Investors for years have been searching in vain for a formula to replicate Warren Buffett’s legendary returns over the past 50 years.
The wait could be over.
A new study that claims to have uncovered this formula was published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass. Its authors, all of whom have strong academic credentials, work for AQR Capital Management, a firm that manages several hedge funds and other investment offerings and has $90 billion in assets.
The study’s authors analyzed Buffett’s record since he acquired Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A -0.18% BRK.B -0.17% in 1964. Their formula, which has more than a dozen individual components, comes in two major parts.
The first is a “focus on cheap, safe, quality stocks,” defined as those that have exhibited below-average volatility and sport low ratios of price-to-book value — a measure of net worth. In addition, the researchers looked for stocks whose profits are growing at an above-average pace and that pay out a significant portion of their earnings as dividends.
The second part of the formula will raise eyebrows: It calls for investing in these stocks “on margin” — that is, borrowing money to buy more shares than could otherwise be purchased. To match Buffett’s long-term return, the researchers found, a portfolio would need to be 60% on margin — borrowing enough so that it owned $160 of “cheap, safe, quality stocks” for every $100 of portfolio value.