Friday, October 24, 2008
There is no better example of why ordinary individuals are particularly unsuited for managing their own investment accounts than at this very moment.
Granted, these are extraordinary times, but, small fortunes can be made when bold investors seize the moment. Of course, modest savings with aspirations of becoming small fortunes can also be wiped out.
Hence the dilemma.
As perma-bears like Jeremy Grantham wake from a long slumber and as value investors like Warren Buffet open their wallets to snap up bargains (stocks that might be even better bargains next week, perhaps even more so next month), ordinary retail investors eye the stock market with a myriad of thoughts going through their heads.
That is, the ones that haven't already sold everything in a panic.
This report in BusinessWeek about Grantham's new outlook adds to the "fight versus flight" calculation:
Now, Grantham, whose firm manages more than $120 billion in assets, is almost gleeful. The value manager, who earned the sobriquet "perma-bear" for his long-standing bearish outlook, is buying. Like Warren Buffett and a growing number of savvy value investors -- among them, Third Avenue Management's Marty Whitman and Longleaf Partners' Mason Hawkins -- Grantham is seeing opportunities in the cheap prices created by this autumn's rapid stock market unraveling. Stocks, Grantham says, are now cheaper than they've been since 1987. "You are looking at the best prices in 20 years, and you should be making 7% to 8% to 9% real (inflation-adjusted) returns. The last time I was this optimistic was in the summer of 1982."Now, Mr. and Mrs. ordinary investor - push aside your own anxiety and go out there and seize the day!
Not that Grantham's blindly upbeat. "It's optimism with great trepidation," he says. That trepidation reflects the fact that Grantham doesn't know if the market will fall further. But he's not the type to try to time the bottom. In fact, he says, bubbles historically overcorrect, and usually quite dramatically. That's what happened after the stock market crash of 1929, the 1965 collapse of the Nifty Fifty, and the contraction in Japan in 1989. "We are reconciled to buying too soon," says the money manager. "A value manager buys too soon and sells too soon. That's the nature of the beast."
With a stomach of steel and a keen sense of history, Grantham feels no qualms about buying now: "I don't have any anxiety. I feel so much better with history on my side. Truly. I've been looking forward to this for years."