The Manual of Ideas: A Highly Personal Endeavor

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The Manual of Ideas: A Highly  Personal Endeavor

Excerpt from the great book on value investing, The Manual of Ideas: The Proven Framework for Finding the Best Value Investments from the first chapter, followed by a link to the first full chapter and then a short description of the book.

The Manual of Ideas: The Proven Framework for Finding the Best Value Investments

Man the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.


—Bruce Lee


The stock market is a curious place because everyone participat-ing in it is loosely interested in the same thing—making money.


Still, there is no uniform path to achieving this rather uniform goal. You may be only a few mouse clicks away from purchasing the popular book The Warren Buffett Way,1 but only one man has ever truly followed the path of Warren Buffett. In investing, it is hard enough to succeed as an original; as a copycat, it is virtually impos-sible. Each of us must carve out a personal way to investment suc-cess, even if you are a professional investor.


That said, great investors like Ben Graham, Seth Klarman, and Warren Buffett have much to teach us, and we have much to gain by learning from them. One of the masters’ key teachings is as important as it is simple: A share of stock represents a share in the ownership of a business. A stock exchange simply provides a convenient means of exchanging your ownership for cash. Without an exchange, your ownership of a business would not change. The ability to sell your stake would be negatively affected, but you

would still be able to do it, just as you can sell your car or house if you decide to do so.


Unfortunately, when we actually start investing, we are inevi-tably bombarded with distractions that make it easy to forget the essence of stock ownership. These titillations include the fast-moving ticker tape on CNBC, the seemingly omniscient talking heads, the polished corporate press releases, stock price charts that are con-solidating or breaking out, analyst estimates being beaten, and stock prices hitting new highs. It feels a little like living in the world of Curious George, the lovable monkey for whom it is “easy to for-get” the well-intentioned advice of his friend. My son loves Curious George stories, because as surely as George gets into trouble, he finds a way out of trouble. The latter doesn ’t always hold true for investors in the stock market.



Give Your Money to Warren Buffett, or Invest It Yourself?

I still remember the day I had saved the princely sum of $100,000. I had worked as a research analyst for San Francisco investment bank Thomas Weisel Partners for a couple of years and in 2003 had man-aged to put aside what I considered to be an amount that made me a free man. Freedom, I reasoned, was only possible if one did not have to work to survive; otherwise, one was forced into a form of servitude that involved trading time for food and shelter. With the money saved, I could quit my job, move to a place like Thailand, and live on interest income. While I wisely chose not to exercise my freedom option, I still had to find something to do with the money.


I dismissed an investment in mutual funds quite quickly because I was familiar with findings that the vast majority of mutual funds underperformed the market indices on an after-fee basis.2 I also became aware of the oft-neglected but crucial fact that inves-tors tended to add capital to funds after a period of good perfor-mance and withdraw capital after a period of bad performance. This caused investors’ actual results to lag significantly behind the funds’ reported results. Fund prospectuses show time-weighted returns, but investors in those funds reap the typically lower capital-weighted returns. A classic example of this phenomenon is the Munder NetNet Fund, an Internet fund that lost investors billions

of dollars from 1997 through 2002. Despite the losses, the fund reported a positive compounded annual return of 2.15 percent for the period. The reason? The fund managed little money when it was doing well in the late 1990s. Then, just as billions in new capi-tal poured in, the fund embarked on a debilitating three-year losing streak.3 Although I had felt immune to the temptation to buy after a strong run in the market and to sell after a sharp decline, I thought this temptation would be easier to resist if I knew exactly what I owned and why I owned it. Owning shares in a mutual fund meant trusting the fund manager to pick the right investments. Trust tends to erode after a period of losses.


Mutual funds and lower-cost index funds should not be entirely dismissed, however, as they offer an acceptable alternative for those wishing to delegate investment decision making to someone else. Value mutual funds such as Bruce Berkowitz’s Fairholme Fund or Mason Hawkins’s Longleaf Funds are legitimate choices for many individual investors. High-net-worth investors and institutions enjoy the additional option of investing in hedge funds, but few of those funds deserve their typically steep management and performance fees. Warren Buffett critiqued the hedge fund fee structure in his 2006 letter to shareholders: “It’s a lopsided system whereby 2 per-cent of your principal is paid each year to the manager even if he accomplishes nothing—or, for that matter, loses you a bundle—and, additionally, 20 percent of your profi t is paid to him if he succeeds, even if his success is due simply to a rising tide. For example, a manager who achieves a gross return of 10 percent in a year will keep 3.6 percentage points—two points off the top plus 20 percent of the residual eight points—leaving only 6.4 percentage points for his investors.”4


A small minority of value-oriented hedge fund managers have chosen to side with Buffett on the fee issue, offering investors a structure similar to that of the limited partnerships Buffett managed in the 1960s. Buffett charged no management fee and a performance fee only on returns in excess of an annual hurdle rate. The pioneers in this small but growing movement include Guy Spier of Zurich, Switzerland-based Aquamarine Capital Management and Mohnish Pabrai of Irvine, California-based Pabrai Investment Funds.

The Manual of ideas first paragraph pdf

The Manual of Ideas: The Proven Framework for Finding the Best Value Investments

Reveals the proprietary framework used by an exclusive community of top money managers and value investors in their never-ending quest for untapped investment ideas

Considered an indispensable source of cutting-edge research and ideas among the world’s top investment firms and money managers, the journal The Manual of Ideas boasts a subscribers list that reads like a Who’s Who of high finance. Written by that publication’s managing editor and inspired by its mission to serve as an “idea funnel” for the world’s top money managers, this book introduces you to a proven, proprietary framework for finding, researching, analyzing, and implementing the best value investing opportunities. The next best thing to taking a peek under the hoods of some of the most prodigious brains in the business, it gives you uniquely direct access to the thought processes and investment strategies of such super value investors as Warren Buffett, Seth Klarman, Glenn Greenberg, Guy Spier and Joel Greenblatt.

The Manual of Ideas: The Proven Framework for Finding the Best Value Investments

  • Written by the team behind one of the most read and talked-about sources of research and value investing ideas
  • Reviews more than twenty pre-qualified investment ideas and provides an original ranking methodology to help you zero-in on the three to five most compelling investments
  • Delivers a finely-tuned, proprietary investment framework, previously available only to an elite group of TMI subscribers
  • Step-by-step, it walks you through a proven, rigorous approach to finding, researching, analyzing, and implementing worthy ideas


“The Manual of Ideas: The Proven Framework for Finding the Best Value Investments provides an overview of nine value investing strategies, including why each one is expected to work, the uses and misuses of each, and how to identify specific investment opportunities for each strategy. It is a useful book both for those looking for a current overview of value investing and for the more experienced value investor seeking a critical analysis of value investing strategies and thoughts on methods for identification of specific investment opportunities.”
—CFA Institute Book Review


“A highly recommended read to prepare for 2014, which could be much trickier than 2013.” (Strictly Financial, December 2013).


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