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Monday 19 December 2011

Margin of Safety - The most notable quotes from Seth Klarman's investment classic - part II

I just finished re-reading Seth Klarman's "Margin of Safety". This time I made notes of all the important lessons from the book. This is part two of a three part series. Read them at your leisure. In it is some of the best wisdom on the stock markets from a person who is a "Investment-Hall-of-Fame" life-member.

Part I
Part III

On Managing Liquidity
A reason long-term oriented investors are interested in short-term price fluctuations is that Mr.Market can create very attractive opportunities to buy and sell. If you hold cash, you are able to take advantage of such opportunities. If you are fully invested when the market declines, your portfolio will likely drop in value, depriving you of the benefits arising from the opportunity to buy in at lower levels. This creates an opportunity cost, the necessity to forego opportunities that arise.

Bottom-up investors can easily determine when the original reason for making an investment ceases to be valid. When the underlying value changes, when management reveals itself to be incompetent or corrupt, or when the price appreciates to more fully reflect underlying business value, a disciplined investor can re-evaluate the situation and ,if appropriate, sell the investment. Huge sums have been lost by investors who have held on to securities after the reason for owning them is no longer valid. In investing it is never wrong to change your mind. It is only wrong to change your mind and do nothing about it.

Investors should pay attention not only to whether but also to why current holdings are undervalued.

Investors may find it difficult to act as contrarians for they can never or not they will be proven correct. Since they are acting against the crowd, contrarians are almost always initially wrong and likely for a time to suffer paper losses. By contrast, members of the herd are nearly always right for a period. Not only are contrarians initially wrong, they may be wrong more often and for longer periods than others because market trends can continue long past any limits warranted by underlying value.

On "How much research and analysis is sufficient?" 
First, no matter how much research is performed, some information always remains elusive; investors have to learn to live with less than complete information. Second, even if an investor could know all the facts about an investment, he or she would not necessarily profit. ................ 

Information generally follows the well-known 80/20 rule: the first 80% of available information is gathered in the 20% of the time spent. The value of in-depth fundamental analysis is subject to diminishing marginal returns.................

Most investors strive fruitlessly for certainty and precision, avoiding situations in which information is difficult to obtain. Yet high uncertainty is frequently accompanied by low prices. By the time uncertainty is resolved, prices are likely to have risen. Investors frequently benefit from making investment decisions with less than perfect knowledge and are well rewarded for bearing the risk of uncertainty. The time other investors spend delving into the last unanswered detail may cost them the chance to buy in at prices so low that they offer a margin of safety despite the incomplete information.


  1. Thank you for the notes Abhishek.

    Where did you get a copy of "Margin of safety"? I read that it is out of circulation and the sellers on amazon are demanding premium for it.


  2. I got a copy from someone I know who had it.