Joel Greenblatt

A reader asks what to do with his $150,000: http://wp.me/p2OaYY-1TE. This post is a follow-up.

First, I would do nothing until you know what you are doing. As Jim Rogers said, “Don’t do anything until you see money laying in the street.” WAIT. You can’t ask other people to value companies for you. You either learn to do that yourself within your circle of competence (The Goal of CSinvesting.org) or you find a low-cost way to be in equities.

My advice: avoid high fees. That nixes most mutual funds, hedge funds and managed money. Read more:http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-04-29/wall-street-rentier-rip-index-funds-beat-996-managers-over-ten-years

Keep it simple.  There are four asset classes (Read The Permanent Portfolio)41f5oFGYTqL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Equities, Bonds, Cash, and Gold

I love finding undervalued businesses, but we live in a world of monetary distortion of fiat currency wars (Japan), suppressed interest rates, hidden risks and massive debasement so I would have 5% up to 25% in gold as an insurance policy to maintain the purchasing power of my savings. Gold coins from a reputable dealer should be part of that.  Buying CEF at a discount would be another low cost way to own bullion. Gold is just a commoditymoney that holds its value over centuries and it can’t be printed nor does it have liabilities (counter-party risk) like fiat currencies.  Another way to approach it might be avoid oversupply (dollars) and buy undersupply (money that can’t be printed).  Don’t take my word for it. What did an oz of gold purchased 200 years ago, 100 years ago, 50 years ago and 20 years ago? Choose a man’s suit, a night at a decent hotel and a meal as items to consider.  Learn more here: http://www.garynorth.com/public/department32.cfm Follow the links to the free books and reports on gold, you will learn alot. 

Now, I own some gold coins but I don’t count investments like Seabridge Gold (SA) as an insurance policy, but as an investment in gold. I can own an oz in the ground for $10 in enterprise value per share. Of course, there are plenty of risks to get an oz of gold out of the ground, but I think there is some margin of error.  But I don’t recommend this strategy for others due to the need to diversify highly, know the industry, and the tremendous volatility.

Government bonds are a mass distortion on the short end and as long as other governments will hold our dollars this game can continue a long time. I would stay within a laddered bond portfolio of no more than seven years so WHEN interest rates rise, you can roll into higher yields. I would do this if you have to have cash in three to four years, and you are hedging your portfolio with this different asset class.  But I think of government bonds as return-free risk.  You take on risk for tiny returns. Welcome to financial repression. The Fed is punishing savers to fund the government. Corporate bonds require you to be able to read balance sheets so you are adequately paid for th credit risk.

If you are willing to do some work and have the temperament, then here is one way to invest in equities besides an index fund as Buffett has suggested:

The Eternal Secret of Successful Investing

A Little Wonderful Advice from Where Are The Customer’s Yachts? by Fred Schwed, Jr., 1940 (pages 180-182)

For no fee at all I am prepared to offer to any wealthy person an investment program which will last a lifetime and will not only preserve the estate but greatly increase it. Like other great ideas, this one is simple:

When there is a stock-market boom, and everyone is scrambling for common stocks, take all your common stocks and sell them. Take the proceeds and buy conservative bonds. No doubt the stocks you sold will go higher. Pay no attention to this—just wait for the depression which will come sooner or later. When this depression—or panic—becomes a national catastrophe, sell out the bonds (perhaps at a loss) and buy back the stocks. No doubt the stocks will go still lower. Again pay no attention. Wait for the next boom. Continue to repeat this operation as long as you live, and you will have the pleasure of dying rich.

A glance at financial history will show that there never was a generation for whom this advice would not have worked splendidly. But it distresses me to report that I have never enjoyed the social acquaintance of anyone who managed to do it. It looks as easy as rolling off a log, but it isn’t. The chief difficulties, of course, arepsychological. It requires buying bonds when bonds are generally unpopular, and buying stocks when stocks are universally detested.

I suspect that there are actually a few people who do something like this, even though I have never had the pleasure of meeting them. I suspect it because someone must buy the stock that the suckers sell at those awful prices—a fact usually outside the consciousness of the public and of financial reporters.   An experienced reporter’s poetic account in the paper following a day of terrible panic reads this way:

Large selling was in evidence at the opening bell and gained steadily in volume and violence throughout the morning session. At noon a rally, dishearteningly brief, took place as a result of short covering. But a new selling wave soon threw the market into utter chaos, and during the final hour equities were thrown overboard in huge lots, without regard for price or value.

The public reads the papers, and reading the foregoing, it gets the impression that on that catastrophic day everyone sold and nobody bought, except that little band of shorts (who most likely didn’t exist).   Of course, there is just no truth in that at all. If on that day the terrific “selling” amounted to seven million, three hundred and sixty-five thousand shares, the volume of the buying can also be calculated.   In this case it was 7,365,000 shares.

CASE STUDY

How Mr. Womack Made a Killing by John Train (1978)

The man never had a loss on balance in 60 years.

His technique was the ultimate in simplicity. When during a bear market he would read in the papers that the market was down to new lows and the experts were predicting that it was sure to drop another 200 points in the Dow, the farmer would look through a S&P Stock Guide and select around 30 stocks that had fallen in price below $10—solid, profit making, unheard of companies (pecan growers, home furnishings, etc.) and paid dividends. He would come to Houston and buy a $25,000 “package” of them.

And then, one, two, three or four years later, when the stock market was bubbling and the prophets were talking about the Dow hitting 1500, he would come to town and sell his whole package. It was as simple as that.

He equated buying stocks with buying a truckload of pigs. The lower he could buy the pigs, when the pork market was depressed, the more profit he would make when the next seller’s market would come along. He claimed that he would rather buy stocks under such conditions than pigs because pigs did not pay a dividend. You must feed pigs.

He took “a farming” approach to the stock market in general. In rice farming, there is a planting season and a harvesting season, in his stock purchases and

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