Wall Street should really hate Warren Buffett.
America's cuddliest billionaire is always treated like a rock star on CNBC or Wall Street or wherever else he appears to spread his folksy investing wisdom. But have you heard the stuff he actually says? It is pretty much in direct opposition to what CNBC and everybody else on Wall Street is trying to sell you.
In his upcoming annual letter to investors, an excerpt of which Fortune published on Monday, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO says normal humans can't outsmart the stock market. They shouldn't even try, in fact.
"The goal of the nonprofessional should not be to pick winners -- neither he nor his 'helpers' can do that -- but should rather be to own a cross section of businesses that in aggregate are bound to do well," Buffett writes. "A low-cost S&P 500 index fund will achieve this goal."
The best course of action is to take almost no action, in Buffett's view. Stick to what you know, which is probably nothing. Buy a basket of 500 stocks, a smattering of bonds, and forget about it for the next 100 years or so. Treat investing this way and you'll actually beat the experts in the long run, Buffett says.
Oh, and you should definitely stop listening to those experts, he writes:
"Because there is so much chatter about markets, the economy, interest rates, price behavior of stocks, etc., some investors believe it is important to listen to pundits -- and, worse yet, important to consider acting upon their comments," Buffett writes, adding: "In the 54 years [partner Charlie Munger and I] have worked together, we have never forgone an attractive purchase because of the macro or political environment, or the views of other people."
This is a direct shot at CNBC, Bloomberg TV and any other outlet full of talking heads claiming to tell you how to make money. It's a direct shot at the hedge funds charging huge fees for their supposed investing wizardry, even as they are consistently trounced by those dumb S&P 500 index funds. It's a direct shot at the brokers who make commissions on unnecessary and unhelpful trades and at mutual funds that rake in fees with "active management." It's a direct shot at the newsletter writers and tea-leaf readers who claim they can time the market using Hindenburg Omens or Death Crosses or zodiac signs or whatever.
Here's another shot at the business model of CNBC, and much of the financial-news industry:
"If you can enjoy Saturdays and Sundays without looking at stock prices, give it a try on weekdays," he advises.
Zing! It's true, though. It's hard to think of information much less useful to you than daily stock prices. Unless, of course, those stock prices are collapsing, in which case it's usually a great time to buy more stocks.
This sort of thing is nothing new for Buffett. He's been saying this stuff for years. Buffett's bible, Ben Graham's The Intelligent Investor, has been saying essentially this since 1949.
And yet people keep not listening. That helps keep CNBC and hedge funds and financial advisers and stock brokers in business. Ironically, it also helps keep making Buffett even more money.
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