Monday, 20 February 2012

8 Rules of Investing

Eight Rules of Investing by David Merkel: good, common sense rules that can help investors create a low-turnover portfolio of good quality, value companies. The only rule I would like to change is Rule 7, I think investing in 30-40 companies is too much for most people and an investor might lose focus, I think investing in 10 companies for the purpose of diversification should be fine. What I miss is the empasis on management (people) and their track record (Corporate Governance) in related companies.

David Merkel:

My objective in guiding investors is to teach them how to tilt the odds of success in their favor. As a value investor that rotates sectors, I have eight methods that each tilt the odds a little in my favor. Individually, each tilt is worth a little. As a group, they have been very powerful for my past results. Unaudited, these methods have allowed me to beat the market since the strategy started in September of 2000.
  1. Industries are under-analyzed, relative to the market on the whole, and relative to individual companies. Spend time trying to find good companies with strong balance sheets in industries with lousy pricing power, and cheap companies in good industries, where the trends are not fully discounted.
  2. Purchase equities that are cheap relative to other names in the industry. Depending on the industry, this can mean low P/E, low P/B, low P/S, low P/CFO, low P/FCF, or low EV/EBITDA.
  3. Stick with higher quality companies for a given industry.
  4. Purchase companies appropriately sized to serve their market niches.
  5. Analyze financial statements to avoid companies that misuse generally accepted accounting principles and overstate earnings.
  6. Analyze the use of cash flow by management, to avoid companies that invest or buy back their stock when it dilutes value, and purchase those that enhance value through intelligent buybacks and investment.
  7. Rebalance the portfolio whenever a stock gets more than 20% away from its target weight. Run a largely equal-weighted portfolio because it is genuinely difficult to tell what idea is the best. Keep about 30-40 names for diversification purposes.
  8. Make changes to the portfolio 3-4 times per year. Evaluate the replacement candidates as a group against the current portfolio. New additions must be better than the median idea currently in the portfolio. Companies leaving the portfolio must be below the median idea currently in the portfolio.
Each of these rules enforces a discipline on the overall portfolio that most professionals and individual investors do not possess. It takes the emotion out of investing, and forces us to think like risk-sensitive, profit-seeking businessmen. I agree with Buffett when he said, “I am a better businessman because I am an investor, and I am a better investor because I am a businessman.” The two disciplines mutually reinforce each other, leading to better results.\

More information: on the website from Barry Ritholtz:


  1. Hi there,

    I enjoyed reading your blog, this post serves as a good guidelines from a seasoned investor.

    Point no. 7 from David Merkel above if meant to be "diversify into 30-40 stocks in a portfolio" indeed is way too much for an individual investor to keep tab on all companies in his portfolio. Maybe if he meant "shortlist to 30-40 companies and pounce on them when bargains arises" then its definitely true.

  2. Thanks AIN, indeed, keeping an eye on 30-40 stocks is good.