11 Brilliant Insights From Wall Street Legend Barton Biggs

Barton Biggs

Photo: Charlie Rose via YouTube

Greenhorn investors often rely on investment maxims like ‘sell in May and go away‘ or ‘age equals asset allocation’. But investing is a lot more complicated than that.Barton Biggs, legendary investor and manager at Traxis Partners, is out with a new note on trading and investing wisdom.

We combed through Biggs’ note (via The Gartman Letter) and pulled the 11 most important pointers for investors.

'Quantitatively based solutions and asset allocation equations invariably fail as they are designed to capture what would have worked in the previous cycle whereas the next one remains a riddle wrapped in an enigma.'

Source: Barton Biggs via The Gartman Letter

Read, read, read...

'The successful macro investor must be some magical mixture of an acute analyst, an investment scholar, a listener, a historian, a river boat gambler, and be a voracious reader. Reading is crucial. Charlie Munger, a great investor and a very sagacious old guy, said it best:

I have said that in my whole life, I have known no wise person, over a broad subject matter who didn't read all the time -- none, zero. Now I know all kinds of shrewd people who by staying within a narrow area do very well without reading. But investment is a broad area. So if you think you're going to be good at it and not read all the time you have a different idea than I do.'

Source: Barton Biggs via The Gartman Letter

Being able to immunize yourself from the psychological effects ot the swings of markets is just as important

'But the investment process is only half the battle. The other weighty component is struggling with yourself, and immunizing yourself from the psychological effects of the swings of markets, career risk, the pressure of benchmarks, competition, and the loneliness of the long distance runner.'

Source: Barton Biggs via The Gartman Letter

'Such a diary has to be written in the heat of the moment, in the fire and agony of the time, not retroactively or retrospectively. Its value comes from reading your thoughts and emotions later in the context of events and seeing where you were right and wrong.'

Source: Barton Biggs via The Gartman Letter

'The history of the world is one of progress, and as a congenital optimist, I believe in equities. Fundamentally, in the long run you want to be an owner, not a lender. However, you always have to bear in mind that this time truly may be different as Reinhart and Rogoff so eloquently preach.'

Source: Barton Biggs via The Gartman Letter

'As investors, we also always have to be aware of our innate and very human tendency to be fighting the last war. We forget that Mr. Market is an ingenious sadist, and that he delights in torturing us in different ways.

…Mr. Market is a manic depressive with huge mood swings, and you should bet against him, not with him, particularly when he is raving.'

Source: Barton Biggs via The Gartman Letter

Buffett says it's as though you're in business with a partner who has a bi-polar disorder

'It's as though you are in business with a partner who has a bi-polar personality. When your partner is deeply distressed, depressed, and in a dark mood and offers to sell his share of the business at a huge discount, you should buy it. When he is ebullient and optimistic and wants to buy your share from you at an exorbitant premium, you should oblige him. As usual, Buffett makes it sound easier than it is because measuring the level of intensity of the mood swings of your bipolar partner is far from an exact science.'

Source: Barton Biggs via The Gartman Letter

'Buffett put it best when he said he would always pick an investment strategy that over five years could give him a 12% compounded annual return, but that was volatile over one that promised a stable 8% return annually.'

Source: Barton Biggs via The Gartman Letter

Now here are some investment maxims you should probably avoid...

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