Portfolio Policy for the Enterprising Investor: Negative Approach
So, what should you avoid?
First, avoid junk bonds. If they have anything less than a stellar bond rating, don’t bother, even if they appear to return very well. Junk bonds put your principal at risk, and the point of buying bonds is to have a safe portion of your portfolio.
Second, avoid foreign bonds. Here, there are stability issues, and it’s often hard to adequately judge the risk of buying bonds from government and private entities operating under rules unfamiliar to you.
Third, avoid preferred stocks. Preferred stocks are ones that have a higher priority in the event of a liquidation of the business, but often come at a premium price. Almost always, Graham doesn’t feel these are worth any sort of premium. Of course, in the United States, preferred stock is generally not sold directly to individual investors, only to large institutions, so it’s largely a moot point.
Finally, avoid IPOs. To put it simply, new issues do not have any track record upon which to adequately judge the company. The “hype” of an IPO is all you really have to judge the issue on. Instead, let others jump into that feeding frenzy and wait until time has shown which companies swim and which ones sink.
Those are some good rules for anyone to follow, particularly if you’re concerned about not losing the money you invest. Most of these investments have a pretty significant amount of risk and in Graham’s world, one shouldn’t put the principal at undue risk.