My main goal this evening is to discredit those who tell you that you can get rich quick by investing in the secondary markets. That won’t work. It sort of worked for Warren Buffett, but a lot of his success came from creating a holding company, and buying entire businesses, not just fractions of companies that he would not control.
Even the top entertainers and sports stars rarely become super-rich unless they have an iron discipline, and hand over their excess assets to an honest and talented advisor, who shepherds them and grows them, and gives the client personal advice as needed. That’s what I do, though I have no famous clients.
As with so many things, it comes down to self-control. Can you defer self-gratification? Will you seek talented advisors who are honest? They aren’t easy to find.
Those that become super-rich form their own firms, and use them to further their wealth. They hire talented people to grow their wealth. It can be a purely industrial firm. It can be part industrial and investing, like Loews, Berkshire Hathaway, Leucadia, Carl Icahn, etc. It can be a private firm, whether private equity, a hedge fund, or an industrial firm.
The main idea here is that great wealth typically comes through running a large firm that is very profitable, which concentrates the efforts of others. Significant wealth never comes through your own labors or secondary-market investing. It comes through creating a very profitable firm.
Now, I want to add one more tangential observation here. It’s easier to make a lot of money by offering investment advice, than by investing your own money yourself. Why? In offering advice, your margins are virtually unlimited. Every new subscriber is gravy. Your own capital is limited, so your returns are limited.
But the record of newsletters is poor; that’s why I have never considered a newsletter. I buy no newsletters because they have no value. I sell no newsletters because my best insights should go to my clients. I have never seen a newsletter in my life that genuinely offered value.
Far better that you build your own firm with your valuable differential insights, than that you try to make money in the public markets. Those who are very rich managed large firms that became dominant.
Now, few of us can do that. That’s the way the world works. And most who try it will fail. Far better to aim lower and achieve a happy outcome, than strain after riches that never come.
By David Merkel, CFA of Aleph Blog