When you’re 91 years old, a living legend in your profession and one of the wealthiest men in the world, you can speak your mind.
And when you’re Warren Buffett, people tend to listen. This is, after all, the man who grew the value of his company by an astounding 3,641,613% since 1964.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A) just wrapped up its annual meeting, and Buffett came out swinging this year.
Let’s go over some of the highlights and see what wisdom we can glean from the Oracle of Omaha.
Buffett: Better to Be “Sane” Than “Smart”
Warren Buffett is intelligent, and his wit and wisdom are legendary. But he’s also the first to tell you that his success is not due to superior intellect.
Ages ago, Buffett said: “Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with the 130 IQ.”
Success here is more about temperament.
And Buffett reiterated this idea at the annual meeting, noting that Berkshire’s success is “not because we’re smart. It’s because we’re sane.”
Buffett has an almost robot-like ability to keep his emotions in check, even through raging bull markets and brutal bear markets. Not every investment works out for him, but his temperament allows him to stay in the game.
I would note that the secret to our own Adam O’Dell’s success is temperament as well.
Adam is a smart guy, but that’s not why he makes money. He wins at this game because he builds systems and has the discipline to follow them.
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Adam’s system drives every stock recommendation within our model portfolio. And it’s allowed us to target some powerful market mega trends with our stock recommendations.
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The Market Is a “Gambling Parlor”
Not everything Buffett says is profound.
Sometimes he states the obvious, as he did when he noted the stock market is a “gambling parlor.” Buffett went on to say:
Wall Street makes money, one way or another, catching the crumbs that fall off the table of capitalism. They don’t make money unless people do things, and they get a piece of them. They make a lot more money when people are gambling than when they are investing.
There is a difference. In the stock market, unlike Las Vegas, you reserve the right to buy good businesses and hold on to them.
And while Buffett may view the casino with disdain, the bad decisions made by others are what allows him to sweep in and buy good businesses when they do go on sale.
Buffett Got Aggressive — Should We?
I listen to what Buffett says, but I’m far more interested in what he does. Actions speak far louder than words.
So, it’s noteworthy that Buffett went on a buying spree as the stock market sold off. Berkshire Hathaway invested a net $41 billion in the first quarter. This is the most aggressive Buffett & co. have been since the 2008 meltdown.
As for what he’s buying, it runs the gamut.
Buffett and Berkshire have targeted insurance companies for years, so it makes sense that he bought insurance conglomerate Alleghany Corp. (NYSE: Y). But he also added to his positions in the energy sector with additional investments in Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) and Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY), and made a large investment in video game maker Activision Blizzard Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI).
So what lessons do we take from this? Should we view the recent volatility as an opportunity to jump in with both feet?
Maybe. But that’s not what Buffett is doing.
Yes, he’s buying aggressively for the first time in ages. But he finished the quarter with $106 billion in cold hard cash, meaning he only used about one-third of the cash he had at the beginning of the quarter.
Look: You’re not Warren Buffett, and neither am I. What makes sense for the Oracle may not make sense for us.
Bottom line: Market volatility created a lot of potential opportunities, but we don’t have to be in a major hurry here.
Buffett is methodically deploying his cash, keeping plenty in reserve. He’s not running for the doors, and neither should we.
He’s staying sober and, in his own words, “sane” about how he buys the dips.
We’d be wise to do the same.
To safe profits,
Charles Sizemore, Co-Editor, Green Zone Fortunes
Charles Sizemore is the co-editor of Green Zone Fortunes and specializes in income and retirement topics. He is also a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox Business.