When reading blogs and columns and prognostications, even ones authored by yours truly, keep in mind that scribes are paid to write daily, weekly or monthly.
Because of this, some scribblings are naturally more appealing and more on target than others. For example, you may like some pieces I write and dislike others. (My readers don’t seem shy and often write to tell me when they either like or don’t like something.) Reader favorites are different than mine. For example, I was especially proud of one column titled The Old Fish and Warren Buffett, but it hardly generated a ripple of interest, which suggests writers — including this one — may be the poorest judge of their own efforts.
Epic investment ideas are few and far between. Ben Graham had one; Warren Buffett made it better, and it’s still one of the best games in town. Harry Markowitz had one in the 1950s, and it still has something to say about risk. (Although, at times these days, it seems misinterpreted.) Peter Lynch’s kick-the-tires-at-the-mall approach was exactly right in his heyday. And tacticality and flexibility seem to be the right counter to excessive volatility today. (I can’t find the word “tacticality” in dictionaries, and so I take full credit or blame for creating the word. A nice feature of Microsoft Word is this: if it underlines a word as being suspicious, one may check the Add to Dictionary choice and — voila! — it becomes okay.)
There are hundreds of good quality companies, good funds, good debt and high-quality ETFs in which to invest, and so there are always subjects to right about. And, of course, there are a handful of people who do wrongheaded things, and many writers focus on the few investing bad apples.
One of the absolutely wonderful things about the investment world is that there’s no end of worthy things to write about, and the business seems to be a continuum. One may learn by reading something written in 1908, 2008 or currently.
Readers of The Investment Edge know that I am a fan of Barron’s. Alan Abelson, who wrote the column Up & Down Wall Street at Barron’s, died this month. He was clearly the dean of investment journalists. Abelson took Bernard Madoff (one of the problems I see in calling Bernard “Bernie” is that the addition of “ie” gives him an almost affectionate nickname; really, he was incredibly evil, and I think he should be referred to only as Bernard) to task seven years before the Madoff empire collapsed. Abelson had the reputation for the relentless pursuit of truth, and of consequence, he was sued numerous times. (I don’t think he ever lost a suit, and, when he was, for 11 years, Barron’s editor, it’s reported that Barron’s didn’t either.) I will miss Mr. Abelson’s curmudgeonly excellence and his ability to find exceptional investing talents and ideas.