Rule #1 Finance Blog

With Investor Phil Town


Courtesy of the Carnival of the Capitalists and The Real Returns, I saw this post about focus funds.

The site owner did some great research. Many of these fund managers are icons of Rule #1 investing – investors who first make sure they are not going to lose money.  This imperative rule came all the way down the decades from Ben Graham to Warren Buffett to Bill Ruane at Sequoia and Bill Nygren at Oakmark Select and it’s great to see the torch being carried so well by Heebner, Gopson, Berkowitz, Schoelzel, Hagstrom Miller, Hawkins, Mulholland and Goldfarb.  With results ranging from 11% to 20%, including the last several years, these funds are far and away in better shape than all but a handful of funds – and the important point is that they will continue to be in better shape no matter what the market is doing – something that can not be said for the flavor of the month funds that lead the rate of return rankings at any given moment. 

One thing, though — these rates of return, as great as they are, speak to a crucial issue no matter who is running the fund:

Once you have millions to invest, it becomes more and more difficult to enter and exit the market.  Even Mr. Buffett has recently complained that the size of Berkshire’s investment in Coke prevented him from "nimbly dancing in and out" of the stock, the result of which was his inability to get out when he knew the getting was good.

So as great as it is to have a few fund managers who at least talk the talk, today the best results are going to come from doing this yourself. It’s easier to get in and out as an individual investor, which means you can make it so that you never lose.