Weekend Reading: Buffett’s Annual Letter Edition

Weekend Reading: Buffett's Annual Letter Edition

Warren Buffett’s much anticipated annual letter to shareholders was released this weekend. As always, Buffett shared some great nuggets of wisdom to Berkshire shareholders while setting the stage for his eventual replacement (down to two long-time Berkshire employees, Ajit Jain and Greg Abel).

Highlights from Buffett’s annual letter include:

Another market-beating year where Berkshire grew by 21.9 percent compared to the S&P 500’s 21.8 percent. Berkshire’s compounded annual gain between 1965-2017 is 20.9 percent while the S&P 500 delivered 9.9 percent over that time.

Berkshire’s net worth grew by $65 billion in 2017, but nearly half of that came as a result of U.S. Congress rewriting the tax code in December.

Buffett and Charlie Munger, who together manage Berkshire’s investments and acquisitions, failed to find any new stand-alone businesses to acquire as the valuations of companies they reviewed proved to be too high for their liking. They did make one large investment – a 38.6 percent partnership interest in Pilot Flying J.

This lack of acquisition activity means Berkshire is sitting on a whopping $116 billion in cash and treasury bills.

“This extraordinary liquidity earns only a pittance and is far beyond the level Charlie and I wish Berkshire to have. Our smiles will broaden when we have redeployed Berkshire’s excess funds into more productive assets.”

Buffett spends a few pages discussing his famous 10-year bet with Protege Partners. An interesting note is that Buffett and Protege each funded the bet by purchasing $500,000 strip bonds. Five years into the bet, the bonds were selling for 95.7 percent of their face value with an annual yield to maturity of 0.88 percent.

Buffett and Protege agreed to sell the bonds and purchase Berkshire ‘B’ shares. The result is that Girls Inc. of Omaha – Buffett’s charity of choice – received $2.22 million instead of the $1 million it was expecting.

In a nod to Stocks for the Long Run, Buffett goes on to explain that bonds are actually riskier than stocks over the very long-term.

You can read the full letter here.

Finally, Buffett has some advice for those who are interested in making the annual pilgrimage to Omaha for Berkshire’s AGM. Fly into Kansas City and drive in to Omaha:

“Keep in mind that most airlines substantially increase prices for the Berkshire weekend. If you are coming from far away, compare the cost of flying to Kansas City vs. Omaha. The drive between the two cities is about 2 1⁄2 hours, and it may be that Kansas City can save you significant money. The savings for a couple could run to $1,000 or more. Spend that money with us.”

This Week’s Recap:

Many thanks to Rob Carrick for highlighting Marie’s post on how retirees can make good use of TFSAs in his most recent Carrick on Money newsletter.

On Monday I wrote about life insurance and how older Canadians can avoid getting screwed.

On Wednesday Marie asked if fear is keeping young investors out of the stock market.

And on Friday I looked at Nest Wealth’s capped monthly fee investment structure, which is ideal for investors with large portfolios.

Over on Rewards Cards Canada I shared three things that are missing from credit card comparison sites when it comes to presenting you with the best card.

Weekend Reading:

One of the best story tellers in the industry, Millionaire Teacher Andrew Hallam asks why you would fire a god-like investment manager who averaged returns of 29 percent a year.

Canadian Couch Potato author Dan Bortolotti says the humble GIC deserves a place alongside bonds in any balanced portfolio.

A group of Harvard alumni proposed a solution for how the university’s endowment can pay for a new tax on investment income and boost returns: don’t think so much.

The Irrelevant Investor Michael Batnick talks about seeing your blind spots when it comes to investing.

Boomers love to pick on Millennials about their spending choices but behavioural economist Dan Ariely is here to squash the generational wars:

“The brain doesn’t change because we’re in a different year. It’s kind of a funny thing to even think about this. But there are some interesting differences with different generations, but I don’t think they’re about the individuals, I think they’re about opportunities.”

Can you trust your retirement savings to a robot? Jon Chevreau says robo advisors offer the best of both worlds in terms of reasonable fees and professional investment management.

Here’s the average length of retirement. Will your money last that long?

The Competition Bureau reached an agreement with Leon’s and The Brick over allegations of deceptive marketing practices over the retailers’ ‘buy now, pay later’ promotions.

Full CPP benefits are tough to reach, according to Rob Carrick. Just 6 percent of recipients receive the maximum and the average payout is about $7,700/year, which is 56.6 percent of the maximum.

Canadians can’t stop using their homes as piggy banks as line of credit debt jumps to a record $230 billion.

Jason Heath says to consider a formal trust, among other options for giving money to your grandchildren.

Finally, an always useful breakdown of expenses from Million Dollar Journey Blogger Frugal Trader and his family of four.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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  1. Ginette on February 25, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    As always, a nice roundup of interesting weekend personal finance reading. Look forward to it each weekend! Thanks for tracking it down each week. BTW how is the Rock star finance competition with the ‘lizard brain’ article going?

    • Echo on February 25, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you, Ginette! I do enjoy putting together this round-up.

      As for the Rockstar Rumble, it’s going great so far! I’ve made it through to round 3, which should begin next week. I’ll be sure to post the link when our next match-up goes live.

  2. Garth on February 25, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    “Boomers love to pick on millennials about their spending choices”. Yes this is true, but Millennials also often portray Boomers for taking too much and leaving nothing for them. Ariely’s piece points out that if Millennials had grown up under the same circumstances, and having the same resources and choices available, that they would have behaved the same. IOW human nature has not changed, only the choices and opportunities…

    • Echo on February 25, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      Hi Garth, yes it’s true – this does go both ways when it comes to the generational wars. Humans are humans but we are products of our environment.

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