I followed up where we left off at the party a few years ago, throwing some questions at him over the phone instead of over a holiday bourbon. Here they are:
Tell me something about the hosts on CNBC.
The late host, Mark Haines, would sit at his desk on Squawk Box. He didn’t talk to me. He was wearing sweatpants and topsiders, and he ate from a box of Cheerios, shoveling handfuls, doing the New York Times crossword in pen and completing the thing during commercial breaks.
What does it take to be a smart investor?
You don’t have to be a genius. But you can’t be an idiot. You have to be trustworthy. If you recognize that you cannot predict the market, you have to invest the money so that it’s prepared to both endure and enjoy an upturn.
What is the single best investment book you recommend?
“How to Buy Stocks” [by Louis Engel] is excellent on the basics.
Are you a buy-and-hold guy?
I am a buy-to-hold guy. I like to hold stocks for a minimum of five years. I really don’t trade much at all.
What’s going to happen to the markets in the next year? Five years?
The next 12 months are always unpredictable. There’s never any way to know what will happen. Over the next five years, I expect markets to move higher.
What’s the biggest mistake investors make?
They invest emotionally — they invest when they feel good and sell when they feel bad. This is the opposite of what they should do.
Should I continue to have faith in the U.S. economy’s ability to grow?
Absolutely. For all of its problems, the U.S. has property rights, an educated workforce, and a hardworking, determined population. Free markets and capitalism prevail through good times and bad.
Are we going to fall off the “fiscal cliff”?
Definitely maybe. I doubt that we’ll fall off. I expect Congress to delay making decisive moves as long as they possibly can.
For previous Value Added columns, go to washingtonpost.com/business.