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Howard Marks' Investing Strategies & Lessons cover

Howard Marks’ Investing Strategies & Lessons

Howard Marks, born during the 1940s, is a renowned investor and writer in the United States of America. In 2017, he was ranked the #374 richest person in the United States, with a net worth of $1.91 billion by Forbes.

During the early part of his career, Howard Marks worked with Citibank in senior positions. In the year 1985, he joined TCW where he created high yield, convertible securities, and distressed debt groups and led them all by himself.

After working in TCW for a decade, Howard resigned and eventually founded Oaktree Capital Management in Los Angeles with five partners. Interestingly, the partners of Howard in Oaktree are all ex-employees of TCW like him. The Asset Management Firm of Marks started growing in size and operations at a rapid pace with the passage of time. Oaktree focused on distressed debt, high-yield bonds, and private equity. Mr. Howard is currently the Co-chairman of the organization.

He is also a very popular personality among finance enthusiasts in the US and the world. His detailed discussion on investment strategies and insights into the US economy is known as “Oaktree memos”. It contributed highly towards his popularity among the investing community across the world. He has also authored several books on investing which are quite famous around the globe like Mastering The Market Cycle: Getting the odds on your side The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for The Thoughtful Investor.

Investing strategies of Howard Marks

Let us have a look at some pointers which would help you understand the investing philosophy of this famous billionaire investor. 

1. Be a contrarian investor: Howard Marks stated that your behavior as an investor towards the financial market should be different from the other retail investors. When people buy some stock, you have to sell the same and vice versa. You need to observe what others are doing and try to comprehend where they are going wrong.

As per Marks, the market is driven by greed and fear of investors. You should not follow the herd. What others are doing, not necessarily it has to be correct. You can’t afford to get carried away by the actions of the herd. Controlling your emotions is extremely important to achieve success in financial investing.

2. You might face punishing times in your investing career: You can’t expect any industry to perform well every time. It is also not possible for an asset class to provide high returns on all occasions. It might happen that the investing approach of yours fails to generate your target returns on every occasion.

Your portfolio might stay reddened for a substantial period of time. It is pretty okay to incur losses while investing. Losing your corpus in the financial market is a part and parcel of investing.

3. Patience is highly needed to succeed in the financial market: If an asset is underpriced, it doesn’t mean its price is going up tomorrow. Similarly, an overpriced asset doesn’t indicate it will start going bearish soon.

You might come across a plethora of opportunities in the stock market to book quick profits at low risk. But, it is always recommended to stay firm with your investing strategies. Have faith in your investing philosophy to yield returns for you in the long run.

4. Don’t look for “exact bottoms” in the market: Marks said that he looks to buy a stock at a cheap price. He enters into the market when the price is low, not necessarily it has to be the price. It is not always possible that you get to buy all quantities of a share at its rock bottom price.

After an initial investment, when the same stock gets cheaper, Marks again buys more of it. It is not necessary to buy all your shares at the market low to make huge money.

5. Refrain from buying quality stocks at any price: It is not true that you will earn huge profits by investing in high-quality securities. You should look to buy a stock which is trading at a price lower than its intrinsic value.

Investing in stocks at a low purchase price not only generates the scope for future gain, but it also puts a limit on the downside risk. The more is the discount from the fair value (intrinsic value), the greater is the “margin of safety” a stock could provide you with.

6. Psychology is more important than market predictions: You don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future. You can’t forecast how the market will perform tomorrow. You can only mentally prepare yourself from probable situations in the market. For making money in the stock market you require having a deep insight into companies, asset classes, and sectors.

You can’t let your emotions get better of your investment strategies. What matters most is your psychology. You have to be either aggressive or defensive in your approach. It doesn’t matter whether you are investing in stocks or bonds.

It hardly matters whether you pour your money in domestic or international markets. Your returns remain unaffected irrespective of the fact whether you invest in a developed economy or an emerging market. 

Famous quotes by Howard Marks

You can find a plethora of quotes from Marks on the internet. Here are a few quotes which I found worth sharing from his book, The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor’.  

— “The process of intelligently building a portfolio consists of buying the best investments, making room for them by selling lesser ones, and staying clear of the worst.”

— “There are old investors, and there are bold investors, but there are no old bold investors.”

— “There’s a big difference between probability and outcome. Probable things fail to happen—and improbable things happen—all the time. That’s one of the most important things you can know about investment risk.”

Here are two more of my favorite quotes of Howard from his book, ‘Mastering the Market Cycle: Getting the Odds on Your Side’.

— “There are three ingredients for success—aggressiveness, timing, and skill—and if you have enough aggressiveness at the right time, you don’t need that much skill.”

— “What do value investors do? They strive to take advantage of discrepancies between “price” and “value.” In order to do that successfully, they have to (a) quantify an asset’s intrinsic value and how it’s likely to change over time and (b) assess how the current market price compares with the asset’s intrinsic value, past prices for the asset, the prices of other assets, and “theoretically fair” prices for assets in general.”

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Closing thoughts

Investing requires a person to have patience, dedication, and studying the market thoroughly. In case you want to earn quick profits in the short term, it is possible through trading but not by investing. But, if you are looking to grow your wealth and willing to stay invested for a long time, investing can make it a reality.

Howard Mark has not made huge money in one day. It took him years of experience to reach where he is now. To grow as a fundamental analyst, it is very important to learn from the eminent personalities who have achieved grand success as investors. The investing approach of Marks is immensely informative for any fresher willing to pursue a career in the financial market.