Estimating the true intrinsic value of a stock involves some financial analysis but also involves a fair amount of subjectivity—meaning at times, it can be more of an art than a science. Two different investors can analyze the exact same valuation data on a company and arrive at different decisions.
Some investors, who look only at existing financials, don’t put much faith in estimating future growth. Other value investors focus primarily on a company’s future growth potential and estimated cash flows. And some do both: Noted value investment gurus Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch, who ran Fidelity Investment’s Magellan Fund for several years are both known for analyzing financial statements and looking at valuation multiples, in order to identify cases where the market has mispriced stocks.
Despite different approaches, the underlying logic of value investing is to purchase assets for less than they are currently worth, hold them for the long-term, and profit when they return to the intrinsic value or above. It doesn’t provide instant gratification. You can’t expect to buy a stock for $50 on Tuesday and sell it for $100 on Thursday. Instead, you may have to wait years before your stock investments pay off, and you will occasionally lose money. The good news is that, for most investors, long-term capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than short-term investment gains.
Like all investment strategies, you must have the patience and diligence to stick with your investment philosophy. Some stocks you might want to buy because the fundamentals are sound, but you’ll have to wait if it’s overpriced. You’ll want to buy the stock that is most attractively priced at that moment, and if no stocks meet your criteria, you’ll have to sit and wait and let your cash sit idle until an opportunity arises.