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Investment beliefs pt 1 – The dangers of a lack of patience

Warren Buffet is generally seen as a very astute investor but his investment philosophy is relatively simple and a quote attributed to him is perhaps something many should heed – “The stock market is a wonderfully efficient mechanism for transferring wealth from the impatient to the patient”.

Until relatively recently, the FTSE 100 had peaked in December 1999 and whilst it nearly breached 7000 points intra-day, its closing high stood at 6930 on the eve of the new millennium.

Since then, there have seen significant investment market headwinds – the dotcom bubble burst, the ‘second gulf war’ took place, the credit crunch arrived and the ‘great recession’ in 2008 soon followed and as a result, investment returns have been heavily dependent on their timing and whether you bought on a low or a high.

Investing is a long term process which involves stepping out from the security of cash and holding an asset which can go up and down in value with the aim that the risk taken will result in higher rewards – whether it be gilts (Government debt), Property (residential or commercial), bonds (corporate debt), or equities (company shares) – no investment is ultimately guaranteed and at the time an investment is made, there is no way of confidently knowing whether you are buying at a good or bad time.

Investment markets are fluid – absorbing huge amounts of information and converting that into an expectation which in turn drives investment values however sentiment will result in excessive highs (bubbles) and lows.

Those who invested at the ‘bottom of the market’ only know that with hindsight – likewise the same also applies to those who invested at the top and whilst both may have made ‘the right’ investment decision, external factors no one can ultimately influence will have an impact – however, the longer the investment is held the less important the timing generally becomes.

A very simple investment philosophy is to buy low and sell high – doing so returns a profit – and yet, time and again people will speak to us about a ‘no fail’ investment they are seeking our views on – often something which sounds too good to be true which has recently made lots of money and they want to get a piece of the action.

When things then don’t go to plan, they often panic, sell and regret investing in the first place.

Essentially, buying high and selling low.

Investing requires conviction and a belief and, in our view, completely differs from speculation. Speculating is taking a punt and trying to second guess something. It’s not an approach we feel will predictably build financial wealth.

Investing on the other hand is stepping away from the security of cash and seeking greater longer term returns due to the fundamental nature of financial markets – risk should be rewarded (as, if it isn’t, why would capital markets take the risk).

If an investment is sensible and appropriate but the markets turn against the investor – it doesn’t mean that the investment is no longer sensible and appropriate – it is more likely that short term noise is drowning out the fundamentals of investments and it is also reasonably likely that, given time, things will revert to type – the danger is that, by then, some may have ditched their investment and destroyed some of their capital in the process – potentially being one of those who have transferred their wealth to the likes of Warren Buffet.

As investment advisers, we take significant steps to ensure any investment risk taken is appropriate – both in terms of being able to take the risk and the risk levels being appropriate for the individual.

By managing the risk and ensuring the client has a pragmatic view of the investment process, we aim to ensure that clients don’t buy high and sell low and that, over time, they are the beneficiaries of our patience and that their wealth, as a result, benefits.

We don’t profess to know which way markets are heading and whether now is a good time to invest; what we do understand, however, is that ensuring any risk being taken is appropriate and that, given time, good investments will typically behave as expected even if, initially, things work against the investor.

So the next time patience wears thin, consider seeking advice before selling an investment as it might be that the investment is perfectly acceptable and suitable, and that you are running the risk of buying high and selling low.