Charlie Munger: That simple

The wise ones bet heavily when the world offers them that opportunity. They bet big when they have the odds. And the rest of the time, they don’t. It’s just that simple.”

—Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Shared-hardship model

“Some of our businesses have a shared-hardship model, where they don’t layoff, at least not yet. And the businesses with that model tend to be very strongly placed economically. So I guess it shows that Benjamin Franklin was right, when he said, ‘It’s hard for an empty sack to stand upright.’ So we’re all over the map on that, and so is all of industry. But I do think an ideal model would be a business so strong that it could operate in the shared-hardship mode instead of the layoffs.”

–Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Against human nature

GEICO to me is very much like Costco. And one of the reasons it’s succeeded is that they really feel a holy duty to have a wonderful product at a very low price. A lot of people talk that game, but very few have it just right down under the body and soul of the company. But GEICO does, and companies like that do tend to grind ahead over time…. It’s easy to talk the game, but living the game is something else. I mean, it’s against the human nature of many entrepreneurial people to try and get the price down and the service quality up all the time.”

–Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: ‘We don’t do startups’

“We could make a lot of decisions about a lot of things very fast and very easily. And we’re unusual in that respect. And the reason we’re able to do that is there’s such an enormous other lot of things that we won’t allow ourselves to think about at all. It’s just that simple. I have a little phrase when people make pitches to me, and about halfway through the first sentence, I say, ‘We don’t do startups.’ They don’t exist. Well, if you blot out startups, there’s a whole layer of complexity that goes out of your life. And we’ve got other little blotter-out systems. And using those, we finally find out that what remains is still a pretty large territory that we can handle.”
—Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Your whole civilization deteriorates

“I would say that I like a certain amount of social intervention that takes some of the inequality out of results in capitalism. But I hate, with a passion, rewarding anything that can be easily faked. Because I think then people lie, and lying works, and the lying spreads. And I think your whole civilization deteriorates.”
—Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Profit sitting in the yard

“We tend to prefer the business which drowns in cash. It just makes so much money that one of the main principles of owning it is you have all this cash coming in. There are other businesses, like the construction equipment business of my old friend John Anderson. And he used to say about his business ‘You work hard all year, and at the end of the year there’s your profit sitting in the yard.’ There was never any cash. Just more used construction equipment. We tend to hate businesses like that.”
–Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Rare person

“If the business is good enough, it will carry a lousy manager. And the converse case, where a really good manager gets in a really lousy business, he’ll ordinarily have a very imperfect record. In other words, it’s a rare person that can take over a textile business, totally doomed—which is what Warren [Buffett] did in his youthful folly— and turn it into what’s happened here. You should not be looking for other Warrens on the theory they’re under every bush.” –Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Comparative process

“When you’re trying to determine something like intrinsic value and margin of safety and so on, there’s no one easy method that could be simply mechanically applied by, say, a computer and make anybody who could punch the buttons rich. By definition, this is going to be a game which you play with multiple techniques and multiple models, and a lot of experience is very helpful. I don’t think you can become a great investor very rapidly any more than you could become a great bone tumor pathologist very rapidly. It takes some experience and that’s why it’s helpful to get a very early start…. We’ve never had any system for being able to make correct judgments on the values of all businesses. We throw almost all decisions into the too hard pile, and we just sift for a few decisions that we can make that are easy. And that’s a comparative process. And if you’re looking for an ability to correctly value all investments at all times, we can’t help you.”

—Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Sigmas

“When people talk about sigmas, in terms of disaster potentialities in markets, they’re all crazy. They got the idea that bad results in markets would be predicted by Gaussian distributions. And the way they decided on that outcome was it made everything so easy to compute. They don’t follow Gaussian distributions. You have to believe in the Tooth Fairy to believe that.”

—Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Real credit contraction

“The whole investment world is more and more competitive, and if you talk about a real credit contraction, which gums up the whole civilization, no one would welcome that. And I would predict that if we ever had a really big credit contraction after a period like the one we’re in with all this excess, which is causing so much envy and resentment, that we would get legislation that most of us wouldn’t like.”

—Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Contrary behaviour

“Man has known for a long time that getting too enchanted with the trappings of power is counterproductive. The Roman emperor that’s most remembered as presiding over a period of great felicity was Marcus Aurelius, who was totally against the trappings of power even though he had them all — he had all the power. So I think all these things can be abused, and I think the best way to tackle a subject is to provide examples of contrary behavior.” —Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Think about your best opportunity cost

“The concept that you’re likely to find just one thing where it will make 20 percent per annum and you just sit back for the next 40 years, that tends to be dreamland. And in the real world, you have to find something that you can understand that’s the best you have available. And once you’ve found the best thing, then you measure everything against that because it’s your opportunity cost. That’s the way small sums of money should be invested. And the trick, of course, is getting enough expertise that your opportunity cost — meaning your default option, which is still pretty good — is very high… Most people aren’t going to find thousands of things that are equally good; they’re going to find a few things where one or two of them are way better than anything else they know. And the right way to think about investing is to act thinking about your best opportunity cost.”

—Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Welcome partners

“With all of these new helpers in the world, they talk about doing deals. That is not the mindset at Berkshire. We are trying to welcome partners. It’s a total different mindset. The guy who’s doing a deal, he wants to do the deal and unwind the deal and — not too far ahead and make a large profit, et cetera, and that’s not our mindset at all. We like the things that we can buy and that never leave us, and we like the relationships that last and are fruitful, not just for us, but for the people working there and the customers and everybody else.”

—Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Nuclear devices

“I think that the chances we’ll have another 60 or 70 years with no nuclear devices used on purpose is pretty close to zero. So, I think you’re right to worry about it, but I don’t, myself, think there’s much that any of us can do about it, except be as sensible as we can and take the consequences as they come.” —Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Search expenses

“Now the search expenses that brought us Ajit Jain, now there was an investment that really paid a dividend. I can think of no higher return investment that we’ve ever made that was better than that one. And I think that’s a good life lesson. In other words, getting the right people into your system can frequently be more important than anything else.”

—Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Blood brother of evil

“The history of much of which we don’t like in modern corporate capitalism comes from an unreasonable expectation, communicated from headquarters, that [corporate] earnings have to go up with no volatility and great regularity. That kind of an expectation from headquarters is not just the kissing cousin of evil. It’s the blood brother of evil. And we just don’t need that blood brother in our headquarters.” –Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Easy lending on houses

“It’s obvious that the easy lending on houses causes more houses to be built and causes housing prices to be higher, probably, in the new field. Eventually, of course, if you construct enough of new anything, you can have a countervailing effect. If you build way too many houses, you’d eventually cause a price decline.” —Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger: Blowing opportunities

“At least we are constantly thinking about the past occasions when we blew opportunities. Since those don’t hit financial reports, the opportunities you had but didn’t accept, most people don’t bother thinking about them very much. At least that is a mistake we don’t make. We rub our own noses in our mistakes in blowing opportunities.”

—Charlie Munger.