Benjamin Graham – Valuable Investing Lessons From the Father of Value Investing

Often known as the father of value investing, Benjamin Graham was also Warren Buffett’s mentor. The author of two investments classics, Graham was one of the first true proponents of Fundamental Analysis — the science of evaluating companies based on their financial performance or fundamentals.

We can glean some valuable investing lessons by taking a look at Graham’s early life, investing career, and the investing principles he developed during his lifetime.

Early Life
Ben Graham was born Benjamin Grossbaum in on May 9, 1894, in London. His father was a dealer in china dishes and figurines. The family migrated to the United States when Graham was only one.

At first, the family lived in the lap of luxury on upper Fifth Avenue. But in 1903, Graham’s father passed away. The porcelain business stumbled, and the family’s financial health steadily declined. Graham’s mother turned their house into a boardinghouse to make money. She also borrowed money to trade stocks “on margin.” This proved to be a costly mistake – she was wiped out in the crash of 1907.

Graham’s teenage years were filled with financial humiliation. Fortunately, Graham won a scholarship to Columbia, where he shone brilliantly. He graduated second in his class in 1914. So remarkable were his academic achievements, that by the time he graduated, three departments – English, Philosophy, and Mathematics – asked him to join the faculty. Graham was only 20 years old.

Graham’s Investment Career
Graham chose Wall Street over academia. He started as a clerk in a bond-trading firm, quickly progressing to analyst, then partner, and shortly after that he started his own investment partnership.

Graham pioneered the science of investing as against speculation. Quite shockingly, trading of stocks was largely a speculative exercise in those days and hardly any attention was paid to the fundamentals of a company.

Graham became an expert in researching stocks in painstaking detail. In 1925, for example, in the course of his research, he came across some interesting findings…. Northern Pipe Line Co. held at least $80 a share in high-quality bonds. Northern Pipe Line’s stock price at that time? $65 a share. Graham exploited this discrepancy by buying the stock and persuading the management to raise the dividend. Three years later, he walked away with $110 a share – a return of almost 70%.

Graham was not always successful, though, in those days. During the great crash of 1929-32, he lost 70% of his portfolio. But despite this steep decline, he was able to apply his methods and scoop up stunning bargains when the rest of the market was deeply pessimistic. From 1936 until his retirement in 1956, Graham-Newman Corp., the partnership he created with Jerome Newman, gained almost 20% annually (14.7% after accounting for fees), while the rest of the market was up 12.2%. This enviable performance is one of the best Wall Street has ever seen.

Graham’s Investment Principles
Two of the books that Graham authored have stood the test of time to achieve classic status – The Intelligent Investor, and Security Analysis. The following investment principles can be distilled from these masterpieces:

  • Buying stock in a company is like buying the business – This falls under Graham’s recommendation to invest rather than speculate. Buying stock in a company should involve research and analysis along the same lines as buying a business.
  • Know your investing style – Graham talks about two types of investors: “defensive” and “enterprising”. A defensive investor is a passive investor who does not spend much time analyzing companies and picking his investment opportunities. Graham’s recommendation for the defensive investor would be, in today’s terminology, to stick to index funds. A defensive investor should expect average returns. An enterprising investor, on the other hand, is one who is seriously committed to researching and analyzing companies to invest in. Graham believed that the more work you put into your investments, the higher the return you could expect.
  • Use market fluctuations to your advantage – The market usually is fairly accurate in pricing stocks. However, sometimes, emotions get the better of investors. At times like this stocks can be mispriced. What advice does Graham have for the intelligent investor in such conditions? Never sell in panic just because the market is under-valuing your stock. In most cases, this is only temporary. In fact, times of maximum pessimism like these are when the best bargains are to be had. Graham recommends buying meaningful amount of stock at huge discounts in companies that you’ve researched. What about the other extreme – overvaluing? If you find the stock price of companies you’ve invested in way above what you’ve valued them, this might be a good time to sell. Sooner or later the market will correct itself and it’s best to lock in your gains before that happens.
  • Always use a margin of safety – Graham called this the central concept of investment. When asked to distill the “secret” of sound investment, margin of safety was the motto he offered. But first, what exactly does this mean? When conducting a valuation on a company, the intrinsic value we come up with is based on our best prediction of the future. Like any prediction, there is a probability that things won’t go as planned. In order to insulate ourselves from such uncertainties, we need to add a safety factor to our calculations. This is your safety margin. So how much of a margin do we need? Depends on our measure of uncertainty of the future. Companies that are more stable and have a proven track record of great financial performance will demand less margin. Anywhere between 25-50% off our calculated value would be a good starting point.

The Mr. Market Parable
In the Intelligent Investor, Ben Graham uses a very powerful parable to illustrate market fluctuation. In Graham’s own words….

“Imagine you had a partner in a private business named Mr. Market. Mr. Market, the obliging fellow that he is, shows up daily to tell you what he thinks your interest in the business is worth.

On most days, the price he quotes is reasonable and justified by the business’s prospects. However, Mr. Market suffers from some rather incurable emotional problems; you see, he is very temperamental. When Mr. Market is overcome by boundless optimism or bottomless pessimism, he will quote you a price that seems to you a little short of silly. As an intelligent investor, you should not fall under Mr. Market’s influence, but rather you should learn to take advantage of him.

The value of your interest should be determined by rationally appraising the business’s prospects, and you can happily sell when Mr. Market quotes you a ridiculously high price and buy when he quotes you an absurdly low price. The best part of your association with Mr. Market is that he does not care how many times you take advantage of him. No matter how many times you saddle him with losses or rob him of gains, he will arrive the next day ready to do business with you again.”

Summing Up
Benjamin Graham was undoubtedly one of the most profound financial thinkers. His contribution to the field is invaluable. A good testimony to his achievements is the outstandingly successful group of disciples he spawned…. Warren Buffett, Jean-Marie Eveillard, William J. Ruane, Irving Kahn, Hani M. Anklis, and Walter J. Schloss.

Graham’s investment principles are easy to understand, but sometimes difficult to put into practice. For instance, it takes a great deal of courage to invest when everyone else is panicking. But if you pick your companies based on sound analysis of the fundamentals, there is a high probability that you will profit handsomely when the market eventually corrects itself.

How To Keep a Relationship Strong

Do you listen to your partner every time you communicate? Has boredom become a concern in your relationship? Are you wondering how to be a happy couple through the years? I think everyone asks themselves these questions at some point during their relationship. Since I always like to be prepared, I decided to research how to make love last and share with you what I found.

First of all, as a writer, I believe that communication is the seed to growing a strong and healthy relationship and the tool you need to cultivate it. Often times we take communicating with each other for granted. I bet if you asked yourself how you can be a better communicator, and were honest, you would probably say by being a better listener. For one thing, by truly listening to your partner you will discover new things about them so that you’ll have something interesting to talk about. Listening is a powerful skill and one that can help you succeed in your professional life as well as your personal one. Many of us seem to focus on being heard and not the other way around, for this reason listening is going to require practice.

Additionally, developing your individual interests can help deter the boredom that sometimes creeps into a relationship. Although having mutual interests are important, couples need time apart to pursue things that make them happy. Too much togetherness can harm a relationship. One of Hollywood’s most romantic relationships that withstood the test of time was Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Admittedly when asked why their marriage lasted so long, Paul Newman is quoted on the IMDB website as saying “we are very, very different people and yet somehow we feed off those varied differences and instead of separating us, it has made the whole bond a lot stronger.”

Unfortunately some couples are threatened by their partner’s independence. Therefore I suggest the following advice from an article, written by Kimberly Dawn Neumann titled, “Happy Couples: What’s Their Secret?”

Nurture your separate selves

Going off to your book club when your sweetie’s out golfing isn’t a sign you two are drifting apart. On the contrary, developing individual interests allows for a richer life as a couple. By taking little “couple breaks,” you gain a greater appreciation of the gifts your partner brings to your life and you have more to offer as well. “It’s very sexy to be independent sometimes,” says Magdoff. “You feel better about yourself and you’re less demanding of your partner when you’re together.” After all, taking some personal responsibility for your own well-being relieves the other person of the pressure to “provide” happiness-so go ahead and nurture some solo adventures. That’ll also keep each of you stocked with plenty of adventures to chat about, which also builds your bond.

Eventually we realize that relationships are always a work in progress. We start out by creating a bond and then we need to continue to strengthen that bond to make it last. So how does a couple work together towards strengthening an already amazing relationship? I recommend the following 5 tips from an article titled, “5 Habits of Successful Couples” How to love and cherish each other through the years by: Dr. Pepper Schwartz.

  1. They keep up with the changes.
  2. They know how to fight fairly.
  3. They find new ways to play.
  4. They accept the challenges of aging.
  5. They stay physically connected.

Finally, I’m a firm believer in focusing on the positive. So rather than learning what not to do to maintain a successful relationship, check out the article link below and learn what to do to keep yours happy. Better yet, have your partner read it to you and just listen.

Until next time, here’s to keeping you Safer in the City,

~ Jessica

“What’s Their Secret”

How Can We Hope To Live Happily Ever After?

A Jane Austin novel seems to end at the altar as if the wedding were all that is necessary for future bliss. Yet these days a lot of marriages seem to finish up on the scrap heap and you might have a sneaky feeling that perhaps a well-known film star was right in her opinion.

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”(Katherine Hepburn)

So is achieving a happy marriage simply a matter of selecting the right mate in the first place, or is it about finding a successful formula for living together? Or perhaps you think it is all to do with good luck?

Experience of happy couples Rather than study just failed relationships, several psychological researchers have actually looked at successful marriages. For example the late Judith Wallerstein, reported in her book The good marriage: How and why love lasts, that happily married men and women both tend to report the same basic experiences.

We worked it out. To love, you must feel emotionally safe – totally accepted, respected, and supported. Therefore, we don’t criticize or strike out in anger, instead we gently request a change.”

“We do so much together and agree on most issues, but we have a clear sense of self and do things by ourselves”

“We cherish our time together, expressing our appreciation of each other for little acts of kindness as well as major sacrifices. We treasure our memories and frequently remind each other of the good times.”

This is only a glimpse of what some contented partners have known.

Mature love Clearly a lasting relationship is something more than mere sexual pleasure, romantic sentiment, or emotional infatuation.

“You can tell that it’s infatuation when you think that he’s as sexy as Paul Newman, as athletic as Pete Rose, as selfless and dedicated as Ralph Nader, as smart as John Kenneth Galbraith and as funny as Don Rickles. You can be reasonably sure that it’s love when you realize he’s actually about as sexy as Don Rickles, as athletic as Ralph Nader, as smart as Pete Rose, as funny as John Kenneth Galbraith and doesn’t resemble Paul Newman in any way – but you’ll stick with him anyway.” (Judith Viorst)

Immature love has been called trying to fill loneliness or an emotional vacuum with a love relationship. Some psychotherapists have written about immature love saying it follows the principle “I love because I am loved” and ” I love you because I need you.” On the other hand they say that mature love, its opposite, follows the principle “I am loved because I love,” and “I need you because I love you.”

Not surprisingly, mature love is said to imply concern for the partner’s emotional and bodily needs, respect for their uniqueness, seeing them as they really are and helping them to grow and unfold in their own ways, for their own sake and not for serving oneself. We are told it involves entering and become familiar with the private world of the lover, to live in the other person’s life and sense his or her meanings and experiences.

Commitment Mature love involves commitment. But the issue of commitment seems difficult to many. Importantly, there is commitment to the exclusive nature of the relationship. Infidelity is a ‘no no.’ In line with the teachings of the world’s major religions, illicit sex and unchaste thoughts are to be avoided.

Over time, any deception destroys intimacy, and without intimacy couples cannot have true and lasting love.” (Bonnie Eaker Weil).

An affair is a betrayal of the trust that has been shared in marriage that is extremely hurtful to the innocent partner.

Neither can a lack of commitment to work on the relationship be seen as good news. There are bound to be problems in any sexual union and so if one gives up easily one could end up living with several partners without giving any of them a proper chance.

“Patience gives your spouse permission to be human. It understands that everyone fails. When a mistake is made, it chooses to give them more time that they deserve to correct it. It gives you the ability to hold on during the rough times in your relationship rather than bailing out under the pressure.” (Stephen Kendrick).

Origin of mature love So where does mature love come from? According to Emanuel Swedenborg it has a divine origin. This he calls ‘conjugial love’ which he says is a spiritual gift: it only flows into where it is wanted but when it flows it creates a deep sense of joy, contentment, and delight that lasts for ever. You might wonder whether this is the ‘happy ever after’ many have dreamed about?

Swedenborg maintains that if ‘conjugial love ‘is to be received it requires a man to be prepared to be influenced by his wife’s subjective feelings of care and sensitivity to personal issues. He needs to listen to her practical wisdom. And it requires a woman to be willing to learn from her husband’s objective and rational thinking. On the other hand,

“When a woman thinks her husband is a fool, her marriage is over. They may part in one year or ten; they may live together until death. But if she thinks he is a fool, she will not love him again.” (Philippa Gregory).

In other words lasting happiness requires a suitable love match where the two partners can progress together in their personal inner journey, being willing to prioritise each of their needs and humbly learn from each other by celebrating their different strengths.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy