Charlie Munger’s 10 Rules for Investment Success

Here’s a very useful article on Charlie Munger from The Motley Fool written by Morgan Housel.

Those of you lucky enough to attend a Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) annual shareholder meeting have undoubtedly heard Charlie Munger say, “I have nothing to add.”

In reality, the guy has quite a bit to add. Thankfully for us, Munger is almost as forthcoming with his investment thoughts as his pal Warren Buffett. In his must-read book, Poor Charlie’s Almanac, Munger puts forth a 10-step checklist that even the most inexperienced investors could benefit from.

1. Measure risk
All investment evaluations should begin by measuring risk, especially reputational.

It’s crucially important to understand that from time to time, your investments won’t turn out the way you wanted. To protect your portfolio, don’t set yourself up for complete failure in the first place. Giving yourself a large margin of safety, avoiding people of questionable character, and only taking on risk when you can be sure you’ll be satisfactorily rewarded are all steps in the right direction. Companies like Chipotle (NYSE: CMG) might have perfectly bright futures, but when their shares are priced for perfection, they might nonetheless prove too risky for savvy investors.

2. Be independent
Only in fairy tales are emperors told they’re naked.

With stockbrokers often rewarded for activity, not successful investments, it’s critically important to make sure you believe that what you’re doing is right. Chasing others’ opinions may seem logical, but investors like Munger and Buffett often succeed by going against the grain. Big Berkshire investments such as Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), and more recently Petrochina (NYSE: PTR), were largely ignored by the masses when they were first made.

3. Prepare ahead
The only way to win is to work, work, work, and hope to have a few insights.

It shouldn’t surprise you that the best investments aren’t the ones we typically read about in the paper. The diamonds in the rough are out there, but finding them requires effort. Buffett reads thousands of annual reports to cultivate ideas — even if he only comes up with a few candidates each year. Munger advocates a constant curiosity for nearly everything in life. If you never stop asking the “whys” in what you do, you won’t have trouble staying motivated.

4. Have intellectual humility
Acknowledging what you don’t know is the dawning of wisdom.

Perhaps most crucially to Berkshire’s success, its leaders never stray away from their comfort zones. In investing, a clear idea of what the business will look like in the future counts most. If you struggle to comprehend what the business does today, you might as well be throwing darts. While companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) are certainly titans in their own right today, they might look drastically different in five to 10 years.

5. Analyze rigorously
Use effective checklists to minimize errors and omissions.

The numbers don’t lie. When researching investments, Buffett and Munger like to try to estimate the security’s worth before they even look at its price. They are businessmen, not stock-market junkies. They focus their brainpower on the value of businesses, not convoluted economic forecasts or intricate market-timing techniques. Munger is incredibly brilliant, but the analytical rigor of his investment decisions is based around simplicity, not complexity.” [Continue Reading]

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