Our top quotes

Our top quotes

The Edit Part VI

Continuing The Edit, our series on English in modern communications, we look at how smart language in investment cuts through the noise.

If you can coin a great phrase, you can really coin it. That’s especially true in investment, where complex economics and instinct meet. Writers, traders and fund managers have attained guru status through pithy words that define strategies and explain ideas. Great phrases can characterise eras and identify phenomena. Here are a few of our favourites and our views on what makes them brilliant.

Derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal ‒ Warren Buffett, legendary investor and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway
Buffett’s best-known utterance, from a 2002 Berkshire Hathaway annual report, cleverly uses a phrase in the news at the time and draws parallels between investment risks and war. Battles and explosions are common metaphors. As it turned out, the financial world’s WMDs were more deadly that Saddam’s.

The UK is a must to avoid. Its gilts are resting on a bed of nitro-glycerine ‒ Bill Gross, co-founder of Pimco
More explosive metaphors in this warning in 2010 that exposure to European bonds could be fatal. Short sentences without clauses emphasise the danger

Commodities tend to zig when the equity markets zag ‒ Jim Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings and Beeland Interests
The zig and zag idea probably wasn’t invented by Rogers, but it’s used to neat effect here  even if it is less true than it was

Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on scepticism, mature on optimism and die on euphoria ‒ Sir John Templeton, founder of the Templeton Growth Fund
If in doubt use a literary base. Vaguely alluding to Shakespeare’s Seven Ages Of Man, it uses cadence and repetition to make its point 

Investing isn’t about beating others at their game. It’s about controlling yourself at your own game ‒ Benjamin Graham, author of The Intelligent Investor
Buffett describes Graham as his hero and mentor. Learning from Graham was, he said, “like learning baseball from a fellow who was batting 400” 

Be patient with winning trades; be enormously impatient with losing trades ‒ Dennis Gartman, commodities sage and author of the Gartman Letter
Elegant summary of the internal struggle that goes on (or should go on in) in the mind of every investor. We can afford to loaf around when we are on a winning streak but when a trade goes wrong, we must move fast

It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price ‒ Warren Buffett
Repetition with a twist. Buffett stresses that the quality and longevity of a company is just as important as the valuation

Clowngrade ‒ Unknown
This Wall Street neologism refers to a misinformed or foolish upgrade, or more likely, downgrade of stocks. While it is snappy and funny, it carries the bitter qualities associated with the Hollywood archetype of the trader

Choosing individual stocks without any idea of what you're looking for is like running through a dynamite factory with a burning match. You may live, but you're still an idiot ‒ Joel Greenblatt, academic, value investor, author
Yet more explosives. In his book The Little Book That Beats the Market, Greenblatt stresses that getting a feel for the market in funds or other bundled assets is the best way in

Climbing the wall of worry ‒ Unknown
Another trading aphorism from old-school Wall Street. It’s about the period after a crash when people hesitatingly recover their confidence by investing once again. Its opposite is “sliding down a slope of hope”

I don't like surprises. I don't even like good surprises ‒ Abigail Johnson, CEO, Fidelity Investments
The billionaire boss of one of the world’s biggest investment firms shows the beauty of repetition with a twist

Millionaires don't use astrology, billionaires do ‒ John Pierpont Morgan, banker and financier
A simple folksy way to say that intuition and risk-taking go a long way

You’re looking for a mispriced gamble. That’s what investing is ‒ Charles Munger, vice president at Berkshire Hathaway
Munger here shows that opportunism is one of the key virtues of investing. You need the knowledge base and experience to identify value where others might not

Bitcoin will do to banks what email did to the postal industry – Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party
Falkvinge positions Bitcoin as a threat to traditional finance. It is a warning and a call for embrace. Bitcoin was disastrous for those who bought at the top, too

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