6 Rules From 6 of the World’s Top Investors

Investors don’t agree on much, but they do agree that making money in the market comes with a steadfast strategy that is built around a set of rules. Think for a moment about your early days as an investor. If you’re like many, you jumped in with very little knowledge of the markets. When you bought, you didn’t know what a bid-ask spread was, and you sold either too early if the stock went up or too late if the stock dropped.

If you don’t have your own carefully crafted suite of investing rules, now is the time to create one, and the best place to start is to ask the people who have had success in their investing careers. We not only found people who can claim success but who are, in fact, some of the most successful investors in history.

Key Takeaways

  • Successful investors all have one thing in common—they have rules.
  • Notable investors like Warren Buffett recommend focusing on fundamentals and management quality before looking at the price of a stock.
  • Other major investors advise on betting big when you have an edge and to always be forward-thinking.

1. Dennis Gartman: Let Winners Run

Dennis Gartman published a daily investing newsletter called “The Gartman Letter” from 1987 up until his retirement at the end of 2019. It offered commentary on global capital markets and was read by hedge funds, brokerage firms, mutual funds, and grain and trading firms all over the world each morning. Gartman is also an accomplished trader and continues, even during retirement, to comment on financial markets.

“Be patient with winning trades; be enormously impatient with losing trades. Remember it is quite possible to make large sums trading/investing if we are ‘right’ only 30% of the time, as long as our losses are small and our profits are large.”

His rule above addresses a number of mistakes young investors make. First, don’t sell at the first sign of profits; let winning trades run. Second, don’t let a losing trade get away. Investors who make money in the markets are okay with losing a little bit of money on a trade, but they’re not okay with losing a lot of money.

As Gartman points out, you don’t have to be right the majority of the time. What is more important is to let a winning trade run and get out of a losing trade quickly. If you follow this rule, the money you make on the winning trades will far outpace the losing trades.

2. Warren Buffett: Do the Research

Warren Buffett is widely considered to be the most successful investor in history. Not only is he one of the richest men in the world, but he also has had the financial ear of numerous presidents and world leaders. When Buffett talks, world markets move based on his words.

“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.”

Buffett is also known as being a prolific teacher. His annual letter to investors in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, is used in college finance classes in the largest and most prestigious universities.

Buffett gives two key pieces of advice when evaluating a company: First, look at the quality of the company, then at the price. Looking at the quality of a company requires that you read financial statements, listen to conference calls, and vet management. Then, only after you have confidence in the quality of the company, should the price be evaluated.

If a company isn’t a quality company, don’t buy it just because the price is low. Bargain-bin companies often produce bargain-bin results.

3. Bill Gross: Have Conviction

Bill Gross is the co-founder of PIMCO. He managed the PIMCO Total Return Fund, one of the largest bond funds in the world, and was the firm’s chief investment officer before leaving in 2014.

Gross’ rule focuses on portfolio management.

“Do you really like a particular stock? Put 10% or so of your portfolio on it. Make the idea count. Good [investment] ideas should not be diversified away into meaningless oblivion.”

A universal rule that most young investors know is diversification, i.e. don’t put all of your investing capital into one name. Diversification is a good rule of thumb, but it can also diminish your profits when one of your picks makes a big move while other names don’t.

Making money in the market is also about taking chances based on exhaustive research. Always keep some cash in your account for those opportunities that need a little more capital and don’t be afraid to act when you believe that your research is pointing to a real winner.

4. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal: Patience Is Key

You may have never heard of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, but he’s well known in the investing world. An investor from Saudi Arabia, he founded the Kingdom Holding Company and made a major bet on Citigroup (C) predecessor Citicorp in the early 1990s, becoming the bank’s largest shareholder.

In addition to that, he’s also made investments in X (formerly Twitter) and Snap (SNAP). His patience was tested during the Great Recession when many of his investments took a hit.

“I’m a long-termer. I’m not a seller.”

When others have sold, notably when Citi was under heavy pressure in the late 1990s, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal did what many of the best investors do to amass their riches: hold their investments. Investors who have strong convictions and have done the research stand by their decisions for long periods of time, riding out rocky market events.

5. Carl Icahn: Be Wary

Carl Icahn is an activist investor and modern-day corporate raider, buying large stakes in companies and attempting to get voting rights to increase shareholder value. Some of his most famous holdings have included Apple, Herbalife, and Trans World Airlines.

One of Icahn’s biggest rules is that when investing you shouldn’t take anything personally. Icahn has made his fair share of enemies over the years, but investors shouldn’t take his advice strictly in terms of interpersonal relationships. How many times in your investing past have you read an article, watched a news report, or took a tip from a trusted friend about the next hot stock and lost money?

There is only one piece of advice to act upon: Use your own exhaustive research based on facts (not opinions) obtained from trusted sources. Other advice can be considered and verified, but it shouldn’t be the sole reason to commit money.

6. Carlos Slim: Look Ahead

Carlos Slim is a super-rich investor renowned for mastering the art of buying low and selling high and building an empire of diverse companies spanning various industries. The Mexican entrepreneur made a lot of money buying up undervalued assets during economic crises and Mexico’s privatization drive.

Successful investors don’t look at what’s happening now. Instead, by studying the momentum of a company or an entire economy and how it interacts with its competitors, they invest now for what will happen later. They are always forward-thinking.

If you’re looking at now or trying to jump on the bandwagon of an investment that has already had short-term gains, you’ve probably missed the big move. Try to find the next big winner, but always anchor your portfolio with great companies that have a long track record of steady growth.

What’s the Best Advice for New Investors?

While investment advice is highly specific, there are some general recommendations that new investors are likely to hear. For example, many young professionals are told to invest early, so that they can take advantage of compound interest. A tax-advantaged retirement account, like a 401(k) plan, is another way to make sure your savings grow as much as possible.

Where Is the Best Place to Get Investment Advice?

The best way to get impartial investment advice is from a fiduciary. These are financial planners or experts who are legally and ethically required to act in the client’s interests. Unlike some other types of financial professionals, a fiduciary may not receive commissions or payments from other parties, eliminating potential conflicts of interest.

What Is Investment Advice?

Investment advice is any type of advice or guidance about a particular investment or product. Most countries strictly regulate the business of providing investment advice, and a banking or financial professional must be careful to avoid the appearance of giving financial recommendations if they are not qualified to do so.

The Bottom Line

There’s a lot to learn from successful investors and their experiences. Each of these investors is known for being a student of the markets, as well as a leader. As you begin to apply these rules and commit to following them even when your mind says otherwise, you should do well in the market.