First, I just want to say that many of you might find this book boring to read. If that turn out to be the case, you can read the commentary (which uses more relevant and recent examples) for each chapter by Jason Zweig, which is worth the price of the book alone. I got tempted to read the commentary only but I forced myself to read the entire book and I’m glad I did it. Warren Buffett is right, this is the best book on investing ever written, by far. This is one of the reasons in my opinion why Warren himself never write an investment book (plus the fact that it is not easy to explain Warren’s intelligent on a paper. Instead just learn from what he does).
Now about the content of this book, it tells you everything you need to know about the investing field (not only stocks, but business in general, bonds, macro economy to some extent, psychological factor of the market, strategy for defensive and speculative investors etc).
Secondly, Warren Buffett highly recommend this book and his favorites are chapter 20 (Margin of safety) and chapter 8 (Investor and market fulctuation). Margin of safety should be the central concept of your investment, and understanding how the market works (and the mood and inconsistencies of Mr Market) should be the second thing that you need to know before jumping into the market.
I also find the chapter 11 (security analysis for lay investor) very educating as it teaches us to value the future of a business (breaking down into 3 area:
1. Long term prospect
2. Quality and conduct of management
3. Financial strength and capital structure
Additionally the comparison of eight companies (chapter 18) very practical and eye opening. I won’t spill the content right here but when I read them, it feels like common sense to me, but back (during the tech bubble) then I was involved in several similar stocks that I shouldn’t have touched with a ten feet pole.
The bonus chapter “The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville” by Warren Buffett is a classic reading. This article shows how inefficient the market can be, and argue that most of the time the market is not efficient. I have become a believer that the market is not efficient (after many years believing that the market is very efficient as the business school has taught me)
This book also cover several useful metrics that we can use to value a company in addition to just looking at EPS or PE ratio, such as the ROIC (Return on Invested Capital) etc.
In general, Ben Graham focuses a bit more on capital preservation (shown by focusing on margin of safety, dividend policy, and stocks priced below its tangible book value strategy.) which I think are really important, but one need to understand that there’s more to investment than just those things (such as long term groth/the business itself and management) which are also covered in book.
This book would not serve as your investing philosophy, but it should help you create your own investing philosophies. It will help you find what your strength (defensive or enterprising) is and find/form your circle of competence. And as a minimum, this book will increase your confident when dealing with the stock market.
Last but not least, also read “Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits” by Philip A. Fisher and “One up on Wall Street” by Peter Lynch to complement this book.
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