Charlie is the “Real” Architect: Lessons from Buffett’s 2023 Annual Letter

On February 24, 2024, Warren Buffett issued his always-anticipated, and widely read annual letter to shareholders. This letter, began with a special tribute to Charlie Munger, who passed away on November 28, 2023, just 33 days shy of his 100th birthday.

Of note, Buffett very clearly, and without any reservation admitted (or revealed) that Charlie was and has always been the brains behind Berkshire’s entire strategy (Buffett calls him the “architect”), while Buffett was (in his own words) simply the “construction crew”.

In other words, while for decades the world has lavished enormous praise on Buffett for being the world’s genius and best investor, it appears that all along, the accolades should have been going to Charlie.

Each year Buffett uses his letter to provide an update on Berkshire’s activities, but – we believe – it is really a platform for him to attempt to educate other investors on how to achieve success. Here are four top themes and lessons that we’ve identified from his latest letter. (All quotes below are from this years letter).

  1. Buy Wonderful Businesses at Fair Prices, Not Fair Businesses at Wonderful Prices

Perhaps Charlie’s most important strategic instruction to Buffett, or as Buffett says “abandon everything you learned from your hero, Ben Graham”. Does this mean value investing is not the right approach? We don’t think so – it just means having an intense focus on the “value” you are paying when buying what you believe to be great companies.

  1. Buy, Hold and Measure for the Long Term

When you do find these wonderful companies, buy and hold them for the long term, with little focus for the daily “and, yes, even year-by-year movements of the stock market.” For individual investors, this means: don’t trade frequently (or speculate), and don’t have an intense focus on short-term results. At Ginsler Wealth, we also believe that even yearly reviews of performance can be too short-term. Investing is a very long-term pursuit. As our Q4 2023 Quarterly Letter pointed out, if U.S. equity investors (as measured by the S&P500 returns) reviewed their investments based on 2023 calendar year results, they would be ecstatic. But looking back just one further year to 2022, their overall 2-year results would be less than mediocre.

  1. Don’t Expect Home-Runs (from Berkshire)

Buffett goes to great lengths in this year’s letter to make clear that Berkshire’s size and lack of options of “moving the needle” means “no possibility of eye-popping performance”. He instead suggests that the future for Berkshire looks like “a bit better than the average American corporation and, more important, should also operate with materially less risk of permanent loss of capital. Anything beyond ‘slightly better,’ though, is wishful thinking.”

(Secretly, I believe Buffett is trying to signal to readers the type of investor he welcomes at Berkshire, and the type that should invest, or speculate, elsewhere.)

But his forecast doesn’t sound very optimistic. Or does it? You may recall from Ginsler Wealth’s Q2 2022 Quarterly Letter, if an investor can achieve average returns but avoid major losses, resulting longer-term returns could likely be great. In fact, we believe that is the formula for investing success. We advise our clients to expect “reasonable” long-term returns (not homeruns), but with a likely lower chance of large drawdowns. When this approach compounds over many years—not scrutinized over every single month, quarter or even year, as per #2 above—we expect our clients to come out ahead.[1]

  1. Ignore Pundits, Forecasters and the Like

Buffett says “pundits should always be ignored”. As an example, he later says “Neither Greg nor I believe we can forecast market prices of major currencies. We also don’t believe we can hire anyone [emphasis added] with this ability.” Anyone! At Ginsler Wealth, when asked to make any predictions of the future, our answer is always the same: “We don’t know”.

 

Our approach to “not knowing”, is to build diversified portfolios that we believe should perform well, held over the long-term, with less chance of capital loss or impairment. Seems like we’ve been listening to Buffett all along![2]

 

You can read Ginsler Wealth’s summaries of Buffett’s 2022 (last year’s) Letter and 2021 Letter at the links provided.

 

[1] Investing is inherently risky and nothing above should be viewed as a guarantee or promise.

[2] Nothing in this article should be deemed investment advice.

 

Image Credits:

A. Costanza: Dave Quiggle
B. Mosby: Architect Magazine
C. Munger: Lane Hickenbottom/Reuters from Business Insider

Brian Ginsler on the Real Human Project

An Unlimited Podcast twist! This episode is a podcast within a podcast…

This episode sees the tables turned on our host, Ginsler Wealth CEO, Brian Ginsler, as he switches from interviewer to interviewee. Brian is interviewed as part of The Real Human Project by Sam, an AI interviewer, with the goal of helping people share their stories and reveal the “real human” behind each interviewee.

The Real Human Project is on a mission to help people get to know each other better. Through AI-hosted podcast interviews, everyone has an opportunity to make an episode about what makes them who they are. These episodes can then be shared with anyone the participant would like to share their story with. Once an episode has been shared, listeners are encouraged to respond with their feelings about the episode.

The Real Human Project has extended a special offer to all listeners of the Unlimited Podcast: for $50 USD off your very own episode, enter code “Unlimited” at checkout.

To learn more about The Real Human Project, or to get your own episode, visit realhuman.io.

You can listen to this episode here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.

Insurance 101 with Simon Kay on The Unlimited Podcast

As long as humans have been taking risks, we have been looking for ways to mitigate those risks. Insurance, while a very popular risk transfer tool, can be complex and easily misunderstood. On this episode of The Unlimited Podcast, Brian speaks with Simon Kay of IPS insurance, who provides an Insurance 101 lesson, focusing on insurance for individuals and families.

Brian and Simon discuss different types of insurance, how to determine how much insurance you need, individual vs. group coverage, and more.

Simon is the President of IPS Insurance, a specialized insurance advisory firm with a very unique private underwriting approach to determine insurability. Simon is an insurance industry veteran, having started his insurance career back in 1988 as an insurance agent at London Life. More recently, Simon is a founding investor in Fairgrounds, a free-to-join racquet club focusing on Pickelball and Padel – some of the fastest growing sports in the word.

You can listen to this episode here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

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And COMING SOON…The Unlimited Podcast goes back to school for Insurance 201, where we explore the use of insurance for tax-efficient wealth accumulation.

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This episode is brought to you by Ginsler Wealth Financial Services Inc., a FSRAO licensed insurance agent corporation. Nothing in this podcast should be deemed to be insurance or financial advice, and is for informational purposes only.

The original article for Brian’s summary of the history of insurance can be found here.

The State of Real Estate with Rob Kumer on The Unlimited Podcast

Real estate is a hot topic for Canadians, especially in the current housing-challenged environment. Rob Kumer, incoming CEO of KingSett Capital, describes what he’s seeing now and what Canadians might expect from the real estate market and the economy in 2024 and beyond.

Brian and Rob discuss Rob’s path to CEO of KingSett, KingSett’s investment process, various real estate sectors, affordable housing, government policies, the path to environmentally sustainable real estate, and more!

Rob graduated with an HBA degree from the Ivey Business School. He joined KingSett in 2004 as an analyst and is currently President & Chief Investment Officer, as well as incoming CEO, effective January 2024. Rob is also a director of the Sinai Health System foundation in Toronto.

Founded in 2002, KingSett is one of Canada’s leading real estate private equity firms, managing approximately $18 billion across real estate asset classes including office, industrial, residential & affordable housing, retail, urban, hotel and development.

You can listen to this episode here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.

The Wisest Investment with Robin Taub on The Unlimited Podcast

November is Financial Literacy month in Canada, so as part of Ginsler Wealth’s ongoing efforts to promote financial literacy, Brian speaks with Robin Taub, CPA, CA, the author of The Wisest Investment: Teaching Your Kids to Be Responsible, Independent and Money-Smart for Life.

Brian and Robin discuss her path to writing the book on financial literacy, the 5 Pillars of Money, her 11 Healthy Habits of Financial Management, and how parents can overcome the challenges of teaching their children about money.

Robin is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA), keynote speaker, and bestselling author recognized for her expertise in personal finance and financial literacy. Her award-winning book, The Wisest Investment, has received accolades, including praise from David Chilton, the star of Dragons’ Den and author of The Wealthy Barber.

With a unique ability to simplify complex money topics, Robin acts as the “Google Translate” for personal finance, making it accessible to all. Her background includes roles in audit, taxation, and derivatives marketing at leading Canadian firms. She is also a passionate advocate for advancing women CPAs into leadership roles.

Robin holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree with High Distinction from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and is a lifelong learner, having completed the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants’ In-Depth Tax Course.

Residing in Toronto, Robin and her husband have raised two (mostly) money-smart young adults. Besides her financial expertise, she enjoys snowboarding, cycling, and attending concerts, including a memorable backstage encounter with Bruce Springsteen.

For more about Robin and to purchase a copy of The Wisest Investment, click here.

You can listen to this episode here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.

Private Equity Secondaries with Robert McGrath on The Unlimited Podcast

The private equity asset class is often absent from the portfolios of the everyday investor. For those that do invest in private equity, they experience large capital requirements, long holding periods, and often higher risk – albeit in the pursuit of higher returns. Private equity secondaries may mitigate some of the challenges noted above. In this episode of The Unlimited Podcast, Brian speaks with Robert McGrath, Founder and Managing Director of Overbay Capital Partners, who will explain what private equity is, introduce private equity secondaries, and share the backstory of how he and his brother became early leaders in this space.

Overbay Capital Partners, is a private equity secondaries firm managing almost $2 billion in assets on behalf of institutions and private investors.

Robert leads Overbay’s investment team and is responsible for the overall management of the firm. Rob began working in secondaries almost 20 years ago when the secondary market was still in its infancy and a tiny fraction of its size today. He has had a front row seat on the secondary market as it grew from obscurity to the prominent investment strategy it is today. Prior to forming Overbay, Rob worked for 12 years as an intermediary in the secondary market at Setter Capital where he advised institutions on buying and selling private equity funds. Over that period, Rob was one of the most prolific secondary deal makers in the world, completing over 700 transactions, representing more than $20 billion in value. Robert holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Queen’s University and a Master of Science degree in Accounting & Finance from the London School of Economics.

You can listen to this episode here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.

Leading Champions with Frank Dancevic on The Unlimited Podcast

Frank Dancevic on The Unlimited Podcast

While the U.S. Open ended on Sunday, the World Championships of Tennis – known as The Davis Cup – is on! And Team Canada is back to defend their championship title after winning last year’s tournament.

On this episode of The Unlimited Podcast, Brian speaks with Frank Dancevic, former professional tennis player and current Captain of Canada’s Davis Cup team.

We were lucky to catch Frank just hours before he joined his team in Bologna, Italy for the start of Canada’s defending run.

Hailing from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Frank Dancevic is a retired Canadian professional tennis player. He first became the country’s top singles player, according to ATP rankings, on February 10, 2003, as an 18-year-old, and achieved a career-high singles ranking of world No. 65 in September 2007. He has been the captain of Canada’s Davis Cup team since 2017 and continues to lead top-ranked Canadian tennis players Felix Auger-Aliassime, Vasek Pospisil, and Denis Shapovalov, among others, in this year’s Davis Cup.

In this episode, Brian speaks with Frank about his experience as a professional tennis player, what it takes to be a world-class athlete, and how to lead and coach high performers.

You can listen to this episode here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.

Everything is Sales with Darren Rabie on The Unlimited Podcast

Darren Rabie on The Unlimited Podcast

Brian believes that everyone needs to understand sales because ultimately, “everything is sales”. What does this mean? Sales expert Darren Rabie joins Brian on this episode of The Unlimited Podcast to help answer that question, and show how sales can be applied to more aspects of life than you may think.

(Note: This episode is also available with video on Spotify or on the Ginsler Wealth YouTube Channel.)

Darren was born in Cape Town, South Africa. His father owned successful clothing stores and his mother was a teacher. Along with his two brothers, he lived a wonderful life. But the fears and injustice of Apartheid drove the family to immigrate to Toronto in 1977. In Canada, with no money or connections, Darren’s father started a clothing import business and his mom became a travel agent. He grew up learning from two hard-working, never complaining, dedicated and loving parents who sacrificed for their kids. As a teenager, Darren had lots of jobs but quickly realized that he was more entrepreneur than employee. After graduating from Ivey Business School in 1996, Darren co-founded his first company – The Results Group (TRG) – an outsourced lead-generation firm for B2B businesses. By 2003 Darren realized that many of TRG’s clients lacked the sales leadership, structure and tools to succeed, no matter how many leads were generated for them. So, he sold TRG and founded Focus Sales Management – initially renting himself, then others, out as part-time sales managers for small B2B companies. In 2010 another division was born – Focus CRM – to provide ongoing support and training contracts for companies struggling with salesforce.com. In 2018, Darren decided to make his next life change and sold Focus to his partners in the firm. Darren now provides his clients with sales-related consulting, coaching, recruiting, and workshops.

Brian and Darren discuss human nature, applying sales concepts in your personal life, Darren’s “12 C’s” (characteristics) of effective (sales)people, and more.

You can listen to this episode here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music. You can also watch the video of Brian’s interview with Darren here.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.

The Perfect Cup with Andrea Chiaramello on The Unlimited Podcast

At Ginsler Wealth, we love coffee. Recently, Brian spoke with Lavazza Canada President, Andrea Chiaramello, at the Truffle Kings media preview event, for a special live recorded episode of The Unlimited Podcast.

Andrea Chiaramello was born and raised in Turin, Italy, hometown of Lavazza. He has been a coffee “addict” for decades, after spending most of his working life as an export manager, specializing in Route-To-Market projects, bringing Italian products into international markets (Europe, North and South America, Middle East). Andrea joined Lavazza and moved to Toronto in 2017 leading the Canadian operations across all channels.

Lavazza, also known as Luigi Lavazza S.p.A., is an Italian coffee manufacturer that was founded in Turin in 1895 by Luigi Lavazza. It started as a small grocery store on Via San Tommaso 10 and is currently managed by the third and fourth generations of the Lavazza family. The company imports coffee from various countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Uganda, Indonesia, the United States, and Mexico. Lavazza was introduced to Canada in 1971. The company expanded its presence internationally and began exporting its coffee products to various countries, including Canada. Since then, Lavazza has established a presence in the Canadian market and offers its range of coffee products to Canadian consumers.

Brian and Andrea discuss the history of Lavazza, Italian coffee culture, how to make the perfect cup of coffee at home, and much more.

Stay tuned to the very end of the episode for a special offer!

This episode can be found here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.

What is SPAC Arbitrage? with Jamie Wise on The Unlimited Podcast

SPAC Arbitrage. While it may sound complicated, we are lucky to have Jamie Wise, President & CEO of Periscope Capital, as our guest on The Unlimited Podcast to explain. In fact, we’ll go back to basics to understand what “arbitrage” is and why investors have been trying to find arbitrage opportunities forever.

Prior to launching Periscope Capital in 2009, Jamie was a managing director at Moore Capital Advisors Canada, a multi-strategy Canadian-focused hedge fund. Prior to Moore Capital, Jamie was a Managing Director and Portfolio Manager at BMO Capital Markets where he led an internal proprietary trading group (we’ll explain what that means as well). At BMO, Jamie was appointed the youngest Managing Director in the firm’s history. He has an undergraduate business degree (hons.), graduating first in his class from the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in 1998 and holds a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

Jamie is also the founder of Buzz Indexes, creators of the BUZZ index (NYSE:BUZZ), also known as the VanEck Social Sentiment ETF. BUZZ uses AI to measure investor sentiment across millions of social media posts each month, ranking the top 75 stocks in the BUZZ NextGen AI US Sentiment Leaders Index™.

Brian and Jamie discuss what it takes to be successful as a young professional, SPACs 101, the beauty of asymmetric returns, how AI is being used in markets today, and much more.

This episode can be found here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.