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Lessons from Warren Buffett - XXXX

May 29, 2008

In the previous article, we heard the master talk about the discipline in investing by using a baseball analogy in his 1997 letter to shareholders. Let us go further down the same letter to see what other investment wisdom he has to offer. Have you ever wondered, "Why is it that whenever departmental or garment stores announce their yearly sales, people flock to these places and purchase goods by the truckloads but the very same people will not put a dime when similar situation plays itself out in the stock market." Indeed, whenever one is confident of the future direction of the economy, like we currently are of India, corrections of big magnitudes in the Indian stock market can be viewed as an excellent buying opportunity. This is because just as in the case of departmental or grocery stores, a large number of stocks are available at 'sale' during these corrections and hence, one should not let go of such opportunities without making huge purchases. This is exactly what Warren Buffett has to say through some of the comments in his 1997 letter to shareholders that we have reproduced below.

"A short quiz: If you plan to eat hamburgers throughout your life and are not a cattle producer, should you wish for higher or lower prices for beef? Likewise, if you are going to buy a car from time to time but are not an auto manufacturer, should you prefer higher or lower car prices? These questions, of course, answer themselves."

"But now for the final exam: If you expect to be a net saver during the next five years, should you hope for a higher or lower stock market during that period? Many investors get this one wrong. Even though they are going to be net buyers of stocks for many years to come, they are elated when stock prices rise and depressed when they fall. In effect, they rejoice because prices have risen for the "hamburgers" they will soon be buying. This reaction makes no sense. Only those who will be sellers of equities in the near future should be happy at seeing stocks rise. Prospective purchasers should much prefer sinking prices."

Simple isn't it! If someone is expected to be a buyer of certain goods over the course of the next few years, he or she will definitely be elated if prices of the goods fall. So why have a different attitude while making stock purchases. Having such frames of reference in mind helps one avoid the herd mentality and make rational decisions. Hence, the next time the stock market undergoes a big correction; think of it as one of those sales where good quality stocks are available at attractive prices and then it will certainly be difficult for you to not to make an investment decision.

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