A Lesson on Diversifying

Following is a view about diversification, from financial educator Ellis Traub:

All of us know that it’s not smart to put all of our eggs in one basket. It just makes good sense.

What makes no sense to me, after all these years of being  advised to diversify by industry and by company size, is the potential dilution of return that this practice produces. So I quit doing it! For the same reason I don’t invest in index funds or EFTs.

I’m looking for a return of as close to 15% as I can get. Therefore I invest in companies whose operations are capable of consistently producing the highest earnings growth possible. And, once I own them, I’m happy to let their managements do their jobs and keep that performance rockin’ until they can’t do it any more.

Diversification, for me, is nothing more than having enough of those excellent companies in my portfolio.

Warren Buffett says that six are enough for him because, once he’s found that many good companies, he’d only dilute his return by adding others that are not quite so good. I find it more comfortable to have at least eight, but no more than fifteen in my portfolio.  I don’t dig into the research nearly as diligently as he does [understatement of the week], so I accept a little sacrifice in my return, just to have enough to cover me when the inevitable Enrons and Worldcoms come along to prove that the “rule of five” works.

Any other effort to diversify by market sector or size—to compensate for down markets—tends to produce a lackluster return over time. Certainly investing in indexes, EFTs, or other broad “market baskets”—even mutual funds—guarantees you  no better than the average return, which is lousy, compared with the performance of the undiluted cream of the crop!

You don’t need to compensate, you just need to be patient!

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