The Intelligent Investor. It is on anyone who is anyone’s recommended reading list. But it is not on mine. Why? Because it’s a load of rubbish. In fairness, I have not read the whole book. But that was because it was boring and such heavy reading.
I am no stranger to books, and I enjoy reading, but the first question I ask when someone tells me they have read it is: “All of it?” The pause afterwards tells me that they did not.
The Intelligent Investor is a relic from a forgotten age
It is outdated. What worked then – doing the hard yards that nobody could be bothered to do – is no longer a viable edge. There is a reason value has consistently underperformed. In a world of whizzing gizmos and giddy gadgets, we have everything we want and need, right now. We are living in the age of the consumer. Want to watch your favourite TV show? Netflix. Want your favourite dish? Just Eat. Want to find stocks that are trading below their EV and are undervalued as a result of their discounted cash flows? SharePad.
The investment world is an arms race. He or she who is tooled up the most wins. Period. Reading The Intelligent Investor now is not going to teach anyone anything important, just how people used to make money (and how people no longer do).
People are scared not to recommend it on a reading list
Seriously. People are scared that if they don’t recommend The Intelligent Investor people will quiz their credibility. It is like McDonald’s ditching their McFlurry, or a fund manager selling Shell. It is just never going to happen. Fund managers are always guarding their backs and protecting their job, but nobody ever lost their job by owning Shell – no matter how bad it is performing.
I am not saying it is a bad book. It is written by Benjamin Graham – the ‘father of value investing’ – who taught Warren Buffet, a huge fan of his work. But Warren Buffett ditched his strategy of finding used fag ends and rolling them up for another puff when he met Charlie Munger. Value did feature in his strategy, but the idea that Warren Buffet stuck to Graham’s principles throughout his career has been allowed to populate and spread.
There are far better books to recommend
At the end of the day, stocks move because people buy and sell. And the reasons that people buy and sell change too. Over the last decade, the theme has been growth and momentum. Those who have been focusing on ‘margins of safety’ have had a tough time being outperformed by growth stocks as punters and investors bid on securities on ever higher ratings. That does not mean that this is a better strategy, it just means it so happens to be the flavour of the month (or decade).
Traders and investors should focus on their own systems, but by doing what is en vogue they give themselves a lovely tailwind to be long into. Given that technical software has eroded the edge of going the extra mile, an edge can be gained now by an understanding of prices and how they move. Charting books, and identifying growth stocks, are all of much more use than The Intelligent Investor.
Maybe one day I will try and read it, but until then, there are at least another 100 books on my reading list that I would like to read before I do.
You can hear more from Michael by downloading his fantastic free book ‘How to Make Six Figures in Stocks’. This can be downloaded from his website – https://www.shiftingshares.com/