Investor Education

The What and Why of Value Investing and Security Analysis

Wow! I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve posted on this here blog, but to anyone who still follows me fear not I am still alive and writing. As student having recently graduated high school and being busy with all of the things that come with that I’ve been busy. I am free however now and will continue to post on here weekly when possible.

Alright, in this post we’ll be shifting gears a little bit and talking about how what our goals are with investing and how we are going to go about attempting to achieve them. As I’ve noted in previous posts, the primary reason to engage in any kind of investment is to assure that the investor’s wealth is growing faster than inflation, that is a rise in the overall price level, corrodes that wealth’s buying power. This is also the bare minimum an investor must accomplish in order to make any kind of investing activity worthwhile. However if keeping up with inflation is all we wanted to do then we could just buy bonds or index funds that accomplish just that goal. What most investors would prefer, in my humble opinion, is to grow their wealth as much as possible while still conserving the principal amount of their investment. So with this new goal in mind one might ask why just bonds, or investment company instruments like mutual funds, ETFs, or UITs would not suffice. I am not going to lie; instead I’ll say those securities could very well fit the needs of an individual investor and even those of some institutions but for those who are interested in earning greater returns than those of the indexes and far greater returns than any bond could actually deliver, value investing is that way to go.

If you’ve never heard of value investing(which is actually quite popular in the investing community) then you may be wondering what it is or what makes me speak so highly of it. If you’re already into it then just hang on for a bit as I explain it. Value investing is not a magic formula that is going to magically make you rich, it’s not a trading or signal system, and most importantly it is not a scam. In short Value investing works by purchasing a stock that an investor is reasonably certain is selling below the true value of the fraction of ownership in a business that the stock represents and then waiting for the stock price to reach what the investor believes to be the intrinsic value of the stock and then selling it. As you might have inferred the greater the discount at which a stock is selling from its intrinsic value the greater the profit per share the investor make upon selling it at that fair price. This begs the question, how do we ascertain the intrinsic value of a stock or any other investment security? Well in order to that we have to engage in security analysis of multiple types, but they all boil down too what I explained in my last post: time value of money as well as a little bit of accounting. What value investing and security analysis do not entail is any kind of technical analysis or using past prices or price changes to predict future ones. Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing, and Warren Buffett’s graduate professor and former employer, once wrote in his famous book The Intelligent Investor “Investing is most intelligent when it is most businesslike.” By using analyzing the business behind a stock and it’s true value, we are treating our investment, even at the individual level as a business undertaking and thus are being more prudent about it.

In any case, one thing should be noted if your skill in value investing does not earn you greater returns than those of the major stock market indices it may be best to stick to using index funds until you get the hang of it or until such a time as the market presents you with a larger amount of or more deeply undervalued stocks. This is not to draw you away from value investing but to have you understand that this strategy is a long term strategy, a waiting game if you will. Waiting until your undervalued holding finally reach their true value or to liquidate yielding more than you paid for the stock, or waiting until you find an deeply undervalued stock as you search through the thousands of publicly traded equities in the world. This waiting could take weeks, months, or even years but the people with the patience and the discipline not to sell an undervalued stock are the ones who earn the greatest returns.

In my next post I seek to get in to the practical aspects of security analysis and how to get started with analyzing and valuing a business. In the mean time I recommend reading this website, which does a MUCH better job of explaining basic accounting than I ever could. While it may be possible to understand my next few posts without reading up on accounting I would highly recommend it, and I think accounting is actually more interesting than the media may lead you believe.

Disclosure: The author is not an attorney at law or a finance professional. He did not own any securities at the of this post’s writing and is not receiving any compensation for this post.

If anyone has any questions just post them in the comments section below.

-Mohit D. Patel

Author, The Not So Intelligent Investor

Why Invest in Stocks? An Introduction to Inflation and Investment

In last week’s post I explained what the three main forms of business ownership are: sole proprietorship, partnership and corporation and I explained that a stock is a share of corporate equity or basically a piece of ownership in a corporation. So why do people invest in stocks? There are all sorts of things out there that people believe about the stock market. Some believe that that the stock market is practically a casino since stock prices change randomly, others believe that stocks are controlled heavily by big business and that its none of their business to be involved in in them, yet other people believe that they can simply do without stock investment simply because they don’t care about finance or business. All of these things are simply untrue. The stock market is not a casino because an intelligent investor can grow their money safely by buying stocks below their intrinsic value and holding them for the long term. As for the second assertion it is true that businesses do have a direct effect on their stocks but the idea that the management officials in a company somehow work for their own benefit is completely without base. The managers of a corporation must act in the best interest of the corporation’s owner, that is, the stockholders, and not just the institutional ones according to the law, because they are considered agents of those owners. Though I cannot cite any specific source I’m certain that lawsuits have occurred where stockholders have sued their corporation’s mangers for not acting in their best interests. The third reason that people avoid that stock market is the one that I seek to explain most thoroughly.

Simply not being interested in stock is not a valid reason to avoid stock investments. The first step to understanding why is inflation. Most people know inflation as a general rise in prices in the economy, which is true. It is more important for anyone who has saved any significant amount of money is that inflation also corrodes the amount of “stuff” that their money can buy. For example let’s say that I have $100 dollars and as of right now in 2014 the price of one gallon of milk is $10 then say that over ten years inflation occurred such that the price of milk is $20 in the year 2024. In 2014 at the price of $10  I could buy 10 gallons of milk. After the ten years pass and the price of milk changes to $20 if I still have my $100 under my mattress, I would now only be able to buy 5 gallons of milk. On average each year for this to work about 7% inflation would have had to occur. If I had invested my money in stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, or anything else and earned a return of 7%, I would still have the buying power to buy 10 gallons of milk. The effects of this effect on a larger scale say on money being saved for retirement savings can be devastating, since more money and a greater number of years exist in which inflation can act. The only way to completely or partially counteract this effect is through intelligent investment practices. Thus our purpose as investors is not to get rich quick, but rather to mitigate the effect of inflation and the decrease in buying power of money.

Why can’t I just invest in bonds or put my money in a bank? In the long run stock outperform bonds by a long shot. In the last 12 months the Standard and Poor’s 500 stock market index had returns of 17.78 percent while the Barclays Aggregate Bond market Index had returns of 0.50 percent within the same period. The rate of inflation for this year was 1.5%.  Bonds would not have cut it and bank accounts would not even have come close. The only investment that couldn’t shielded against inflation was the stock.

To recap, investment is performed to allow a person’s savings to maintain their buying power in the face of inflation. While there are many types of investment choices out there, stocks are the ones that are most likely to provide an investor returns above the level of inflation in the long run.

Disclaimer:

The author is a student, not an attorney at law or finance professional. As such, this article is not intended to constitute legal or finance advice and is offered as is.

If you have any questions please post them in the comments below and I will attempt to get back to you!

 

Starting at the Beginning: What is a stock?

So, I realized that I might’ve made a mistake just jumping into this blog, a blog which I intended to be for beginners in the world of stock investing and given an analysis which was both too hard to understand and incompetent in its analysis of the company and I apologize. With this post, I hope to rectify my mistake and to start at the very beginning of teaching what I know of stock investing.

-Mohit D. Patel

Anyhow, to start off we must answer a rudimentary question: what is a stock? Now many people will say many things about what stocks and stockholders are, and that is natural seeing as finance and politics are nearly inseparable. In order for me to best explain this I have to explain the three main forms of ownership for a business; they are proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. It perfectly alright if you have no idea what these terms are, I’ll explain all of ’em; on the other other hand if you do already know, you’re ahead of the game.

A proprietorship is when an individual person for legal purposes is considered to be the business. In order to form this type of business, a person does not have to file any forms with the government, all they have to do start doing business. In the case of a business like this the person who starts the business reports all of the money that they make on their own tax form. This type of tax form is called a form 1040. If a proprietorship business owes money or has a lawsuit filed against it the owner, who started the business must answer to the suit or pay back the loan and the government will seize their personal property if it has to in order to pay off the debt or settle the law suit. The fact that the government can do this is what a lawyer would call unlimited liability. Additionally while one person is considered to own and be the business, they can hire employees to work for them and then they would pay them a salary.

The second form of ownership is a partnership. This form of business is very similar to a proprietorship except that instead of one owner legally being the business, there are two or more persons who own the business. The laws apply the exact same way and the unlimited liability concept described above extends to all of the partners. One of the few differences between a partnership and a proprietorship is that a partnership formed by a group of people signing a contract called a partnership agreement which outlines how the partnership will function. Normally a partnership will dissolved if any of the partners die, file bankruptcy, or leave the business unless the agreement says other wise. In order for a person to be allowed to invest in this type of business they must be made a partner which would require the partnership agreement to be amended and for the investor to take on all of the risks of being a partner including having to pay back to the partnership’s debts and taking on any law suit that may be filed. For this reason many large businesses find this structure of ownership to be too burdensome and opt to choose the next structure instead.

The next form of business ownership is the one that is of utmost importance to a potential stock investor. It is a corporation. Many people talk a bout corporations without actually know what they are. Corporations inherently have very little to do with business, instead they are a purely legal construct. A corporation is created by filing a form with any state government, called a certificate of incorporation or sometimes articles or incorporation and receiving approval. Once a corporation has been successfully been created, in the eyes of the law it is its own person. A corporation can file law suits, have suits against it, it must pay taxes, and it can enter into contracts. Within the legal structure of a corporation there are two groups of people: directors and shareholders. When a corporation is created it is given the right to issue a certain number of shares of equity. In accounting the word equity means ownership of the business. Once the shares are issued the holders of the shares are owners of the company. A corporation unlike a partnership unlike a proprietorship or partnership has what in the field of law is called limited liability. What this means is that the shareholders cannot be sued directly for an action taken by the corporation, and they cannot be forced to pay the debts of the corporation. This is the opposite of unlimited liability and you guessed it; it’s called limited liability. The group of people we mentioned are the directors. The directors are responsible for the day to day running of the company on behalf of the shareholder. The directors are what are called agents of the of the shareholders. This means that legally they must do whatever they believe would most benefit the shareholders of the corporation. In most large business corporations, the directors don’t all actually manage the business, instead they hire a group management officials to do. The titles of these officials are those that most people used to hearing when they talk about big businesses i.e. President, Exeutive VP, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Counsel, etc. It should be noted that in each corporation the specific roles of both directors and shareholders are spelled out in a document called the corporation’s bylaws, which like the partnership agreement in a partnership explains how the corporation is to be run and governed.

So, if you’ve actually read this far you be wondering, when is he actually going to tell me what a ‘stock’ is. I’ll get to that right now. A stock is a share of corporation’s equity as we mentioned before that is easily traded by people through broker/dealer firms and/or one or more clearing houses. There are many requirements that have to be met for a corporation to trade its shares publicly as stock. The individual requirements depend on what brokerage or clearing house, the corporation wants to be listed on. The New York Stock Exchange has the most strict requirements, OTC Pink, which used to be known as the Pink Sheets very little requirements to be listed.

This article is provided on an as is basis and is not meant to constitute legal or finance advice. The author is a student, not an attorney or finance professional.

If you have any questions please leave them in comment section below!