The 2016 shareholder letter from the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway was posted on Saturday. In his review of the year’s business operations, Buffett also reviews how his investment strategy has changed over time. I’ve seen this discussed elsewhere, but it’s not something Buffett often draws attention to or gives his perspective on. He also gives his usual strong pitch for believing in the progress and growth of the American economy over time. Here’s one article summarizing Buffett’s arguments in favor of index investing. This article discusses some things Buffett left out of the letter.
Many companies, of course, will fall behind, and some will fail. Winnowing of that sort is a product of market dynamism. Moreover, the years ahead will occasionally deliver major market declines – even panics – that will affect virtually all stocks. No one can tell you when these traumas will occur – not me, not Charlie, not economists, not the media. Meg McConnell of the New York Fed aptly described the reality of panics: “We spend a lot of time looking for systemic risk; in truth, however, it tends to find us.”During such scary periods, you should never forget two things: First, widespread fear is your friend as an investor, because it serves up bargain purchases. Second, personal fear is your enemy. It will also be unwarranted. Investors who avoid high and unnecessary costs and simply sit for an extended period with a collection of large, conservatively-financed American businesses will almost certainly do well.