#3: The Six Commandments of Value Investing (Part 1)


The Six Commandments of Value Investing (Part 1)


EDITOR’S NOTE: Although it has been some time since speaking live with busy colleague Vitaliy Katsenelson CFA, I review his internet material frequently and appreciate this ME-P series contribution. I encourage all ME-P readers to do the same and consider his value investing insights carefully.

By Vitaliy Katsenelson, CFA


The Six Commandments of Value Investing
3. The market is there to serve you, not the other way around.

Part 1
: The market is there to price stocks on a daily basis, but it doesn’t value them on a daily basis. In the long run (the yardstick here is years, not days or months) the market will value stocks, but in the short run stock price movements are random. 

Despite this randomness, the media will always find a rational explanation for a move. However, trying to understand randomness and predict stock movements in the short run is like trying to have an intelligent conversation with a two-year-old. It may be fun, but it will consume a lot of your time and energy, and the outcome is far from certain. 

Stock fluctuations should be looked upon as a natural and benign feature of the stock market, but only if you know what the asset is worth. To make Mr. Market serve us and not become its slave, here is what we do.

If we know a stock is worth $1, then if its price falls from 50 cents to 30 cents (a 40% decline), that’s a blessing for several reasons: The company can now buy back a lot more of its stock at lower prices, and we can add to our position. After all, it’s 40% cheaper. 

Here is the key, though: You have to make sure that what you thought was worth $1 is still worth $1.

To quote Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.” How do you remain rational when Mr. Market has just smashed you in the face by repricing your $1 stock from 50 cents to 30 cents? Maybe Mr. Market is right and that company’s fair value was never really $1 but only 40 cents?

To remain rational, we focus on maximizing our Total IQ. I know we were not supposed to have math, especially this early in the book. But indulge me with this little equation: Total IQ = IQ x EQ (where EQ <=1)Before I explain I want to stress this point: Your IQ, EQ, and thus Total IQ will vary from stock to stock and from industry to industry.

Let’s start with IQ.

IQ – our intellectual capacity to analyze problems – will vary with the problem in front of us. Just as we breezed through some subjects in college and struggled with others, our ability to understand the current and future dynamics of various companies and industries will fluctuate as well. This is why we buy stocks that fall within our sphere of competence. We tend to stick with ones where our IQ is the highest.

As I have mentioned before but will continue to repeat: If investing were an exact science – a formulaic process by which you could (in a vacuum) constantly test and retest your hypotheses and repeat your results – then EQ, our emotional quotient, would be irrelevant.

If we were characters from Star Trek – with complete control over our emotions, like Mr. Spock, or lacking emotions entirely, like Lieutenant Commander Data – then our EQ wouldn’t matter. However, investing is not a science and we are humans. We have plenty of emotions, and thus EQ is a very important part of this equation.

Though we usually think about our capacity to analyze problems as being dependable and stable over time, it isn’t.

First, emotions distort probabilities. So, even if my intellectual capacity to analyze a problem is not impacted, my brain may be solving a distorted problem.

Second, my IQ is not constant, and my ability to process information effectively declines under emotional stress. I either lose the big picture or overlook important details. This dilemma is not unique to me; I’m sure it affects all of us to varying degrees.

A friend of mine who is a terrific investor, and who will remain nameless (though his name is George), once told me that he never invests in grocery store stocks because he can’t be rational when he holds them. If we spent some Freudian time with him, we’d probably discover that he experienced a traumatic childhood event at the grocery store (he may have been caught shoplifting a candy bar when he was eight), or he may have had a bad experience with a grocery stock early in his career. The reason for his problem is irrelevant, though. What is important is that he has realized that his high IQ will be impaired by his low EQ if he owns grocery stocks.

The higher my EQ is with regard to a particular company, the more likely my Total IQ will not degrade when things go wrong (or even when they go right). This is why in the little formula above, EQ cannot be greater than 1. In your most emotionally stable state (when EQ = 1), your Total IQ will equal your IQ.

There is a good reason why doctors don’t treat their own children: Their ability to be rational (properly weighing probabilities) may be severely compromised by their emotions. 

CITE: https://www.r2library.com/Resource/Title/082610254



Thank You

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