Warren Buffet

Meet Your Partner, Mr. Market

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Suppose that you owned a partnership interest in a business, and that your business partner was readily available any day to either buy out your half of the business or sell his half to you—as long as the price was right.

Suppose, though, that your partner suffered from erratic mood swings. He can quote you the price he’ll buy or sell for any time, but his appraisals are always colored by his current mood. When business is good he over-values the business and offers you the moon for your half of the business; when business is poor he becomes pessimistic and offers to sell you his share for pennies on the dollar.

This is a metaphor Warren Buffett uses in his shareholder letters to describe the stock market from the investor’s perspective, dubbing our hypothetical business partner “Mr. Market.” As a stock holder you have an ownership interest of a tiny slice in a business. There is a market to buy or sell shares of the business at almost any time. But the price the market may give you depends on investor moods.

According to Buffett, if you understand the value of a business it’s in your best interest to take advantage of Mr. Market’s mood swings to trade when his prices are at their most irrational. However, he also offers this warning:

“But, like Cinderella at the ball, you must heed one warning or everything will turn into pumpkins and mice: Mr. Market is there to serve you, not to guide you. It is his pocketbook, not his wisdom, that you will find useful. If he shows up some day in a particularly foolish mood, you are free to either ignore him or to take advantage of him, but it will be disastrous if you fall under his influence.”

So when the market is in a frenzy of buying or selling, there may be opportunities to profitably take advantage of the stampede—but not to join it.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Lessons in Letters: The Wisdom of Warren Buffett, Part 1

Downtown Omaha skylineWarren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, is a widely acclaimed investor and businessman. He is not perfect and he has been controversial at times. However, to our knowledge Buffett has made more money investing than any other human being on the planet. So he has that going for him, which is nice.

Almost 40 years’ worth of Buffett’s annual shareholder letters are available at www.berkshirehathaway.com. They provide a wealth of information on his views, methods, and insights. Some things from 1977 have gone away, like VHS tapes and KC & The Sunshine Band, but Warren Buffett’s letter for that year contains some timeless insights.

“Most of our large stock positions are going to be held for many years and the scorecard on our investment decisions will be provided by business results over that period, and not by prices on any given day.”

He goes on to write,

“We ordinarily make no attempt to buy equities for anticipated favorable stock price behavior in the short term. In fact, if their business experience continues to satisfy us, we welcome lower market prices of stocks we own as an opportunity to acquire even more of a good thing at a better price.”

Notice that his focus is on the business, not the stock. Buffett did not build his fortune by worrying about short term price swings. He considers his investments in terms of many years, not day to day prices. And he understands that the best way to build wealth for himself and his investors is to buy great companies at bargain prices. For Buffett, falling prices are a buying opportunity rather than a source of pain and anguish.

Buffett’s insight is remarkable in a market dominated by short-term trends—as are his results. There is a lot of wisdom in these words, and we will frequently return to Buffett’s letters as a source of guidance. In the meantime, like Buffett, we continue to seek the best bargains on the market and cultivate our investment “orchard” for long-term growth rather than trying to sell if for short-term reasons.


Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.