“There are two times in a man’s life when he should not speculate – when he can’t afford it and when he can.”
- Mark Twain
Our investment philosophy is based on three important premises: low investment costs, asset allocation, and sound fundamental analysis. We base our philosophy on that of Ben Graham, Philip Fisher, Joel Greenblatt, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, John Bogle and David F. Swensen. These are some of the world’s greatest investors. Doesn’t it make sense to follow in their footsteps?
Lowering Investment Costs
Keeping investment costs low is the most important consideration when managing an investment portfolio, and more importantly it is the one factor an investor can control with 100% certainty. We seek to lower a client’s costs by investing directly in individual stocks and bonds when possible. If that cannot be done, then we use low-cost index funds and ETFs. We also seek to lower clients’ tax costs by buying and holding investments for as long as it is prudent. Our favorite holding period is “forever,” but deterioration of economic or business fundamentals will lead us to sell an investment.
Perhaps equally as critical to investors as cost is asset allocation. While we believe our value investing strategy offers investors the best possible return, it does not come without some volatility and risk. Therefore, for most clients we diversify their assets across six major asset categories. Here we focus not on diversifying for the sake of diversity, as some advisors do, but on intelligently using asset classes that are unlikely to be correlated to the individual stocks used in the value strategy portion of the portfolio.
A majority of most clients’ portfolios will contain some investments in individual stocks. We invest in companies that have unique advantages, such as producing or providing useful consumer products or services, having a strong brand name or important intellectual property, providing a good or service at the lowest price, or having a pseudo monopoly. We also choose well managed companies without excessive management compensation and with little or no debt. And most importantly we always insist on a margin of safety: The company’s stock must be purchased below its intrinsic value. We select a vast majority of our individual stock investments from a screening model developed by Joel Greenblatt a hedgefund manager and professor at Columbia University.