One of my favorite Peter Lynch interviews is one he did with PBS. Lynch ran Fidelity’s Magellan Fund for thirteen years (1977-1990). In that period Lynch he averaged a 29.2% annual return, consistently more than doubling the S&P 500 market index and making it the best performing mutual fund in the world. During his tenure, assets under management increased from $18 million to $14 billion. Lynch has also written three great books, Beating The Street, Learn To Earn, and One Up On Wall Street.
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While it’s a very long interview worth reading in its entirety, I pulled out four of his most important lessons for investors. Here’s an excerpt from that interview:
On what is the secret to investing:
In this business if you’re good, you’re right six times out of ten. You’re never going to be right nine times out of ten. This is not like pure science where you go, “Aha” and you’ve got the answer. By the time you’ve got “Aha,” Chrysler’s already quadrupled or Boeing’s quadrupled. You have to take a little bit of risk.
On investors lack of research before making a stock purchase:
It’s now up twenty-fold. You still haven’t invested. You say, “Now I think it’s time to invest in Wal-Mart.” You still could have made 30 times your money because ten years after Wal-Mart went public they were only in 15 percent of the United States. They hadn’t saturated that 15 percent and they were very low cost. They were in small towns. You could say to yourself, “Why can’t they go to 17? Why can’t they go to 19? Why can’t they go to 21? I’ll get on the computer. Why can’t they go to 28?” And that’s all they did. They just replicated their formula. That doesn’t take a lot of courage. That’s homework.
On market timing:
Now some poor unlucky soul, the Jackie Gleason of the world, put in the high of the year. He or she picked the high of the year, put their thousand dollars in at the peak every single time, miserable record, 30 years in a row, picked the high of the year. Their return was 10.6. That’s the only difference between the high of the year and the low of the year. Some other person put in the first day of the year, their return was 11.0. I mean the odds of that are very little, but people spend an unbelievable amount of mental energy trying to pick what the market’s going to do, what time of the year to buy it. It’s just not worth it.
On buy and hold investing:
They should buy, hold, and when the market goes down, add to it. Every time the market goes down 10 percent, you add to it, you’d be much — you would have better return than the average of 11 percent, if you believe in it, if it’s money you’re not worried about. As the market starts going down, you say, “Oh, it’ll be fine. It’ll be predictable.”
When it starts going down and people get laid off, a friend of yours, loses their job or a company has 10,000 employees and they lay off two. The other 998,000 people start to worry or somebody says their house price just went down, these are little thoughts that start to creep to the front of your brain. And they’re the back of your brain.
Article by Johnny Hopkins, The Acquirer's Multiple