23 August 2019
In this 2005 file picture, Irving Kahn (center) rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Bloomberg
In this 2005 file picture, Irving Kahn (center) rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Bloomberg

Shades of Warren Buffett 20 years from now

Irving Kahn has a routine so predictable and consistent you could almost set your watch by it.

Three days a week, Kahn takes a taxi from his Manhattan flat for the short ride to the offices of his investment firm, Kahn Brothers, where he continues to mint money for investors.

You might say there’s nothing to it, and it happens all the time on Wall St., except that Kahn is 108 years old.

Kahn has seen the very top and the underbelly of the investment market through the 1929 stock market crash, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the recent financial turmoil, as well as numerous less severe upheavals.

And through it all, he carried on investing, according to The Telegraph.

Few people can talk about a long-term investment window as convincingly as he does, or give an oral history of investing with such conviction

“In my early days, the equities market was dominated by speculators looking for tips,” Kahn told the British newspaper.

“The only serious investing was done by a few large institutions that stuck to bonds and shares in well-established companies.”

In the feverish summer of 1929, speculation had driven up prices to unreasonable levels, so he decided that the way to make money was to “short sell” a particular share, meaning he would profit from a fall, not a rise, in the price. 

“One of my clearest memories is of my first trade, a short sale in a mining company, Magma Copper,” he said.

“I borrowed money from an in-law who was certain I would lose it but was still kind enough to lend it. He said only a fool would bet against the bull market.”

By the time the Wall Street crash took hold in the autumn, Kahn had nearly doubled his money.

“This is a good example of how great enthusiasm in a company or industry is usually a sign of great risk,” he said.

After his early success in the risky business of short-selling, Kahn changed his approach to one of finding solid companies that were undervalued by the stock market and then holding on to them.

He also turned his back on leverage — borrowing money to invest. “I invested conservatively and tried to avoid leverage. Living a modest lifestyle didn’t hurt, either,” he said. 

Sounds familiar?

A certain Warren Buffett must have been an ardent follower.

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