The Defensive Investor – The Intelligent Investor Book Review (Chapters 4, 5, & 14)

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The Defensive Investor

The Defensive Investor

This is Part 2 of our book review of  The Intelligent Investor, Revised Edition, Updated with New Commentary by Jason Zweig (affiliate link). Part 2 covers Chapters 4, 5, & 14 with the topic being The Defensive Investor.

You may find the Introduction and relevant links at: The Intelligent Investor Book Review in 30 Minutes

Who is the Defensive Investor?

The defensive investor is unwilling, or unable, to put in the time and effort required to be an enterprising investor. Instead of an active approach the defensive investor seeks a portfolio that requires minimal effort, research, and monitoring.

An inactive approach means the defensive investor will seek conservative investments that require little effort in portfolio management, research, and selection of individual investments. Unlike the enterprising investor he or she will not expand their potential universe beyond stable conservative choices.

General Portfolio Policy: The Defensive Investor – Chapter 4

The popular view is that investors should tailor the amount of risk they are willing to take to their risk tolerance. Graham has a different outlook: the amount of risk one should accept should depend on the amount of intelligent effort the investor is able and willing to expend.

In other words, the defensive or passive investor, must be willing to accept an average return. Greater returns can be achieved by the enterprising investor who makes the additional effort to intelligently manage his portfolio and select individual investments.

The defensive investor can divide his portfolio equally between stocks and bonds/cash. Portfolio rebalancing can be reserved for times when valuations bring asset allocations significantly out of the 50-50 target.

Graham uses the example of rebalancing when values shift to 55-45 or greater. For example, if stocks increase by 10 % and are now 55%, you would sell 5% of your stocks and buy 5% more bonds to achieve the desired 50-50 split.

There are two main questions concerning bonds: Taxable or tax-free, and short or long maturities? The tax question is basically a mathematical calculation based on the investors tax bracket. The question of maturity should be based on the investors perceived need for yield and risk/opportunity of a change in principal value.

In the commentary, Jason Zweig notes Graham never mentions the word age when discussing asset allocation. The amount of risk you assume should have nothing to do with your age.

The Defensive Investor and Common Stocks – Chapter 5

The two main advantages of stocks are that they provide protection against inflation and offer a higher rate of return than bonds/cash in the long run. These advantages can be squandered if the investor pays too high a price for his stock.

Graham suggested four rules for the defensive investor:

1. Adequate diversification

– Graham suggested between 10 and 30 different issues

2. Stick to large, outstanding (top 1/3 of industry group), conservative companies.

3. Each company should have 20 years of continuous dividend payments.

4. Limit the price you are willing to pay to

– 25 times average earnings over the last 7 years and

– 20 times earnings for last 12 month period

The defensive investor will most likely have to abandon growth stocks. Growth stocks will usually be too expensive; and consequently, excessively risky for the defensive investor.

The beginning investor should not try to beat the market, but instead concentrate on learning the difference between price and value with small sums of money. In the long run an investor’s rate of return will be determined by his or her knowledge, discipline, and skill  in paying a reasonable price for investments.

Stock Selection for the Defensive Investor – Chapter 14

In Chapter 14, Graham provides a set of standards by which a defensive investor can obtain quality and quantity.

1. Adequate Size of the Enterprise

– approximately 2 billion in current dollars

2. Strong Financial Condition

– current assets should be at least twice current liabilities

– long term debt should be less than working capital

3. Earnings Stability

– 10 years of positive earnings

4. Dividends

– 20 consecutive years of dividend payments

5. Earnings Growth

– At least a 33% gain of earnings over the past 10 years using three-year averages.

6. Moderate Price/Earnings Ratio

– not more than 15 times average earnings of past 3 years

7. Moderate Ratio of Price to Assets

– price to book value should be less than 1.5 or

– price/earnings ratio times 1.5 should not exceed 22.5

Even the defensive investor should be willing to sell stocks that have appreciated significantly and can be replaced with more attractively valued securities.

The defensive investor should understand the difference between prediction (qualitative approach)  and protection (quantitative or statistical approach). The risky approach is to try and predict or anticipate the future. The protection approach measures the proportion or ratios between price and relevant statistics (i.e. earnings, dividends, assets, debt, etc.).

Continue to Part 3:

The Enterprising Investor (Chapters 6, 7, & 15)

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While Arbor Investment Planner has used reasonable efforts to obtain information from reliable sources, we make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of third-party information presented herein. The sole purpose of this analysis is information. Nothing presented herein is, or is intended to constitute investment advice. Consult your financial advisor before making investment decisions.

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