Category Archives: Money

 

My reaction to “Warren Buffett: Why stocks beat gold and bonds”

Warren Buffett recently argued for stocks vs. gold (and vs. bonds/currency) in http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/02/09/warren-buffett-berkshire-shareholder-letter

My take is that, yes, I like to diversify, so I have equities in my portfolio. Some equities are like hard resources and thus similar to gold. Eg. XOM and WMT have physical assets, distribution, and business that is not easy to replicate overnight (or over a decade even). Income producing real estate (and your house) is also a real, physical asset. My goal is to reduce exposure to fiat money and its related risk, and so gold and some stocks are in my portfolio.


I should add that my own personal experience is that it is difficult and risky to think I, or any "experts", can predict what products people will want and subsequently exchange for "what they produce" [as Buffett wrote]. Especially when companies fall out of favor. This is the inherent risk in stocks. When the iphone was released, I thought Blackberry was toast, but there are always "experts" and people who argue the iphone will be a flop; so I cannot be sure my crystal ball is better than theirs. Moreover, when data is released that Blackberry’s market share dropped last quarter, it’s too late to react because the market reflects such news in microseconds.

Anyone can claim that stocks are "the best" but that is because they are using a perfect crystal ball: the past performance of stocks they have cherry-picked to make their argument. This is basically what Buffett and others are doing.

It would be better if such "experts" like Buffett make a FUTURE prediction on a basket of stocks, and then we use a time machine to zip 10-20 years into the future and see if they are right. Expanding on this exercise, we ask them to also declare when they will shift in & out of each stock and how much. The fact they cannot and will not do this, shows the risk of stock investing. Even still, I invest in stocks to the best of my ability by trying to predict the things people will want in the future. Good luck to you and the "experts" in doing the same.


Where Buffett is wrong: Gold has been money to humans consistently for some 3000 years.  His attempt to group it with tulips, seashells, and the like is rather sophomoric.  Because he has been alive for only a few decades and not during the entire 3000 year span, we must give him some slack: He doesn’t have a lot of personal experience with things other than "modern" instruments like paper money and shares.