9. Richer, Wiser, Happier: How The World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life
I’ve never been impressed with books that purport to dissect the investing secrets of billionaires by authors that have observed their subjects only from afar. This book is different. William Green, a renowned financial journalist for Fortune, Forbes and many other publications, ushers us into the lives of more than 40 superinvestors, visiting them in their offices, homes and surroundings—all to share what they have to teach us. And what an exclusive group! Richer, Wiser, Happier brings together the investing prowess of the world’s greatest giants of finance, including Charlie Munger, Jack Bogle, Sir John Templeton, Ed Thorp, Will Danoff, Bill Miller, Howard Marks, Laura Geritz and Joel Greenblatt.
Green reveals the superinvestors not just as successful mavericks and iconoclasts, but also as often flawed humans. Green has a wonderful way of drawing out these impatient and cranky individuals. His account of meeting Sir John Templeton in the Bahamas is especially telling. One limitation of this book is that Green includes only investors that he personally likes. I wonder if there would be anything new if he had included the successful investors he did not personally admire.
There are two through lines in this book: the influence of Benjamin Graham and the person of Warren Buffett. Virtually every subject in Green’s book was profoundly shaped by reading Graham’s The Intelligent Investor (1949). All the investors admire and follow Buffett, showing up at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings and bidding big bucks for the chance to have lunch with the Oracle of Omaha. A number of investing traits are echoed. They all invest for the long term. They read incessantly, drawing insights from different fields. They discipline their emotions. They have a high tolerance for pain. Most of all, perhaps, all superinvestors display a willingness to be lonely.
Chapter 2—“The Willingness to Be Lonely”
“When I asked Ed Thorp how to tell if I had an edge, he offered this discomforting thought: ‘Unless you have a rational reason to believe you have an edge, then you probably don’t.’”
“Joke about the efficient market hypothesis: A professor of finance and a student are strolling across the university campus. The student stops and exclaims, ‘Look! There’s a five-dollar bill on the ground!’ The professor replies, ‘It can’t be a $5 bill or someone else would have picked it up already.’”
“Howard Marks has a keen sense of his own impermanence. His father lived to 101, so he may have inherited a genetic edge. Even so, he knows that the odds are against his being immortal.”