Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 30 January 2010

Dornan’s Hootenanny

The Hoot

So far, the best Christmas we have ever spent was in Wyoming.  An unexpected surprise was going to Dornan’s Hootenanny, which is held on Monday evenings.  This is in a bar and pizzaria located inside the Grand Teton National Park.  Sometimes referred to simply as “The Hoot,” it is like a local American Idol, where people sing and play string instruments.  Several of them were excellent.  The best part was that there were “no” judges.  The crowd of people in attendance were respectful and wanted to hear the performers.  If you ever go, arrive early.  It is standing room only.

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Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 22 November 2009

In Search Of Fall Color – 2009

In Search Of Fall Color - Greater St. Louis AreaFall color is over now for 2009.  I have to admit that this year was more of a challenge than most because it rained in Missouri more than half of the days in October.  However, just because it it “not” sunny, you can still have fun and get a good photo.  You just have to be more creative.  This was one of my favorites from this year taken at Pere Marquette State Park, north of Grafton, Illinois in the greater St. Louis area.

Within a day’s trip of the St. Louis area, my favorite fall color spots so far have been:

* Pere Marquette State Park, north of Grafton, Illinois

* Cuivre River State Park, northeast of Troy, Missouri

* Powder Valley Nature Center‎, in St. Louis County, Missouri

The photograph shown here was taken at Pere Marquette State Park.  If you go there on a weekend, go early in the morning.  In the afternoon, there is often a two-hour wait to dine in the state park restaurant, especially during fall colors.  During the week, you can usually be seated with no wait – the fried chicken is excellent!  There is no restaurant at Cuivre River or Powder Valley – bring your own food.

Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 16 October 2009

Barbara Gusewelle Boyle – A Look Back

I was quite surprised when John Auble, a television reporter for Fox News in St. Louis called me today and said that Barbara Gusewelle Boyle was released from prison six days ago. In 1985, I was a newspaper reporter for the Collinsville (Illinois) Journal-Herald, covering the case. She was convicted for the murder of her husband. During the trial, it reminded me of the north versus the south court case.  She had hired F. Lee Bailey as her defense counsel. He was from Boston, talked fast and was already famous as an attorney.  The prosecutor, Robert Trone, had an extreme southern accent.  It seemed likely that a Midwest jury would relate more to him than an outsider. According to the prosecution, she and the person who actually performed the killings planned for her to first meet Ronald Gusewelle.  But it always amazed me how did they know he would fall in love with her and marry her?  To plan to murder someone before you even meet seems difficult to comprehend.

Attached are stories from the trial that I did while working for the Collinsville Journal.

Barbara Gusewelle Boyle Trial

Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 11 October 2009

Lucky Number 13

Lucky Number 13 won the harem in September and October 2009 at Lone Elk Park, St. Louis County, Missouri.

Lucky Number 13

Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 5 July 2009

Two Squirrels At Feeder

Two Squirrels At Feeder

Last week two squirrels were at one of the corn-on-the-cob feeders in our back yard.  The backlighting of the squirrel on the left makes the tail appear transparent.

Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 29 June 2009

Dynamic Wildlife Photography – Book By Cathy & Gordon Illg

Dynamic Wildlife Photography

“There is something about wildlife photography that is immensely soul-satisfying.”

The authors point out that some photographers merely document animals taking a few photos before moving to the next subject.

“Great photographers will often stay with a subject as long as the subject will allow.”  This allows time to see how the animal reacts to its environment, to other animals or how it feels at that time.

This is my favorite photography book because the images of the wildlife are truly outstanding, and the photographers share their lessons learned and experiences to help others.  Here are a few of the suggestions:

Lighting strongly affects the feeling of the image.  Front lighting provides an even light source and is good for stopping action.  It is also the best for creating reflections in a pool of water. 

Side lighting helps bring out textures and adds shadows to a photo.

Back lighting is used for silhouettes.  In some cases, it can provide a spiritual feeling and outline your subject if the sun is low in the sky.  It can also make some parts of an animal appear translucent – like the tail of a squirrel or the feathers fanned by a bird.  Sometimes referred to as rim lighting, the authors recommend bracketing at different exposures to see what effect you like the best.

To avoid sun flares, point the camera where the lens hood will block the sun from shining into the lens.  You can also use a tree, a building or anything to help shield the lens.

“To create a silhouette, expose for the background and let your subject go black.”

“Overcast light is some of the best possible light in which to photograph wildlife.”  Just remember to minimize or eliminate the sky in the photo.

“Give your subject adequate room to move within the picture.  It’s usually better to chop off the rear of the animal and still give it room to move into the frame than it is to include the entire animal but have its nose almost touching the border of the photo.”

In some cases, the animals will have room to move in the photo; in other cases, it’s more of a portrait.  The more space the subject takes up in the photo, the less depth of field there will be.  This affects depth of field more than the size of the lens.

When looking through the viewfinder, the authors suggest selecting the elements you want to retain and want to remove from your picture.  “This process will never be easy, but there are a number of techniques, like framing the center of interest, capturing eye contact, balancing more than one center of interest, and the use of rhythm, to help us compose images that go beyond documentation.”

What is your perspective to the subject?  Taking photos from a higher or lower vantage point can make them stand out.  You can also make the subject strong by photographing it at the animal’s height.  This will also help to blur the background, bringing more attention to the subject.

If you can photograph a behavior of the animal, this takes it from being just a documentary image.  “A couple of obvious examples of behavior-rich times are during courtship and when young animals are present.”  Researching information about your subject in advance can help determine the behaviors you might have a chance to witness.

Celebrate the seasons by taking photos that can include an element to indicate what season it is.  To have falling snow show up in your photograph, you’ll need a dark background behind it.

To capture rain in a photo, the rain must be coming down extremely hard.  “Don’t hesitate to follow your subjects through the seasons.  Show your viewers how the creatures handle the vagaries of the weather.  A picture element or two that shows the season or the weather and how your subject relates to it may be all you need to take that photo beyond documentation.”

This book truly goes beyond documentation to help us interpret and enjoy the animal species around us.  There is something “immensely soul-satisfying” about their photography.

 

Reviewed by Susan Vollmer

Author of Legends, Leaders, Legacies

Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 6 July 2008

Barbara Walters — Audition: A Memoir

In 2008, Barbara Walters’ latest book came out titled Audition: A Memoir.  What a great title for a book about her life.  Most of us think of her as a broadcast journalist, which she is, but she also shares personal aspects of her life that I certainly did not know.

 

While reading her words, I could hear her voice and Boston accent.  The book definitely had the ring of truth, which is of utmost importance to any journalist.  It’s important to do research to be as accurate as you possibly can be and as objective as possible, even when reporting on the most difficult subject – yourself.

 

While growing up, her father had various Latin clubs over the years, which he owned and managed.  As a child, she learned that the people behind these entertainment acts were real people with real problems.

 

“This gave me an understanding of celebrities that I never would have had.  As a result, I was not in awe, years and years later, when I began doing interviews with big name stars.”

 

Barbara also wrote, “Those early years at the Latin Quarter also affected the way I later asked questions and listened to answers.  I knew that the childhood years of most celebrities were their most poignant and could often explain their future choices as, of course, it has mine.”

 

One of her favorite persons to interview was Anwar Sadat.  “When I arrived for the interview, I noticed a slight, bemused man sitting on one of the empty boxes our television equipment had come in, the crew setting up the cameras and microphones, monitors and lights.  There were no security guards, aides, or secretaries around him.  The president of Egypt was simply taking in the scene.”

 

In November 1977, Barbara was one of many international journalists covering Anwar Sadat’s historic trip to Jerusalem.  At the Tel Aviv Airport, “there were hundreds of people waving Israeli and Egyptian flags.  I wondered how the Israelis had managed to get so many Egyptian flags so quickly.  And how the Israeli army band had gotten the music and learned the Egyptian national anthem.  But most of all I remember all of Sadat’s former enemies lined up to greet him – Menachem Begin, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Rabin.  It was almost too much to comprehend.”

 

Over the years, broadcast journalism has changed, with less time spent on heads of state and more time spent on celebrities and their alcohol / drug problems or on notorious criminals.

 

As of 2007, “the most-watched news special in television history,” was the two-hour interview that Barbara had done which aired on 3 March 1999 with nearly 50 million people watching.  The interview was of Monica Lewinsky.  She was the intern at the White House during the Bill Clinton administration who had become involved in a notorious scandal.

 

In 1997, Barbara became instrumental in the creation of a daytime television program called The View.  The show combined women of different viewpoints, ages and personalities who could disagree in a friendly, entertaining way.  The show would include discussing hot topics plus include some guests.  The show has had ups and downs with its staffing but has returned to its original roots.

 

In 2004, Barbara announced that she would be retiring from ABC’s newsmagazine titled 20/20, where she had worked for the past 25 years.  She had worked hard in journalism, where often you are only as good as your last story.  The uncertainty of her life as a child, watching her father earn and lose fortunes, had shown how quickly a family’s lifestyle can change.  She often worried that her success would be taken from her and worked even harder as a result.

 

She decided to leave the 20/20 part of her television work while she was still excellent at it and when she decided it was not fun nor prestigious anymore.  “The hard-news stories we used to report on were few and far between except on CBS’s stalwart 60 Minutes.  But that newsmagazine catered to an older audience.  20/20 was after the young – the 18-to 49-year-olds.”  Barbara wrote, “And it seemed that every celebrity, every murderer, every frog had a lawyer or a press agent all interviewing the interviewer to determine where they could get the most airings for their clients, what kind of questions would be asked, and how much promotion and advertising would be guaranteed.  The interviewer had to audition to land the interview.”

 

Audition is a great title for the book.  And perhaps this entire life is an audition for the next one to come.

 

Reviewed by Susan Vollmer

Author of Legends, Leaders, Legacies

http://www.susanv.com

 

Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 11 April 2008

The Intelligent Investor

This book, written by Benjamin Graham, originally appeared in 1949, and Graham during his lifetime was known as one of the major teachers for Warren Buffett, regarding value investing.  The book, reissued in 2003, had commentary added after each chapter by Jason Zwieg.

 

The commentary providing modern-day examples is much appreciated.  While Graham’s concepts are excellent, the examples can sometimes be hard to follow.  In a future edition, the publisher might consider updating the charts beyond 1970 or leaving those out, which cannot be updated.

 

The concepts in the book are much appreciated, and here is a synopsis of the points I found most helpful.

 

Zwieg wrote, “Only by insisting on what Graham called the ‘margin of safety’ – never overpaying, no matter how exciting an investment seems to be – can you minimize your odds of error.”

 

The term intelligent investor does “not” refer to IQ or the SAT scores for entrance to college.  “The intelligent investor dreads a bull market, since it makes stocks more costly to buy. … You should welcome a bear market, since it puts stocks back on sale.”

 

Three practices recommended for investing include:

 

  1. Purchase investment funds which are well established.
  2. Utilize a common-trust fund.
  3. Use dollar-cost averaging to invest in the same stocks per month or per quarter.

 

Graham did not consider real estate as a protection against inflation.  “Unfortunately, real-estate values are also subject to wide fluctuations, serious errors can be made in location, price paid, etc.”

 

In the commentary section, Zweig recommends using Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS).  When the value of a TIPS bond increases, the IRS considers it taxable income, even if only on paper.  This is best used in a tax-deferred environment, if possible.  TIPS can be purchased direct from the U.S. government at:

 

http://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/products/prod_tips_glance.htm

 

Or, if preferred, you can use a low-cost mutual fund for the proportion of your retirement funds that you would keep in cash.

 

The performance of stocks in the market depends on these factors:

 

  • Growth of earnings and dividends
  • Inflationary growth in the economy
  • Speculative increase or decrease by the public in stocks

 

“Because so few investors have the guts to cling to stocks in a falling market, Graham insists that everyone should keep a minimum of 25% in bonds.”  That gives you the courage to stay in the market even when it’s performing poorly.

 

What are some of the guidelines offered, when selecting stocks?

 

  • Adequate but not excessive diversification.
  • Companies selected should be large
  • Companies need a long record of continuous dividend payments.
  • Set a limit on the price you will pay for a stock.  (For example, “Twenty-five times such average earnings and not more than 20 times those of the last 12-month period.”)

 

In regard to selection, Graham looked at large companies that were relatively unpopular and could be purchased at a good price.  He wrote, “Earnings multiplier is a synonym for P/E or price/earnings ratios, which measure how much investors are willing to pay for a stock compared to the profitability of the underlying business.”

 

The guidelines on the price/earnings ratios given included:

 

Below 10 = low P/E

10 to 20 = moderate P/E

> 20 = expensive P/E

 

To be considered a large company, the recommend stock value (market capitalization) for 2003 needs to be at least $10 billion.  A resource for checking this is:

 

http://screen.yahoo.com/stocks.html

 

To be prominent, a company should be in the top three or top four spots in its industry group.  Graham wrote that, “The key requirement here is that the enterprising investor concentrate on the larger companies that are going through a period of unpopularity.”  Larger companies have the advantages of resources in capital and brainpower to carry them through.

 

In Zweig’s commentary, he stated that, “Growth stocks are worth buying when their prices are reasonable, but when their price / earnings ratio go much above 25 or 30, the odds get ugly.”

 

To arrive at a book value per share, look at the balance sheet in a company’s annual report.  Take the shareholder’s equity and subtract from that the following. 

 

Shareholder’s equity minus

         Goodwill

         Trademarks

         Other intangibles

 

(Then divide the fully diluted number of outstanding shares to determine the book value per share.)

 

To help maintain perspective as an investor, Graham suggests the following.  “Price fluctuations have only one significant meaning for the true investor.  They provide him with an opportunity to buy wisely when prices fall sharply and to sell wisely when they advance a great deal.  At other times, he will do better if he forgets about the stock market and pays attention to his dividend returns and to the operating results of his companies.”

 

Would you describe yourself as an investor or a speculator in stocks?  To help you decide, Graham offers these definitions.

 

“The most realistic distinction between the investor and the speculator is found in their attitude toward stock-market movements.  The speculator’s primary interest lies in anticipating and profiting from market fluctuations.  The investor’s primary interest lies in acquiring and holding suitable securities at suitable prices.”

 

Even if you can’t control the market, there are some factors within your control.  You can decide what is acceptable for:

 

  • Brokerage costs
  • Ownership costs
  • Expectation of returns
  • Risk tolerance
  • Tax obligation (such as holding for a year before selling)
  • Your own behavior

 

Graham identified the following factors as affecting the capitalization rate:

 

  • General long-term prospects – can reflect the view of the price / earnings ratio.
  • Management – this may be useful where new management has taken over
  • Financial strength – company with a lot of surplus cash is preferred.
  • Dividend record – has the company paid dividends regularly?  (If 20 years or more of continuous payment, that is a plus.)
  • Current dividend rate

 

In regard to the long-term prospects, obtain and read at least five years worth of annual reports from the company or from (http://www.sec.gov).  See if you can answer these questions:

 

  1. “What makes this company grow?”
  2. “Where do (and where will) its profits come from?”

 

Possible signs of problems to watch for include a company with more than two acquisitions in a year might be in trouble.  Another possible problem are companies who take write-off / or accounting charges from past acquisitions.  In a company’s 10-K, you can check the “Management’s Discussion and Analysis” for any information on acquisitions. 

 

Be suspicious of anyone who seems addicted to “Other People’s Money.”  This can be labeled as “cash from financing activities” in an annual report.  When examining the “Statement of Cash Flows” in the financial statement, be suspicious of companies where the cash from “operating activities” is consistently negative.

 

Read the forecast from management in the annual report.  Check to see if previous forecasts in earlier annual reports were met.  If not, it’s better if the management accepts responsibility rather than blaming “the economy, uncertainty or weak demand.”

 

On the Form 4, available through the Edgar database, this shows up if a firm’s executives are buying or selling shares.  Be watchful if they are selling a lot of their own stock in the company.

 

Check to see if “Nonrecurring” charges keep happening often in a company.  Look for acronyms like EBITDA, which may cloak losses.

 

In the commentary, it was suggested to also watch for positive signs, which a company may demonstrate, including:

 

  • Competitive advantage
  • Economies of scale
  • Customers who resist substitution (such as electricity)
  • Revenues and net earning have increased over the past 10 years on the income statement.  (However, huge increases already achieved may not realistically continue.)
  • Research and development – companies need to invest but not so much that they are at risk

 

In the commentary, it discusses the concept of owner earnings, which has been made popular by Warren Buffett.  This includes the following:

 

            Owner earnings calculation:

 

            Net income + amortization + depreciation

 

                        Subtract from that

         Capital expenditures

         Costs of granting stock options

         Nonrecurring / extraordinary charges

         Income from the company’s pension fund

 

There are also items to consider about the true earnings of a company, according to Graham.  In the price per share, it’s better if the company has already deducted any special charges from ordinary earnings.

 

In regard to calculating the growth rate, compare the average of the last three years with the same figures from 10 years before.  For example:

 

                                                                                    Stock

 

            Average earnings (2005-2007)                Price

            Average earnings (1995-1997)                Price

            Growth                                                          ____ %

            Annual rate                                                     ____ % (compounded)

 

(In the commentary, Zweig advises to ignore any pro forma earnings that a company might show as not being valid.)

 

Here are some tips for reading an annual report:

 

  • Start at the back page work your way forward.  (Bad news will be buried.)
  • Read all of the footnotes to the financial statements.  Compare the footnotes to a competitor in the same industry.

 

When comparing companies, Graham offers these suggestions to look for:

 

  • Profitability – check the “net per share / book value.”
  • Stability – compare the average earnings of the past three years with the preceding 10 years.  (No decline means the stock is stable.)
  • Growth
  • Financial position – does the company keep long-term debt low?  (For example $2 of current assets for each $1 of current liabilities?)
  • Dividends – has the company paid one without interruption?
  • Price history – divide the high price of a stock by the low price to create a ratio of:  (Example of 66 high divided by 1/8 low = 528 or a ratio of 528 to 1.)

 

 

Graham offered the following criteria to be used by the defensive investor in the selection of stocks:

 

  1. Adequate size of the enterprise – exclude small companies.  At one time, this was defined as not less than $100 million is sales.  It has been updated to $2 billion in sales.
  2. Strong financially  — long term debt cannot exceed working capital.
  3. Earnings stability  — past 10 years earnings for the stock.
  4. Dividend record – payments for the 20 consecutive years.
  5. Earnings growth – increase of at least 1/3 in per-share earnings over past 10 years.
  6. Moderate price / earnings ratio – the price of the stock is not “more than 15 times average earnings of the past three years.” 
  7. Moderate ratio of price to assets – Multiply the price / earnings ratio by the price-to-book ratio to see if below 22.5.  “Current price should not be more than 1 ½ times the book value last reported.”

 

A simple way to invest is to buy every stock in the Dow Jones Industrial average; there are 30.  Or, use a low-cost index fund.

 

You can check to see who the big owners of a stock company are, such as Berkshire Hathaway.

 

To help identify stock which you might want to analyze and consider for purchase, check the Wall Street Journal for the “52-Week Lows” or the “Market Week” section of Barrons.

 

Before purchasing and after buying stock, Zweig encourages reading the proxy statement for the company.  Use common sense when reading it, to see if it seems logical.

 

Graham wrote, “We suggest that the margin-of-safety concept may be used to advantage as the touchstone to distinguish an investment operation from a speculative one.”

 

The legacy of Graham’s writing continues today beyond his lifetime.  His teaching have helped many become true investors rather than speculators, and his most well-known pupil remains Warren Buffet, the founder of the investment company, Berkshire Hathaway.

 

 

Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 29 January 2008

Writing Contest — Who Is Your Favorite Leader?

Now is your chance to share your writing skills and have a chance to win $25 for yourself and $25 for the library that you use.  In the spirit of my own book, “Legends, Leaders, Legacies,” now you have an opportunity to write about someone you admire.  It may be someone you know personally or it may be someone you have read about it.  Write a profile about the person and submit it.

There is no entry fee.  One contest will be for youths.  The other contest will be for adults.  The criteria for submission is the same.  You can do research, but all of the writing must be original and be your own work.  For all of the details, see the following link:

     http://www.susanv.com/contest.htm

Who is your favorite leader?

Posted by: Susan Vollmer | 23 December 2007

Of Permanent Value – The Story Of Warren Buffett

This book, written by Andrew Kilpatrick, tells the story of Warren Buffett, a self-made billionaire from Omaha, who knew even as a child that he was destined for good fortune.  “He has said he has known all along, even as a youngster that he would be rich.”  And indeed, his vision of himself has come true and exceeded beyond what many could ever imagine.

 

At his own request, Warren did not receive an inheritance from his father.  Instead, he made money by choosing his own investments, seeking value and holding for the long term.  He leads a company called Berkshire Hathaway, which is based in Omaha; however, it is named after a New England textile mill.  The mill turned out to be one of his unsuccessful investments; yet the name lives on.  And through the success of his other investments, Berkshire Hathaway’s primary stock is the most expensive on the market today.  A secondary “B” stock has been created which opens the door for many others to own a piece of this unusual empire.

  * * * 

Warren observed that when The Washington Post Company went public, the shares were not doing well on the stock market.  In 1973, he began buying the shares, and Berkshire became the largest shareholder at the time, after the Graham family.

 

“The reason he could buy Post stock at a great price was because people just weren’t very enthusiastic about the world at the time.”

 

* * *

 

Some of the companies that Berkshire holds are insurance companies.  The benefit of the insurance industry is that the premiums provide low-cost money to invest, but it can be volatile.

 

In 1936, a company was formed called Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO).  It was formed by an accountant who researched and discovered that government employees had fewer accidents than the overall population.  Originally, this was the target market.  The company later included other business segments with drivers from different industries.

 

By 1975, GEICO came close to bankruptcy.  From 1972 to 1974, states began requiring prior rate approvals due to rising costs and the introduction of no-fault insurance.  A new chief executive office was hired in May 1976 who took three steps to turn the company around:

 

1)      Operation Bootstrap – included increasing rates and reducing expenses

2)      Reinsurance – to share the risk

3)      Capital – Salomon Brothers underwrote a $76 million stock offering of approximately 34 million shares.

 

Berkshire is a primary shareholder of GEICO and has been listed as a permanent holding.  To help promote GEICO, you will find a link to request an insurance quote from the home page of Berkshire Hathaway at:

 

      http://www.berkshirehathaway.com

  

In 1992, Berkshire paid $125 million in claims resulting from the damage of Hurricane Andrew in Florida.  Warren wrote a letter to the shareholders which confirmed the payment and stated, “Whenever the choice is offered, we welcome the chance to forfeit stability of quarterly or annual earnings in exchange for greater long-term profitability.”

  * * * 

Warren’s son, Howard Buffett, was quoted as saying:  “My dad couldn’t run a lawnmower . . . (but) he once told me it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

 

It was a lesson that Warren not only taught his son but also major American corporations.  Warren was a large investor in a securities firm called Salomon in New York.  In 1991, this company became the focus of a bond trading scandal.  Warren stepped in to become the interim chairman.  Those who were involved in the scandal and in the cover up were let go.

 

To those who remained, Warren said, “If you lose money for the firm by bad decisions, I will be very understanding.  If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless.”  Warren told the sales force, “Everyone must be his own compliance officer.  That means that everything you do can be put on the front page of the newspaper, and there will be nothing that cannot stand up to scrutiny.”

Warren interviewed the senior officials remaining at Salomon and selected the person to lead the company based on integrity.  Through Warren’s involvement, Salomon worked with government regulators, and those clients who had left began to return to the company.

    

At a shareholder’s meeting in 1991, Warren shared advice from a former teacher and author named Ben Graham.  “You’re neither right nor wrong because other people agree with you.  You’re right because your facts are right and your reasoning is right.  That’s the only thing that makes you right.”

 * * * 

Warren does not look for popular or sexy products, but looks for basic items that he understands.  The author wrote: “Buffett was looking for that everyday, necessary product – and one that has to be replaced from time to time.”  This seemed to apply to some shoe companies that he invested in, along with Gillette razor blades and Kirby vacuum cleaners.  For refreshment and snacking, he enjoys Cherry Coke and See’s Candies, where Berkshire is also a stockholder.

 

One of the few luxuries Warren has allowed over the years is a corporate jet, which he has nicknamed “The Indefensible.”  When he dies, he has predicted there will be an increase in the sale of Coca-Cola.  “There actually will be a short-term bulge (in Coke sales) as I plan to have a large supply buried with me aboard the plane.”

 * * * 

He has described being a serious investor as similar to an investigative reporter.  He reads the annual reports of companies that he is considering plus he reads their competitors’ annual reports.  He looks for a great business that has a lower stock price due to misunderstandings or stigmas about the company.

 

In a 1990 annual report, he wrote, “The most common cause of low prices is pessimism – sometimes pervasive, sometimes specific to a company or industry.  We want to do business in such an environment, not because we like pessimism but because we like the prices it produces.”

 

Warren also believes in limiting the number of investments within a portfolio.  “I can’t be involved in 50 or 75 things.  That’s a Noah’s Ark way of investing – you end with a zoo that way.  I like to put meaningful amounts of money in a few things.”

 

He proved this in the 1991 annual report by stating, “We own fewer stocks today at $7 billion than we did when our total portfolio was $20 million.”

 

Warren advocates that it requires more patience than intelligence to be a good investor.  His advice includes:

 

  • “Invest only in what you understand.”
  • “And only with someone you trust.”

  * * * 

The author of the book is clearly a fan and does disclose that he owns shares of  Berkshire Hathaway.  The author wrote, “The permanent value he has created is a statement – a statement about how to do things right, how to do them ethically, sensibly, simply and inexpensively.”  The author of the book went from being a newspaper reporter for about 20 years to being a stockbroker.  He said in the early years, he tried to sell shares of Berkshire Hathaway but potential clients would balk at the price of this stock, which paid no dividend and questioned, “How high can it go?”

 

Many people have asked this same question — “How high can it go?”  Only time will tell.

 

* * *

 

Reviewed by Susan Vollmer

http://www.susanv.com

Author of Legends, Leaders, Legacies

(Hopes to be a future shareholder in Berkshire one day)

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