Peter Lynch: Know What You Own & Why You Own It | 2002 | Summary and Q&A

December 2, 2020
Investor Archive
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Peter Lynch: Know What You Own & Why You Own It | 2002

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In this video, Peter Lynch, an accomplished investor and former manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund, discusses various topics related to investing, trust in the market, and the current economic situation. He emphasizes that the same principles of investing that applied in the past still hold true today, and that investors should focus on understanding what they own and having a long-term perspective. He also expresses the importance of trust in the market and how it can be repaired over time. Lynch believes that stocks will continue to perform well over the next 10 years because owning a stock means owning a share of a company, and companies have the potential to make more money in the future. He shares his perspective on the mistakes investors make, the importance of analyzing company balance sheets, and the need for individual investors to make informed decisions based on their own risk tolerance. Lynch also discusses his view on the economy, the technology sector, and the current market conditions, highlighting the resiliency of the American economy.

Questions & Answers

Q: Do you think the same rules of investing that applied in the past still hold true today?

Yes, I believe the same rules that applied 50 years ago still apply today. It is important for investors to have a clear understanding of what they own, whether it is a fund or a stock, and to be able to explain the reasons for owning it. Simply saying that a stock will go up is not a valid reason for investing in it. Instead, investors should focus on knowing the company and its potential for growth.

Q: How can trust be repaired in the market, especially in the wake of recent scandals?

Trust can be repaired over time, although it may take a while. Recent scandals such as WorldCom and Andersen have created serious problems, but it is important to have faith and understand that these issues have been faced before. Punishment will be meted out to those at fault, and there will likely be increased surveillance and more careful oversight by board directors. Ultimately, however, integrity cannot be legislated, and it will require time for the market to heal.

Q: What advice would you give to investors who have seen a decline in their investments and are considering moving their money into safer options like CDs or gold bars?

There are three choices for investors in this situation. They can choose to invest in a money market fund and receive a relatively low return that is taxed at a high rate. Alternatively, they can invest in a ten-year treasury and earn a slightly higher return that is also taxed at a high rate. However, I believe that stocks will outperform these options over the next ten years, making them a more attractive choice. The decision of how much to allocate to the stock market is a personal one, based on individual risk tolerance and financial goals. There are no set rules based on age or other factors, and it is essential for investors to make their own informed decisions.

Q: Why are you confident that stocks will be significantly higher in ten years?

Stocks are not like lottery tickets; they represent shares of real companies. I believe that many companies have the potential to make a lot more money in ten or twenty years, which in turn will drive the value of their stocks higher. While some companies may not perform well, the overall trend is upward, driven by the increasing profitability of companies as a whole. Over the long term, corporate profits and stock market performance have historically gone hand in hand.

Q: What are some of the most common mistakes you've seen investors make?

One of the most common mistakes I've observed is investors not paying enough attention to a company's balance sheet. Just like an individual's net worth is determined by their assets and debts, the same principle applies to companies. Investors should analyze a company's financial position to understand its assets, debt, and overall net worth. Failing to do so can lead to costly mistakes, such as investing in a company with significant debt compared to its cash holdings. It is essential to consider both the potential for gains and the potential for losses when making investment decisions.

Q: How do you decide when to sell a stock?

The decision to sell a stock depends on the reason why it was originally bought. If it is a turnaround story and the company's performance is improving, it may be prudent to hold onto the stock until it is doing exceptionally well. On the other hand, if it is a growth company, one should analyze the long-term story and determine if there is room for further expansion. With a growth company, it is important to focus on its potential for continued success over a longer period, rather than trying to time the market. Selling should be based on a thorough understanding of the company's prospects and its ability to generate profits.

Q: Have recent events and the trust issues in the market affected the way you pick and believe in stocks?

No, my approach to picking and believing in stocks has not been affected by recent events and trust issues. I still focus on buying companies with growth potential and understanding their business models. Regardless of market conditions or trust concerns, a well-performing company will continue to do well and its stock will reflect that. In the long term, the success of a company depends on its ability to generate earnings, regardless of external factors affecting the market.

Q: How do you deal with the fear and uncertainty that comes with investing in the stock market?

Every day, I believe that the market is going to go up. I remain optimistic and consistently communicate with my company and other trusted sources to stay informed. Rather than worrying about the economy, I choose to focus on historical data and indicators that suggest a strong economy. I believe that being confident and persistent is essential when investing in the stock market.

Q: Do you have a view on the current economy and the recent declines in the dollar?

I pay attention to the current state of the economy, but I focus on historical trends rather than trying to predict the future. I see several positive elements in the current economy, such as the housing market and the consumer sector. While there have been declines in the dollar and a shift from surplus to deficit, I view these as healthy adjustments and buffers for the economy. I am generally optimistic about the economy and believe that it will continue to improve.

Q: What advice would you give to scared investors in the current market?

My advice to scared investors would be to spend time with children, perhaps hire an eight-year-old or six-year-old and observe their optimism and lack of worry about the market. Children do not know about complicated economic factors or influencers such as Alan Greenspan and they remain optimistic about the future. Looking at the long-term perspective, we have many years ahead of us for the market to perform well. Courage and persistence, combined with a focus on the future, have historically yielded positive results in the market.


Peter Lynch shares his perspective on investing and the current market conditions. He emphasizes that the same principles of investing still apply today, where investors should focus on understanding the companies they invest in and having a clear reason for their investments. While recent trust issues in the market and declines in investments may be concerning, patience and long-term thinking are essential. Lynch believes that stocks will perform well over time because companies have the potential to make more money in the future. It is important to avoid common investing mistakes, such as not analyzing company balance sheets or selling stocks too quickly. Ultimately, investors should make their own informed decisions based on their risk tolerance and goals. Despite a potentially uncertain economic environment, Lynch remains optimistic about the American economy and suggests that investors look at historical trends and the overall strength of the economy. Finally, he advises investors to have courage and persistence, and to maintain a long-term perspective when navigating the market.

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