The first Saturday in May this year will herald an extraordinary annual event -- one that we will likely not have the chance to witness on many more occasions in our lifetime.
The event is widely celebrated in the financial press, marking a time where investors come together to celebrate, speculate about and witness one of the great masters of investing in the flesh.
Many of our analysts here at StreetAuthority have had the chance to attend Berkshire meetings over the years. I've had conversations with many of them about the spectacle, which seems to grow with each passing year. But one thing has always stuck with me that I think is worth mentioning, and it's that while the event always makes for good television, what often seems to be lost is what Buffett actually says... or more importantly, how few investors seem to actually take Buffett's lessons to heart and apply them.
In fact, our own Andy Obermueller, editor of StreetAuthority's Game-Changing Stocks newsletter, has been saying this for years.
You see, Andy has been studying Buffett since the eighth grade. And in 30-plus years of studying Buffett, he has decisively concluded that virtually nobody actually follows what the man says. Here's what he told his Game-Changing Stocks readers in his May 2013 issue:
|If you go to the bookstore, you'll find a whole shelf of books on Buffett... They will be chock-full of his witty aphorisms. His earthy common sense resonates with everyone. No matter the story on the financial channels, Warren Buffett is the one we all gravitate to. He always makes sense, and he always makes money.
But no one listens to a word he says. Not really. They process his words. They laugh at his jokes, but people just do not hear what Buffett is saying.
I've followed Buffett for 30 years. I've read all of his shareholder letters, gone to shareholder meetings to hear him talk and read most of the books about him. They all capture Buffett the man. A few restate his investment philosophy. But no one has ever -- ever -- mirrored his method.
He goes on to prove this with an example:
|Everything the man knows is laid out for you to benefit from. But you'll ignore it...
The entire financial world is focused on the income statement. We go nuts for earnings season. Alcoa kicks it off every quarter. Then the big banks make their announcements, all in a row. Hundreds of major companies issue their financials. Wall Street compares them with their estimates. Trading volumes soar. Prices swing.
This is madness. The income statement is functionally meaningless. Wall Street's consensus forecast for any company's earnings is also meaningless. Buffett knows this. He's been saying this for years.
Warren Buffett DOES NOT buy a company for what it has done. He buys companies for what they will do. And that is not something you can find on the income statement. The income statement is in the past tense.
The balance sheet, however, is about the future.
Andy concluded by saying that if Buffett has taught us anything, it's that there simply is no "magic formula" for picking stocks. If you want to be a better investor, do what Buffett does -- forget the bottom line of the income statements. Read every line of the balance sheet to see what a company will do in the future instead.
I was recently reminded of another instance of how investors simply ignore Buffett's wisdom when talking with Michael Vodicka, Chief Investment Strategist of StreetAuthority's put-selling advisory, Income Multiplier.
You may already be familiar with Michael. In fact, many of you have been profiting right alongside him with his other newsletter, High-Yield International. In that newsletter, Mike points readers to the best high-yielding stocks found overseas. His current portfolio contains stocks yielding as high as 14.8% -- and the top winners are showing gains of 65.7%, 112.4% and 150.4%.
Now, some of you may be thinking, "What does Buffett have to do with selling options?"
Many investors are familiar with Buffett's famous holding of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO). Buffett began buying shares in 1988. At the time, Buffett said he expected to hang on to this "outstanding business" for "a long time." And over the ensuing years, he continued to build his position in the iconic company.
Today, Coca-Cola is Buffett's second largest holding. As of December 31, the Oracle owned 400 million shares of Coca-Cola, valued at $16.9 billion -- 15% of his equity portfolio.
But what many investors don't know is the story about when Buffett used options on Coca-Cola.
That's right. The King of Buy-and-Hold uses options. More importantly, it's the way Buffett used options in the case of Coca-Cola -- which happens to be a safe, conservative way -- that too many investors often ignore...
In 1993, Coca-Cola was trading around $39 per share. Buffet, a bargain hunter, believed that was too pricey. But the billionaire investing genius wasn't content to passively wait for the stock to fall to his preferred price.
The Oracle of Omaha decided to use a simple options strategy that eventually earned him $7.5 million before he bought a single share of Coca-Cola.
After deciding he'd be willing to open a position with Coke at $35 per share, a $4 drop from its current price, Buffett wrote five million put options with that $35 strike price.
For those who don't know, a "put" is an options contract that gives the owner the right, but not the obligation, to sell 100 shares of the underlying stock at a specified price (known as the "strike price"). In exchange for writing the puts, or agreeing to buy the stock if it drops to that price, investors collect premiums.
In Buffett's case, he received a $1.50 premium for every put option he wrote with a $35 strike price. He wrote enough of these contracts to allow him to collect a cool $7.5 million in the process.
If Coca-Cola was to fall below $35, the buyers of the options Buffett was writing would exercise those options and sell their shares to him. In that case, Buffett would be obligated to buy Coca-Cola at $35 per share, which is exactly what he wanted to do in the first place.
On the other hand, if share prices of Coca-Cola were to rise during the life of the contract, the owners of the options Buffett wrote wouldn't be able to exercise them and Buffett, of course, wouldn't be able to buy Coca-Cola at $35. The options would expire and Buffett would simply walk away with his $7.5 million. Not bad.
And that's exactly what happened. Buffett earned $7.5 million without buying a single additional share of Coca-Cola, proving that it's possible to multiply your income from well-known, ordinary stocks. And it doesn't have to be difficult.
That's why StreetAuthority's Michael Vodicka created Income Multiplier. Each week, he shows subscribers of his new premium newsletter how to start increasing their income from well-known stocks like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Verizon and others. In fact, Mike has created a special presentation, showing exactly how he's executing his strategy and how other investors can, too. (You can view his presentation here.)
Simply stated, we believe conservative income strategies like selling puts are one of several instances where many investors just seem to ignore Buffett. And this is a mistake. If you want to be successful in the market, don't be content to simply marvel at Buffett's "genius" -- be sure to pay attention to what the man actually says and does and act accordingly.