Financial advise comes from the most unexpected source sometimes.
I met Warren Buffett through a Chinaman, a name the Chinese were called a long time ago, and which I use here with awe and as a form of endearment. My Chinaman, let us call my Chinaman Mr. S, ushered me into the wonderful world of stocks.
He came one ordinary day into the office, wearing simple unassuming clothes, wanting advice for a tax problem. He did not impress me on day one, nor I him. He did not shake my hand when the meeting was over, only did some form of a bow, muttering that he still had a bus to catch. That would not have been odd except that I knew that his net worth was 290 Million Pesos, up from 29 Million Pesos, because he was a stock market genius. Having started learning about stocks that year, I knew I should have his ear, and he mine.
Mr. S told me of a book, “The Tao of Warren Buffett”, written, oddly, not by Buffet but by his daughter-in-law. Mr. S told me that he followed every single advise of Buffett in that book and that he gives it full credit for the extra zeroes in his bank account. He handed me this book one day, over lunch, in The Manila Hotel. I thought it was on loan. But he corrected me and said it was mine. I was touched.
The book introduced me to Warren Buffett. To the uninitiated (I was at that time), Buffett was some sort of a philosopher, an “oracle” dishing out practical advise on money and investments and stocks (stocks!). Although there were several financial advisers at that time and so-called gurus, Buffet was different. He was funny: “You should invest in a business that even a fool can run, because someday a fool will”, and dead serious: “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago”, and original: “My idea of a group decision is to look in the mirror”. More importantly, he won in the game, landing in Forbes Magazine as the No. 1 wealthiest man in 2008, dethroning Bill Gates who was number one for thirteen years, because of his holdings. But it was not this fact which captured the world’s imagination. It was his philanthropic gesture of giving away 85% of his riches to foundations, one of which is the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation.
After reading it, I bought my first stocks through the stock market portal game of the Philippine Stock Exchange. I still have not amassed enough excess funds to play for real at that time, which is a blessing in disguise since it was a bull market that ran into the bear all too suddenly.
I remember Mr. S now, and Warren Buffett, both of whom are probably besotted by the plagues of the stock market because of the crash of the world economies in October 2008. But I remind myself it is a bear market once again, the kind that Mr. Buffett, and Mr. S, his follower, wait for and thrive in. I wonder how they are.
I took the book from the shelf, dusted its covers, lovingly read Buffett’s principles one by one, trying to remember. I imagine that Buffett and Mr. S are picking up tumbling stocks with glee, like kids, unfazed because their game is long term, unruffled because they understand that everything is temporary.
I remember. I relearn. I burn the lines to my broker.
In this market – what are you doing?