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Warren Buffet says you should never trust a financial pundit: It’s like finding gold and then ‘handing the map to the neighbors showing its location’



Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett took a few pages out of Charlie Munger’s book in his widely read annual letter to shareholders over the weekend. The Oracle of Omaha dished out his typical measured advice to investors, but also took on a more, let’s call it blunt, tone à la Munger when discussing some of his former right-hand man’s biggest pet peeves.

Buffett ripped into Wall Street’s favorite earnings measures (including the one Munger famously labeled “bulls**t earnings”); warned of the rise of “casino-like” markets (a throwback to Munger’s comments in his final Berkshire conference); and even blasted financial pundits, arguing they should “always be ignored.”

If you read the letter, and you were a fan of Munger, it felt a bit like he had his hand on Buffett’s shoulder while the Berkshire CEO was writing this one. On multiple occasions throughout Munger’s life, he labeled financial pundits and “helpers”—a group that includes financial advisors, hedge funders, stock brokers, and more—nothing more than “fortune tellers or astrologers.” Now, Buffett has his own descriptor for the market doomsayers and boosters of our era, and it comes in the form of an analogy—Munger’s favorite

According to Buffett, being a financial pundit is “like finding gold and then handing a map to the neighbors showing its location”—it just doesn’t make sense.

A lesson from Bertie Buffett

Bertie Buffett, now 90, is Warren’s younger sister. She’s not a financial guru like her brother, nor has she tried to be. But according to Warren, she’s the model of a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder, and she has a few lessons to share with the average investor that all come from common sense. 

The first? Ignore financial pundits, they have the wrong incentives. “After all, if she could reliably predict tomorrow’s winners, would she freely share her valuable insights and thereby increase competitive buying?” Buffett wrote of his sister’s thinking, emphasizing that financial pundits are often motivated by greed, rather than a genuine love of helping others.

“Bertie understands the power – for good or bad – of incentives, the weaknesses of humans, the ‘tells’ that can be recognized when observing human behavior. She knows who is “selling” and who can be trusted. In short, she is nobody’s fool,” Buffett added.

For Buffett, Bertie is the “perfect mental model” of the intelligent, thoughtful, but somewhat risk-averse Berkshire shareholder—and he is always trying to provide advice, and invest capital, with her in mind. But in this shareholder letter, which detailed the importance of buying wonderful businesses at fair prices (an obvious homage to Charlie Munger’s most important lesson), Buffett clearly had the wisdom of another great friend on his mind as well.

So here’s a final, fittingly pithy quote on the folly of following financial pundits and “helpers” from the man Buffett just called the “architect” of Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger: “Warren, if people weren’t so often wrong, we wouldn’t be so rich.”

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