- Series: Collins Business Essentials
- Paperback: 640 pages
- Publisher: HarperBusiness; Rev Sub edition (February 21, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060555661
- ISBN-13: 978-0060555665
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,437 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition) (Collins Business Essentials) Rev Sub Edition
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Among the library of investment books promising no-fail strategies for riches, Benjamin Graham's classic, The Intelligent Investor, offers no guarantees or gimmicks but overflows with the wisdom at the core of all good portfolio management.
The hallmark of Graham's philosophy is not profit maximization but loss minimization. In this respect, The Intelligent Investor is a book for true investors, not speculators or day traders. He provides, "in a form suitable for the laymen, guidance in adoption and execution of an investment policy" (1). This policy is inherently for the longer term and requires a commitment of effort. Where the speculator follows market trends, the investor uses discipline, research, and his analytical ability to make unpopular but sound investments in bargains relative to current asset value. Graham coaches the investor to develop a rational plan for buying stocks and bonds, and he argues that this plan must be a bulwark against emotional behavior that will always be tempting during abrupt bull and bear markets.
Since it was first published in 1949, Graham's investment guide has sold over a million copies and has been praised by such luminaries as Warren E. Buffet as "the best book on investing ever written." These accolades are well deserved. In its new form--with commentary on each chapter and extensive footnotes prepared by senior Money editor, Jason Zweig--the classic is now updated in light of changes in investment vehicles and market activities since 1972. What remains is a better book. Graham's sage advice, analytical guides, and cautionary tales are still valid for the contemporary investor, and Zweig's commentaries demonstrate the relevance of Graham's principles in light of 1990s and early twenty-first century market trends. --Patrick O'Kelley
“By far the best book on investing ever written.” (Warren Buffett)
“If you read just one book on investing during your lifetime, make it this one” (Fortune)
“The wider Mr. Graham’s gospel spreads, the more fairly the market will deal with its public.” (Barron's)
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Top Customer Reviews
Ben Graham clearly invested in the stock market during a period of hustlers, crooks, crashes, and frauds. Brokers, investment bankers and analysts back then were not much more than fast-talking salesmen. Wait a minute, that sounds just like the way things are today on Wall Street! Things may not have changed as much as we would like to think. Due to his travails as an investor in difficult markets, Ben Graham's investment style evolved into a systematic, logical approach which became the basis for value investing. In "The Intelligent Investor", Graham lays out the foundation of value investing by three introducing key principles: the idea of "Mr. Market", a value-oriented disciplined approach to investing, and the "margin of safety" concept.
The stock market on a daily basis resembles a casino, only without the comfort of free cocktails. Watching the stock ticker is like having a business partner that is totally schizophrenic; Graham calls him "Mr. Market." One day he loves the business and wants to pay a ridiculous price to buy out your half. The next day, all hope is lost, and he wants to sell you his portion for pennies on the dollar. Graham argues that this daily liquidity is an advantage that most investors turn against themselves: (p. 203) "But note this important fact: The true investor scarcely ever is forced to sell his shares, and at all other times he is free to disregard the current price quotation. He need pay attention to it and act upon it only to the extent that it suits his book, and no more. Thus the investor who permits himself to be stampeded or unduly worried by unjustified market declines in his holdings is perversely transforming his basic advantage into a basic disadvantage. That man would be better off if his stocks had no market quotation at all; for he would then be spared the mental anguish caused him by other persons' mistakes of judgment." This is profound. It's not a question of whether our stocks will drop; they will: the trick is how we respond to that eventuality.
Ben Graham's Stock selection for the defensive investor.
Graham lays out some important characteristics of "value" stocks. (p. 348). Some of the metrics are dated, but the principles are still valid. Even deep value investing today would seem like GARP investing to Ben Graham. Investors are now more focused on future earnings than they were in his day, and valuations reflect that. Graham recommends:
a. Adequate size of the enterprise (>$100M revenue, old figure)
b. Sufficiently strong financial condition (2:1 current ratio)
c. Earnings stability (some earnings every year last 10 years)
d. Dividend record (uninterrupted payments for at least 20 years)
e. Earnings growth (1/3 increase in per share EPS past 10 years)
f. Moderate price/earnings ratio (P/E < 15x average last 3 years EPS)
g. Moderate ratio of price to assets (price/book < 1 1/2 times)
h. Overall stock portfolio, when acquired, should have an overall earnings /price ratio- the reverse of the P/E ratio - at least as high as the current high-grade bond rate. A P/E no higher than 13.3 against an AA bond yield of 7.5%
Margin of Safety as the central concept of value investing.
This is an investment rule that was written by a man who had been deeply bruised by bear markets. I believe he came up with this by learning from his losses. When the market turns into a storm of feces, like it inevitably will, if the stock has no earnings to rely on, you have nothing to grab onto. You can't make yourself stay in the stock when the price is down. Graham says: (p. 515) "The margin of safety is the difference between the percentage rate of the earnings on the stock at the price you pay for it and the rate of interest on bonds, and that is to absorb unsatisfactory developments". Furthermore he writes: (p. 518) "The buyer of bargain issues places particular emphasis on the ability of the investment to withstand adverse developments. " You can and will still lose money in the market with value-oriented investing, but according to Graham: (p. 518) "The margin guarantees only that he has a better chance of profit than for loss-not that loss is impossible."
So that's it, those are the three basic points of the book, but you should still buy it and read it, it's a very enjoyable experience, Shakespeare for the investing crowd. Despite being a realist, Ben Graham wasn't a total pessimist. Late in the book Graham makes a point that is one of my favorites: (p. 524) "A fourth business rule is more positive: "Have the courage of your knowledge and experience. If you have formed a conclusion from the facts and if you know your judgment is sound, act on it- even though others may hesitate or differ. You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right. Similarly, in the world of securities, courage becomes the supreme virtue after adequate knowledge and a tested judgment are at hand. "
Benjamin Graham is known as the Father of Value Investing and was the mentor of Warren Buffett, the most successful investor of all time. Warren Buffett called the Intelligent Investor `the best book about investing ever written.' He believed in defensive, value investing, and famously summarized his philosphy as follows: "An investment operation is one which, upon thorough analysis, promises safety of principal and a satisfactory return. Operations not meeting these requirements are speculative."
I found that `value investing' means that you buy only something that is being sold below its actual value, like buying dollar bills for 40 cents each, he said. One should take the quantitative (statistical) instead of the qualitative (predictive) approach, since no one can forecast the future anyway. Look at what a security is really worth in a business-like way, just like you would do for any purchase, ignoring what others might think. Do your homework is what he is saying!
According to Graham, almost everybody, me included, does investing wrong. You are supposed to buy low and sell high, but most folks buy when the price is going up and sell when it is coming down. `Mr. Market' is very emotional and encourages stampedes toward whatever looks good at the moment, and away from investments that seem spent. This very act of buying and selling creates updrafts and downdrafts in the market which causes disparity between what the price is and what the price should be for a given investment. Eventually the true value of an investment comes to fore when things settle down. The maxim he uses for this is: the market is a voting machine in the short run and a weighing machine in the long run. The investors `vote' for an investment which drives the price up; later, the investors find out what the investment is really worth, and the price settles into it's real value. He cited convincing examples in the tech-bubble era of the late 90's where stock prices ascended to ridiculously high levels and then came crashing down to almost nothing, and their stock shares became like Confederate money, worth only slightly more than the paper they were printed on.
In general, his theory runs counter to the speculative, get-richer-quick investing that seems standard for most of us. Stay away from gimmicks like market-timing and formula investing (chasing after perceived patterns in the market). Be boring, he says, and go for something steady and sure. Don't try to beat the market; just try to keep up with it. If you don't want to do the necessary homework, buy index funds. He touts ignored `secondary' or `unsexy' companies, the ones that don't have big names, or ones that produce boring products. It was interesting that when Graham was asked why he was unafraid of losing his edge by proclaiming value investing, he joked that his books are' the most over-read and under-used books on finances ever written'. If, indeed, everyone did value investing, there would be no bargains left out there. We are talking about something that works, but that no one wants to use!
A cornerstone of the defensive investing philosophy involves building in a good margin of safety by buying investments at as far below actual worth as possible. He also talks a lot about managing risk by patience and self-control; he says: `Don't just do something, stand there!' In some sense, this book is more about the person making the investments than the investments themselves. In essence, if you want to know what risk is, look in the mirror! In other words, it's not about how much risk you can tolerate; it is about how much investigation you are willing to do. He mentioned Pascal's Wager as a graphic example of how to think of the consequences when taking on risk - - - if one wagers as to whether God exists or not, he is better off betting He does; otherwise, though the rewards could be a little better, the consequences could be eternally worse! (This was, to me, a fairly heavy-handed but instructive parallel.)
Watch out for the shenanigans of the accountants when you read the financial reports. Words and phrases like pro-forma, nonrecurring charges, special charges, and good will could be euphemisms for a smoke screen. I also learned the phrase `kitchen sink accounting', which puts all possible losses into one year, which distorts the picture but gives good tax results for the company. The lesson is to not ignore the footnotes and to read the statements to the end.
Consistent with his philosophy, Graham does not believe in the prevalent Efficient Market Theory (or EMH), which says that investments have the correct prices because there is so much, widespread information readily available on every investment. He basically believes, and gives many good examples, that the public is not interested in digging into the nuts-and-bolts financial information, but is only interested in what is popular. In a word, an investor needs to make sure he understands what he is investing in, and make business decisions instead of emotional decisions about it. He says that the finances are really not very complicated, and it's more about character than brain.
The first edition of this book, written in 1950 and was revised several times before Graham died in 1976. Since it was a little dated as far as market history is concerned, Jason Zweig wrote commentaries on each chapter to bring it into the 21st century. Graham, as a product of his day, talked mostly about stocks and bonds, and less about funds, and he over-emphasized, in my opinion, the importance of dividends. Zweig says that diversity has replaced value today. Also, dividends are no big deal today for most investors since the total return (NAV + dividends) is what really matters. Another thing is that Graham lived through the Depression and saw that it took 25 years (to 1954) for the market to reach the levels of pre-Crash 1929; this might have made him defensive.
I'm glad I read the book. It gave me perspective on how the market works, though I'll still stick with diversity over value, especially since I invest almost entirely in funds. He did not have to scare me off on individual stocks, but he did convince me to do more homework and to try to be more business-like in my financial decisions, and - - - to look in the mirror first.