Here’s What Warren Buffett Could Teach Michael Corleone

We’re a family of movie buffs. This holiday week, we’ve been spending a lot of time sitting by the living room fire, enjoying cinematic classics.

The other night, I insisted we all watch, for the gazillioneth time, The Godfather. (It’s a Christmas movie, right?) This time around, it occurred to me that the Corleone family could have learned a few things from Warren Buffett.

Unless you live on another planet, you’re familiar with the plot of the movie. Just before Christmas 1945, Godfather Vito Corleone is shot five times (but survives). Afterwards, Michael, his older brother Sonny, and the caporegimes discuss what to do about the men responsible: drug dealer Virgil Sollozzo and corrupt police Captain McCluskey.

Michael suggests that he kill them both. Sonny admonishes Michael for getting too emotional, and Michael responds with an adage he learned from his father Vito: “It’s nothing personal. It’s strictly business.”

For Warren Buffett, There’s No Such Thing as ‘Strictly Business’

The godfather of investing, billionaire Warren Buffett, would strongly disagree with that sentiment. For Buffett, separating the “personal” and “business” is a recipe for failure. The co-founder, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) believes that making money in the business world is a deeply personal endeavor.

Buffett thinks of himself first and foremost as an owner of businesses. That’s why he said: “Never invest in a business you cannot understand.” He also said: “I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years.”

Berkshire always keeps plenty of cash on hand. Last month, Berkshire’s cash hoard reached a fresh record at $157.2 billion.

What sheer cash can’t buy is talent. Charlie Munger, Buffett’s longtime partner and vice chairman of Berkshire, had unique talent as an investor. Munger, who died in November at the age of 99, expressed the same value-oriented views as Buffett. They’ve both continually characterized Berkshire as underpriced relative to its intrinsic value, and they’ve always been right.

I generally follow the value investing school of thought and Buffett takes value investing to a deep level. As he puts it: “In the short term the market is a popularity contest; in the long term it is a weighing machine.”

How to Invest Like Buffett

This holiday season, we’ve been enjoying a robust stock market rally that’s likely to extend into the new year. Will we experience dips along the way? Of course. But you should welcome a temporary pullback. Buffett also said: “Widespread fear is your friend as an investor because it serves up bargain purchases.” Never panic during a sell-off. Not only will the market eventually bounce back, but it will do so a lot sooner than you might think.

Buffett doesn’t necessarily wait for the market to eventually reward the merits of underappreciated stocks; he chooses stocks according to their potential as companies. He looks for strong balance sheets, good products that people need, market domination, and high-quality management. He emphasizes long-term ownership of a company, not just the chance for capital appreciation based on temporary market dynamics.

Buffett treats every business as his own. When Buffett buys, he buys because he is willing to partner for the long haul.

The upshot: Stick to your long-term goals. Pursue wealth-building with mental discipline, one step at a time. If Buffett had to choose how long to own a company, this quote of his sums it up: “Our favorite holding period is forever.”

Editor’s Note: In the above article, I emphasize the importance of taking a value approach toward investing. Sometimes, the undervalued price of a stock is…well, an offer you can’t refuse. Which brings me to the utilities sector.

The utilities sector has gotten clobbered lately by rising interest rates, but it’s poised to gain traction as bond yields continue their descent. That means value plays in the sector are ready for the picking. However, you need to pick the right ones. For our list of the highest-quality utilities stocks, click here now.

John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.

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This article previously appeared on Investing Daily.