Ten Strategies to Invest Like Warren Buffett

7) Keeping Your Powder Dry, and Keeping Reserve Funds

You might not get to have a portfolio with 100 positions in it, and you might not have a couple dozen subsidiaries to manage, but one thing you can do is follow the same mantra as Buffett of keeping cash reserves. His reserves are almost certainly much larger than yours. Still, even if you have daily business operations to fund and lots of passive investments, you will do extremely well to maintain cash reserves. Such reserves allow investors and businesses to pursue opportunities that are too good to pass up on, and they also provide a cushion from unexpected events. This is perhaps one of the greatest lessons that Buffett seems to always include in his annual reports.

8) Knowing When You Made a Mistake… or When Times Have Changed

Sometimes mistakes happen. Buffett has joked about how he wished he had never sold his huge stake in Walt Disney. He also made a mistake trusting that protege David Sokol would act solely in Team Buffett’s best interests when he got to review potential acquisitions and other deals. Sokol resigned after failing to disclose a stake in special chemical company Lubrizol, which he built-up shortly before recommending the company to Berkshire Hathaway as a potential acquisition. Sokol had previously been considered by outsiders as a key part of the Buffett succession plan. Buffett did not let one blemish get in the way of his business decision and he still went ahead and closed on the Lubrizol acquisition.

Berkshire Hathaway once had a stake worth billions in Procter & Gamble, acquired through the P&G’s merger with Gillette. But Buffett sensed that times had changed and finally decided to unload P&G.

9) Looking Internationally

Almost everyone thinks that Buffett only toots the horn of American equities and only invests in conservative companies. While this is generally true, Buffett has made investments further afield, such as in Chinese electric car maker BYD. He also invested heavily in ISCAR, an Israeli metalworking company. Buffett and his team invested heavily in Suncor in Canada, as a play on Canadian oil sands — and maybe as a hedge against BNSF and the potential Keystone Pipeline. Prior managers under Buffett also invested in foreign drug makers Sanofi-Aventis and GlaxoSmithKline.

When it comes to international themes, investors can focus on large American companies that have a presence abroad and that stand to benefit from the rest of the world catching up to the U.S. in the coming century.

10) Maximizing Your Tax Strategy

One easy-to-recognize reason that Warren Buffett holds onto stocks for so long is because of the tax implications. Some periods are better to lock in capital gains than others, and, all else being equal, growth is magnified through time if the ultimate tax burden can be deferred for years and years. Imagine if Buffett decided to unload his positions like Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and American Express. The tax bill would be in the billions of dollars, limiting what Buffett could purchase. Berkshire Hathaway’s 2013 annual report claimed that Berkshire files a 23,000-page federal income tax return.

And speaking of taxes — Buffett has bequeathed billions of dollars worth of Berkshire Hathaway shares to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As a result, the bulk of the capital gains from the years of appreciation will be going towards charitable causes.

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