By ROBIN POWELL
One of my favourite investment authors is Benjamin Graham. Widely credited as the father of value investing, Graham was Warren Buffett’s mentor and wrote the classic book, The Intelligent Investor.
One of the central themes of that book is the investor’s capacity for self-harm. “The investor’s chief problem,” Graham wrote, “and even his worst enemy, is likely to be himself.”
Jason Zweig of the Wall Street Journal reminded us this week that Graham’s warning is particularly relevant at times such as these, when global markets are volatile. What Graham teaches us, writes Zweig, is that, as an investor, “your results depend much less on how markets behave than on how you behave.”
“In recent years,” he goes on, “investors have been led to believe that their greatest asset is the ability to trade at will for free. Graham says: No way.
Not your problem
“Your basic advantage as an investor is that you don’t have to trade because everybody else is. When everybody is selling, that’s their problem; it doesn’t have to be yours.
“When the market’s behaviour doesn’t make sense to you, you don’t have to join in. You can marvel at what is going on, but you don’t have to follow the flock…
“If you sell just because other people are selling, you make yourself hostage to the whims of tens of millions of strangers who often go collectively crazy. That’s no way to live, and it’s no way to invest.”
Easier said than done
Of course, keeping your head when all around you seem to be losing theirs isn’t easy. It requires patience, discipline and emotional resilience.
But most of all, as the fourth part in our latest video series How to Invest, commissioned by Wealth Matters, explains, it requires self-knowledge.
So, invest time in getting to know yourself better. Work out the ways in which your own beliefs and personality could actually get in your way, and learn to spot the warning signs. Most importantly, make sure there’s someone you can turn to when you really need them.
ALSO IN THIS SERIES
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Picture: Ben Robbins via Unsplash
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