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Made Even Better, April 12, 2012
This review is from: The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor (Columbia Business School Publishing) (Kindle Edition)
I have to say I was very excited to learn that this new edition was going to be released as I found the first edition of his book to be a seminal investing work, one that deserves to be on the same shelf as The Intelligent Investor, Security Analysis, Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, and the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letters.

I was not disappointed when I read my review copy. I found that the annotated comments highlighted important sections in the text while also providing additional compelling perspectives but yet didn't get in the way of the flow of the book.

Don't just take my word on this, here are a few examples:

p. 58: Howard Marks: Understanding uncertainly: Dimson's formulation reminds us of a very simple concept: that many things are possible in the future. We can't know which of the possibilities will occur, and this uncertainty contributes to the challenge of investing. "Single scenario" investors ignore this fact, oversimplify the task, and need fortuitous outcomes to produce good results.

p. 104: Seth Klarman: Even the best investors judge themselves on the basis of return. It would be hard to evaluate yourself on risk, since risk cannot be measured. Apparently, the risk-averse managers of this endowment were disappointed with their relative returns even though their risk adjusted performance was likely excellent, as borne out by their performance over the following three years. This highlights just how hard it is to maintain conviction over the long run when short-term performance is considered poor.

Please allow me to make one additional comment on the annotations before I discuss the new chapter. I was not familiar with Mr. Johnson before reading his collection of annotations in the book but I found them insightful and thought provoking. I wish my college career had included being a student in his classes. You can find more information on him at this site: [...].

The new chapter is called Reasonable Expectations. This chapter develops the theme that investors need to keep their expectations grounded in reality to guard themselves from overreaching and thus taking on far more risk than is reasonable. Mr. Marks cautions his readers that one can never know when the exact right time to make a purchase is. Focus on buying it when its trading at below your estimate of value with the understanding that if its gets cheaper you will buy more as the price declines. The point is not to become despondent if a stock declines after your purchase it because being able to catch the absolute button is nearly impossible.

Here is a quote from this chapter in which Mr. Marks is telling his readers how an investor should have been thinking in the dark period of 2007-2009:

"I need 8 percent. I'd be glad to earn 10 percent instead. Twelve percent would be even better. But I won't try for more than that, because doing so would entail risks I'm just not willing to bear. I don't need 20 percent."

I find that comment particularly interesting when you consider that Mr. Buffett has spoken on the record many times that he looks for investments that can earn him 15%.

In conclusion I certainly think the chapter is a valuable addition to the book. This new material, along with the added annotations, make the new edition a worthwhile purchase. All in all this new edition does the nearly impossible, it takes an already classic text and makes it an even more indispensable tool for investors!
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