Saturday, February 08, 2014

suggestions for long-term investors

And then there’s the business news. Serious business news that lacked sensationalism, and thus ratings, has been replaced by a new genre: business entertainment (of course, investors did not get the memo). These shows do a terrific job of filling our need to have explanations for everything, even random events that require no explanation (like daily stock movements). Most information on the business entertainment channels — Bloomberg Television, CNBC, Fox Business — has as much value for investors as daily weather forecasts have for travelers who don’t intend to go anywhere for a year. Yet many managers have CNBC, Fox or Bloomberg on while they work.

You may think you’re able to filter the noise. You cannot; it overwhelms you. So don’t fight the noise — block it. Leave the television off while the markets are open, and at the end of the day, check the business channel websites to see if there were interviews or news events that are worth watching.

Don’t check your stock quotes continuously; doing so shrinks your time horizon. As a long-term investor, you analyze a company and value the business over the next decade, but daily stock volatility will negate all that and turn you into a trader. There is nothing wrong with trading, but investors are rarely good traders.

Numerous studies have found that humans are terrible at multitasking. We have a hard time ignoring irrelevant information and are too sensitive to new information. Focus is the antithesis of multitasking. I find that I’m most productive on an airplane. I put on my headphones and focus on reading or writing. There are no distractions — no e-mails, no Twitter, no Facebook, no instant messages, no phone calls. I get more done in the course of a four-hour flight than in two days at the office. But you don’t need to rack up frequent-flier miles to focus; just go into “off mode” a few hours a day: Kill your Internet, turn off your phone, and do what you need to do.

Investing is not an idea-­per-hour profession; it more likely results in a few ideas per year. A traditional, structured working environment creates pressure to produce an output — an idea, even a forced idea. Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio) once said at a Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting: “We don’t get paid for activity; we get paid for being right. As to how long we’ll wait, we’ll wait indefinitely.”

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