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Inside Warren Buffett’s Brain

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What springs to mind when you think of legendary investor Warren Buffett?

For some, it’s his humble Omaha origins or his long-lasting obsession with Coca-Cola. For other people, it’s Buffett’s impeccable investing track record and extraordinary wealth that make a lasting impression.

While these are all legitimate connections to make with the Buffett name, perhaps he is most synonymous with the discipline of value investing – the style and mindset Buffett has made famous over the decades.

The Warren Buffett Series

Part 2: Inside Buffett’s Brain

Today’s infographic provides a deep dive into Warren Buffett’s brain, and it explains everything about his investing philosophy, along with the framework he uses to evaluate potential opportunities.

It’s the second part of the Warren Buffett Series, which we’ve done in partnership with finder.com, a personal finance site that helps people make better decisions – whether they want to jump on the cryptocurrency craze or follow Buffett’s more traditional path to financial success.

The Warren Buffet Series: The Early YearsInside Warren Buffett's BrainPart 3Warren Buffett's Biggest Wins and FailsBest Buffett Quotes

Inside Warren Buffett's Brain
Note: Stay tuned for future parts with our free mailing list.

Warren Buffett’s investment philosophy is well-known.

He famously focuses on the intrinsic value of companies, and he buys stocks when they are “on sale”. Buffett’s not afraid to accumulate big positions in companies he likes – and his favorite holding period is “forever”.

While this formula may seem simple on paper, it’s extremely nuanced and complex in practice.

How Does Buffett’s Brain Work?

Warren Buffett has said that he borrows 85% of his investing style from Benjamin Graham, and 15% from Phil Fisher.

Benjamin Graham:
The godfather of value investing gave Buffett a framework for finding undervalued assets and companies.

Phil Fisher:
The famous growth investor showed Buffett the importance of investing with good management teams.

According to writer Robert Hagstrom, Buffett applies these ideas by focusing on four key principles of investing:

1. Analyze a stock as a business
Have the priorities of a business owner and look the company from a long-term perspective.
Is it increasing its intrinsic value? Would you want to own the entire company?

2. Ensure a “margin of safety”
Buffett considers “margin of safety” the three most important words in investing.
In other words, does a company have more intrinsic value than book value?

3. Manage a focused portfolio
Concentrate on a few stocks that will provide above-average returns over time. Buffett suggests investors think of this as owning a “punch card” with just 20 investment choices that can be made over a lifetime.

4. Protect yourself from Mr. Market
Mr. Market can be speculative and emotional, and he should not be relied upon as a predictor of future prices.
Instead, take advantage of Mr. Market periodically, whenever there is a fire sale.

Buffett’s Investment Criteria

Here are 12 key factors Warren Buffett considers when looking at potential opportunities:

1. Simplicity
Is the business easy to understand?

2. Operating History
Has the business been around for a long time, with a consistent operating history?

3. Long-Term Prospects
Is there reason to believe that the business will be able to sustain success in the long-term?

4. Rational Decisions
Is management wise when it comes to reinvesting earnings or returning profits to shareholders as dividends?

5. Candidness
Does the management team admit mistakes? Are they honest with shareholders?

6. Resisting the “Institutional Imperative”
Can the company resist temptations created by institutional dynamics, such as imitating peer companies, or resist changes in direction?

7. Profit Margins
Does the company have high profit margins?

8. Return on Equity
What is the return on equity (ROE) of the business?

9. Owners Earnings
What is the company’s ability to generate cash for shareholders, who are the residual owners? This is technically defined as free cash flow to equity (FCFE).

10. One Dollar Premise
For every dollar retained from net income, does the company create at least one dollar of market value?

11. Intrinsic Value
What is the value of the future owners’ earnings, discounted back to the present?

12. Margin of Safety
What’s the chance you’ll lose money on the stock, in the long run, if you buy it at today’s price?

Or to sum all of these ideas up succinctly, here’s a quote from the man himself.

My strategy is to find a good business – and one that I can understand why it’s good – with a durable, competitive advantage, run by able and honest people, and available at a price that makes sense.

– Warren Buffett

Other Notes

Part 3 of the Warren Buffett Series will be released in late February 2018.

Credits: This infographic would not be possible without the great biographies done by Roger Lowenstein (Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist) and Alice Schroeder (The Snowball), as well as numerous other sources cataloging Buffett’s life online.

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Markets

All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization

Our most famous visualization, updated for 2020 to show all global debt, wealth, money, and assets in one massive and mind-bending chart.

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All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization

In the current economic circumstances, there are some pretty large numbers being thrown around by both governments and the financial media.

The U.S. budget deficit this year, for example, is projected to hit $3.8 trillion, which would be more than double the previous record set during the financial crisis ($1.41 trillion in FY2009). Meanwhile, the Fed has announced “open-ended” asset-buying programs to support the economy, which will add even more to its current $7 trillion balance sheet.

Given the scale of these new numbers—how can we relate them back to the more conventional numbers and figures that we may be more familiar with?

Introducing the $100 Billion Square

In the above data visualization, we even the playing field by using a common denominator to put the world’s money and markets all on the same scale and canvas.

Each black square on the chart is worth $100 billion, and is not a number to be trifled with:

What is in a $100 billion square?

In fact, the entire annual GDP of Cuba could fit in one square ($97 billion), and the Greek economy would be roughly two squares ($203 billion).

Alternatively, if you’re contrasting this unit to numbers found within Corporate America, there are useful comparisons there as well. For example, the annual revenues of Wells Fargo ($103.9 billion) would just exceed one square, while Facebook’s would squeeze in with room to spare ($70.7 billion).

Billions, Trillions, or Quadrillions?

Here’s our full list, which sums up all of the world’s money and markets, from the smallest to the biggest, along with sources used:

CategoryValue ($ Billions, USD)Source
Silver$44World Silver Survey 2019
Cryptocurrencies$244CoinMarketCap
Global Military Spending$1,782World Bank
U.S. Federal Deficit (FY 2020)$3,800U.S. CBO (Projected, as of April 2020)
Coins & Bank Notes$6,662BIS
Fed's Balance Sheet$7,037U.S. Federal Reserve
The World's Billionaires$8,000Forbes
Gold$10,891World Gold Council (2020)
The Fortune 500$22,600Fortune 500 (2019 list)
Stock Markets$89,475WFE (April 2020)
Narrow Money Supply$35,183CIA Factbook
Broad Money Supply$95,698CIA Factbook
Global Debt$252,600IIF Debt Monitor
Global Real Estate$280,600Savills Global Research (2018 est.)
Global Wealth$360,603Credit Suisse
Derivatives (Market Value)$11,600BIS (Dec 2019)
Derivatives (Notional Value)$558,500BIS (Dec 2019)
Derivatives (Notional Value - High end)$1,000,000Various sources (Unofficial)

Derivatives top the list, estimated at $1 quadrillion or more in notional value according to a variety of unofficial sources.

However, it’s worth mentioning that because of their non-tangible nature, the value of financial derivatives are measured in two very different ways. Notional value represents the position or obligation of the contract (i.e. a call to buy 100 shares at the price of $50 per share), while gross market value measures the price of the derivative security itself (i.e. $1.00 per call option, multiplied by 100 shares).

It’s a subtle difference that manifests itself in a big way numerically.

Correction: Graphic updated to reflect the average value of an NBA team.

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Charting the Rise and Fall of the Global Luxury Goods Market

This infographic charts the rise and fall of the $308 billion global personal luxury market, and explores what the coming year holds for its growth

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The Rise and Fall of the Global Luxury Goods Market

Global demand for personal luxury goods has been steadily increasing for decades, resulting in an industry worth $308 billion in 2019.

However, the insatiable desire for consumers to own nice things was suddenly interrupted by the coming of COVID-19, and experts are predicting a brutal contraction of up to one-third of the current luxury good market size this year.

Will the industry bounce back? Or will it return as something noticeably different?

A Once Promising Trajectory

The global luxury goods market—which includes beauty, apparel, and accessories—has compounded at a 6% pace since the 1990s.

Recent years of growth in the personal luxury goods market can be mostly attributed to Chinese consumers. This geographic market accounted for 90% of total sales growth in 2019, followed by the Europe and the Americas.

Analysts suggest that China’s younger luxury goods consumers in particular have significant spending power, with an average spend of $6,000 (¥41,000) per person in pre-COVID times.

An Industry Now in Distress

The lethal combination of reduced foot traffic and decreased consumer spending in the first quarter of 2020 has brought the retail industry to its knees.

In fact, more than 80% of fashion and luxury players will experience financial distress as a result of extended store closures.

luxury market McKinsey supplemental

With iconic luxury retailers such as Neiman Marcus filing for bankruptcy, the pressure on the luxury industry is clear. It should be noted however, that companies who were experiencing distress before the COVID-19 outbreak will be the hardest hit.

Predicting the Collapse

In a recent report, Bain & Company estimated a 25% to 30% global luxury market contraction for the first quarter of 2020 based on several economic variables. They have also modeled three scenarios to predict the performance for the remainder of 2020.

  • Optimistic scenario: A limited market contraction of 15% to 18%, assuming increased consumer demand for the second and third quarter of the year, roughly equating to a sales decline of $46 billion to $56 billion.
  • Intermediate scenario: A moderate market contraction of between 22% and 25%, or $68 to $77 billion.
  • Worst-case scenario: A steep contraction of between 30% and 35%, equating to $92 billion to $108 billion. This assumes a longer period of sales decline.

Although there are signs of recovery in China, the industry is not expected to fully return to 2019 levels until 2022 at the earliest. By that stage, the industry could have transformed entirely.

Changing Consumer Mindsets

Since the beginning of the pandemic, one-quarter of consumers have delayed purchasing luxury items. In fact, a portion of those who have delayed purchasing luxury goods are now considering entirely new avenues, such as seeking out cheaper alternatives.

However, most people surveyed claim that they will postpone buying luxury items until they can get a better deal on price.

luxury market supplemental

This frugal mindset could spark an interesting behavioral shift, and set the stage for a new category to emerge from the ashes—the second-hand luxury market.

Numerous sources claim that pre-owned luxury could in fact overtake the traditional luxury market, and the pandemic economy could very well be a tipping point.

The Future of Luxury

Medium-term market growth could be driven by a number of factors, from a global growing middle class and their demand for luxury products, as well as retailers’ sudden shift to e-commerce.

While analysts can only rely on predictions to determine the future of personal luxury, it is clear that the industry is at a crossroads.

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