When I was 7 or 8 years old, I was lucky in that I found a subject that really interested me — investing. I read every book on that topic in the Omaha Public Library by the time I was 11.
My dad happened to be in the investment business, so when I would go down to have lunch with him on Saturdays, or whenever it might be, I would pick up the books around his office and start reading.
I bought the book that became the largest influence on my investing life by accident. I read and reread The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham, about half a dozen times — and it gave me an investment philosophy that I’m still using today.
That 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. Because we’re not going to sell the business, we don’t need something with earnings that go up the next month or the next quarter; we need something that will earn more money 10 and 20 and 30 years from now. And then we want a management team we admire and trust.
My favorite investment, one that embodies this philosophy, is Geico, which I learned about when I was 20 years old, because I got on a train and went down to Washington and banged on the door on a Saturday until Lorimer Davidson, who would later become CEO, responded. He answered my questions, taught me the insurance business and explained to me the competitive advantage that Geico had. That afternoon changed my life.
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