Thursday, December 27, 2012

Benjamin Graham: The Brain behind Market Giants



Benjamin Graham lived from May 8, 1894 until September 21, 1976. He was born in the UK but was taken to the US when he was yet a kid. He graduated from Columbia University when he was twenty years old. Then he became an instructor. He’s considered the first person to espouse and teach value investment and investment discipline. He was able to influence great followers (who’re successful traders; giants of the markets), including Warren Buffett, William J. Ruane, Irving Kahn, Walter J. Schloss, Chris Johnston, etc.


Benjamin’s investment principles have stood the test of the time, and are therefore peerless. His principles and ideas are mentioned in his books titled: Security Analysis (published in1934) and The Intelligent Investor (published in 1949). The books are very popular in the world of investment. Benjamin himself said: “Investment is most intelligent when it is most businesslike. It is amazing to see how many capable businessmen try to operate on Wall Street with complete disregard of all the sound principles through which they have gained success in their own undertakings. Yet every corporate security may best be viewed, in the first instance, as an ownership interest in, or a claim against, a specific business enterprise. And if a person sets out to make profits from security purchases and sales, he is embarking on a business venture of his own, which must be run in accordance with accepted business principles if it is to have a chance of success.”



Some good lessons can be learned from Benjamin. Some of them are mentioned below (in very simple terms):


1.      You can benefit greatly from trading teachers. Benjamin is presumed to be the first effective investment lecturer. This fact is evident in his followers, like the Oracle of Omaha (Warren), who’s been a long-term success on the battlefield of the markets. There are many great investment teachers like Benjamin today. How can you learn their timeless and non-market specific principles and make yourself one of the best traders in your generation?

2.      The hypothetical theory of the Efficient Market is bunkum. The Efficient Market theory says that that it is generally impossible for any individual to consistently outwit the market.  I don’t know why someone would take this theory serious when reality shows otherwise. That fact that someone fails in the markets doesn’t mean that everybody fails. If you don’t know those who can constantly beat the markets; no matter how small their profits are, I‘ll tell you that they exist. Those who spread that theory are probably those who’ve not found the secrets of everlasting success in the markets. Nearly all the generals of the markets that are featured in this series have found the secrets.  Trading is definitely not easy, but everlasting success is possible. Once you start enjoying this, you’ll be hooked.

3.      Some of Benjamin’s cardinal investment topics are: You should always invest with a margin of safety, expect volatility and movements from the markets and gain from them, and you should know the kind of investor you are.

4.      You’ve to master yourself before you can master the markets. According to Benjamin, individuals who cannot master their emotions are ill-suited to profit from the investment process.


Conclusion: We may be expecting too much from the markets; the exact opposite of having realistic expectations.  Would wouldn’t agree that in most cases we’re our own worst enemy? Without minimizing the great harm losses can do to our portfolios, and to our emotional well-being, who can deny the damage we cause as we apply poor position sizing and risk management rules. However, if we can control ourselves logically, we can garner great riches inherent in the markets.


This article is ended with a quote from Benjamin:


“Have the courage of your knowledge and experience. If you have formed a conclusion from the facts and if you know your judgment is sound, act on it - even though others may hesitate or differ. You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.”
Azeez Mustapha
Market Analyst, Trading Signals Provider and Coach
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