Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget speaks with Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund. Dalio breaks down one of the fundamental tenets of his investment approach: that you have to bet against the consensus and also be right. He argues that the following the consensus isn’t viable, because it’s already reflected in the price of an asset. Dalio thinks that, based strictly on an odds basis, a person has better odds of being successful in the Olympics than in the market. He says that, in general, investors buy high and sell low, and uses that as evidence to show that the average man shouldn’t be playing the proverbial game. Following is a transcript of the video.
Henry Blodget: You said something else about investing that I think is very profound and simple that I think a lot of people don’t understand, which is to be successful as an investor, you have to bet against the consensus and be right. First of all, why? Why can’t we just buy stocks we think are gonna go up.
Ray Dalio: Well, the consensus is built into the price. So because the consensus is built into the price. And assets price themselves in a way that they’re all compete, and they’re all of equal value in a certain sense. There’s risk premium of equities over cash and bonds will have that over whatever, but basically, they’re all priced that way. So like think of it as going to betting on a sports team or in other words, or horse racing.
Okay, there’s handicapping that’s going on. So in order to be successful, you’re betting against the consensus, and you have to be right. That’s the game.
Blodget: And you describe your first trade when you were a teenager. You bought a stock. It tripled. You thought, hey, this is easy. But you convey very effectively that in fact, it is extremely difficult even though it seemed so simple.
Dalio: Being successful in the markets is more difficult than being successful in competing in the Olympics. Your odds are higher to be successful competing in the Olympics because you have more people trying to do it. You have more resources. We put hundreds of millions of dollars. We have at Bridgewater, 1,500 people. We’re now competing against other teams, and that’s the kind of resources that are going into playing that particular game. So think about that in terms of handicapping it. It’s not an easy thing to do. What you can do is achieve balance. To know how to hold a balanced portfolio, and to receive something that is a return that is much better than cash achieving balance is something that you can do, and I think that that, but figure. If you’re going to enter the game, since value added is a zero sum game, you have to ask. Who are you playing against? Who are you going into the poker game with? Do you want to do that?
Blodget: And as you talk to people in the real world, is your sense that people understand what they’re up against when they might buy a stock or try to time the market?
Dalio: Institutional investors who are smart by and large understand that. The average man tends to be much more reactive if you look at the purchases and sales that they make. When something goes up, they’re more likely to buy it. They think, ah, that’s a good investment. They don’t know how to measure that in terms of oh, is that a much more expensive investment that’s more likely to go down?
So that’s why, you know, you put in ads in newspapers, and they say, ah, that’s what had that return. That’s what they’re attracted to. They tend to buy high and sell low, and so an average man should not be playing this game in that way. They should be playing the game, or humility. If you think that you’re good at playing the game, just make sure, it’s like going to the poker table or going to the race track. Do it with a little bit of money, and watch it. And get the best advice that you can to know that you’re gonna be able to take money out of the system rather than put it in.
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