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Warren Buffett is perhaps the greatest investor of all time, and he has a simple solution that could help an individual turn 30 Euro into 7.5 million Euro.
A few years ago, Berkshire Hathaway (ETR: BRH) CEO and Chairman Warren Buffett spoke about one of his favorite companies, Coca-Cola (FRA: CCC3) , and how after dividends, stock splits, and patient reinvestment, someone who bought just 30 Euro worth of the company’s stock when it went public in 1919 would now have more than 3.7 million Euro.
Yet in April 2012, when the board of directors proposed a stock split of the beloved soft-drink manufacturer, that figure was updated and the company noted that original 30 Euro would now be worth 7.3 million Euro. A little back-of-the-envelope math of the total return of Coke since May 2012 would mean that 7.3 million Euro is now worth about 8 million Euro.
The power of patience
I know that 30 Euro in 1919 is very different from 30 Euro today. However, even after factoring for inflation, it turns out to be around 400 Euro in today’s money. Put differently, would you rather have an Xbox One, or 8 million Euro?
But the thing is, it isn’t even as though an investment in Coca-Cola was a no-brainer at that point, or in the near century since then. Sugar prices were rising. World War I had just ended a year prior. The Great Depression happened a few years later. World War II resulted in sugar rationing. And there have been countless other things over the past 100 years that would cause someone to question whether their money should be in stocks, much less one of a consumer-goods company like Coca-Cola.
The dangers of timing
Yet as Buffett has noted continually, it’s terribly dangerous to attempt to time the market:
With a wonderful business, you can figure out what will happen; you can’t figure out when it will happen. You don’t want to focus on when, you want to focus on what. If you’re right about what, you don’t have to worry about when.
So often investors are told they must attempt to time the market, and begin investing when the market is on the rise, and sell when the market is falling.
This type of technical analysis of watching stock movements and buying based on how the prices fluctuate over 200-day moving averages or other seemingly arbitrary fluctuations often receives a lot of media attention, but it has been proved to simply be no better than random chance.
Investing for the long term
Individuals need to see that investing is not like placing a wager on the Bayern München beating Borussia Dortmund, but instead it’s buying a tangible piece of a business.
It is absolutely important to understand the relative price you are paying for that business, but what isn’t important is attempting to understand whether you’re buying in at the “right time,” as that is so often just an arbitrary imagination.
In Buffett’s own words, “if you’re right about the business, you’ll make a lot of money,” so don’t bother about attempting to buy stocks based on how their stock charts have looked over the past 200 days. Instead always remember that “it’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price.”
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The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway and Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola.
This article was written by Patrick Morris and originally appeared on Fool.com on 7.1.2014.