The Intelligent Investor’s Motto: Margin of Safety

In Chapter 20 of The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham covers the ” ‘Margin of Safety’ as the Central Concept of Investment.” This big idea or motto is the “secret of sound investment” distilled to three words.

Graham says “the function of the margin of safety is, in essence, that of rendering unnecessary an accurate estimate of the future.” When considering whether an investment carries a favorable margin of safety, calculations should be based on present circumstances, not overly optimistic or hoped-for future situations.

As I delve into this chapter, I learn that though the margin-of-safety principle is one of the main things, it’s not the only thing relevant to intelligent investing. Its companion is diversification. In addition, I discover that real-life adherence to safety margins isn’t simple or always achievable.

Still, the concept is important and mathematical framework, crucial to the task of selecting securities and building a portfolio.

Convertible Bonds: Understanding How They Work

In Chapter 16 of The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham explores the world of convertible issues, namely convertible bonds and convertible preferred stocks. He also discusses stock-option warrants.

This article is part of a series on Understanding The Intelligent Investor. It continues from the Chapter 15 review on beating the stock market with proven strategies by Joseph Hogue, CFA at My Stock Market Basics.

One of the most important lessons in this chapter is the idea that Wall Street often spins the value of products to favor the commissioned-based seller and issuing company. Instead of relying on advisers or sellers to identify an attractive product, the discerning investor could do well to fully understand both the advantages and disadvantages of investment products.

Let’s delve into convertibles and discover what Graham thinks of them.

Market Fluctuations: How to Act When They Happen

Chapter 8 of The Intelligent Investor focuses on dealing with market fluctuations. Graham opens this chapter advising investors to know about the possibility of these ups and downs. He urges us to be prepared financially and psychologically.

To be clear about the nature of potential fluctuations, Graham describes a probable set of circumstances. Within the next five years, shares of a given security may experience a 50+% price increase from its low point or a 30+% decline from its high point. Such changes in stock prices may bear no relationship to changes in economic values.

While the rise in prices sounds great, the decrease seems scary. Still, it’s this scenario for which Graham wishes to equip investors to withstand (and possibly profit from). He offers advice that I interpret in this way: