He's been called the best investor of all time. But, why does Warren Buffett wish he had less money to invest? Read on to find out how a small investor like you may have an easier time generating high investment returns than wealthy, investment guru Warren Buffett. (For more on Warren Buffett and his current holdings, check out Coattail Investor.)

The Art of Value Investing
Warren Buffett has perfected the art of value investing. Buffett was a devoted student of Benjamin Graham, who gained fame in the 1920s with his simple investment philosophy of measuring the intrinsic value of a business. According to this strategy, if a company's share price is trading below what it's really worth, he buys it. Buffett looks for companies that are well-managed, with simple, easy-to-understand business models, high profit margins and low debt levels. He then determines what he believes to be the company's growth prospects over the next five or 10 years. If the company's share price today is priced below these future expectations, it usually ends up as a long-term holding in Buffett's portfolio. (Find out how to judge a company by reading, The Hidden Value Of Intangibles.)

Buffett has built Berkshire Hathaway into a $200 billion dollar business. According to an August 2005 paper by Gerald Martin and John Puthenpurackal, Buffett's investment strategy has beaten the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500) 20 out of 24 years between 1980 and 2003, and exceeded the average annual return of the S&P 500 by 12.24%. These high returns were not achieved by taking high risk. Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio is comprised mostly of large cap stocks, such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) and Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT). (To learn the difference between large and small cap stocks, see Market Capitalization Defined.)

Compounding is important to Warren Buffett's success. To make his radar screen, a stock investment must have a high likelihood of achieving at least a compound annual earnings growth rate of 10%. When he started four decades ago, Buffett had a wide range of stocks available to him that met or exceeded his minimum return requirement. Back then, however, the size of Buffett's investment portfolio was much more manageable.

Today, being so large and successful is a problem even for Buffett. His challenge lies in how to compound such large sums of money at ever increasing rates. To continue generating high-level compound returns on a massive portfolio, Buffett must take very large positions and only select from the best of large cap stocks. As such, the stocks that meet his threshold have narrowed dramatically.

In mid 2007, for example, Buffett added to his holdings in US Bancorp (NYSE:USB) by 59.1% or almost 14 million shares, but the impact to his portfolio was just 0.74%. He added to his holdings in Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) by 326% for a total of 3.5 million shares, but the impact to his portfolio was just 0.18%.

Small Investments, High Returns
During a shareholders meeting in 1999, Warren Buffett lamented that he could generate 50% returns if only he had less money to invest. He couldn't compound $100 million or $1 billion, at a 50% rate. That's because it's the smaller, faster growing companies that typically offer the highest returns. Small capitalization stocks, however, can't help Warren Buffett. For example, if Buffett invested in a $240 million market cap company and its value doubled, the impact would increase Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio by just 0.3%. Considering the amount of research involved, it may not be worth his while. Buffett stays away from small cap stocks, despite their potential for high returns because he neither wants to cause a run up in the price of a small cap stock, nor does he want a controlling stake. (Find out why small caps have more potential for growth, read Small Caps Boast Big Advantages.)

Buffett isn't the only one to become a victim of his own success. Many of the best performing mutual funds and investment portfolios often will close to new investors because they have become too big to handle. Asset bloat makes it harder to achieve the superior returns investors come to expect from funds like these.

Bottom Line
For the average investor, it's a real advantage to have smaller sums of money to invest. Thanks to online investing, the proliferation of high performance small cap companies, and the abundance of stocks that can be purchased directly from companies without the need for a broker, such as dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs) or direct purchase plans, being a small investor has never been easier or more affordable. Small investors can still achieve diversification with limited investment dollars. Do your homework, keep your discipline, pick quality companies and hold for the long-term. If you do, your money will compound rapidly, to the envy of Warren Buffett himself.

Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    4 Mutual Funds Warren Buffet Would Buy

    Learn about four mutual funds Warren Buffett would invest and recommend to his trustee, and discover detailed analysis of these mutual funds.
  2. Stock Analysis

    Markets Are Tanking: Time to Buy Like Buffett

    Learn about three value stocks Warren Buffett holds in his portfolio. See how Buffett uses market declines to find good deals on stocks.
  3. Investing News

    4 Value Stocks Worth Your Immediate Attention

    Here are four stocks that offer good value and will likely outperform the majority of stocks throughout the broader market over the next several years.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 4 Best Buy-and-Hold ETFs

    Explore detailed analyses of the top buy-and-hold exchange traded funds, and learn about their characteristics, statistics and suitability.
  5. Investing

    Procter & Gamble Restructures, Sheds 100 Brands

    All businesses face adversity, and Procter & Gamble is no exception. We take a look at recent developments affecting this global giant.
  6. Professionals

    4 Ways Companies Can Relieve Workplace Stress

    Workplace stress can cost companies tons of money in lost productivity and absenteeism. Some of that is out of their control, but often they are the cause.
  7. Stock Analysis

    The 5 Best Buy-and-Hold Energy Stocks

    Understand why energy companies' stock are volatile when oil prices are volatile. Learn about the top five energy companies to buy and hold.
  8. Entrepreneurship

    Top 3 Most Successful African Entrepreneurs

    Discover the educational backgrounds and entrepreneurial ventures of some of the most successful and well-known African entrepreneurs.
  9. Investing Basics

    Statistical Proof That Buy-and-Hold Investing Pays Off

    Learn about how the data suggests that the buy-and-hold investment strategy still works, even after the huge declines of the Great Recession.
  10. Options & Futures

    Pick 401(k) Assets Like A Pro

    Professionals choose the options available to you in your plan, making your decisions easier.
  1. What is the difference between passive and active asset management?

    Asset management utilizes two main investment strategies that can be used to generate returns: active asset management and ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the average return on equity for a company in the retail sector?

    The retail sector includes automotive; building supply; distributors; general; grocery and food; online; and special lines ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the average price-to-book ratio of companies in the retail sector?

    The retail sector includes seven types of retail companies: automotive; building supply; distributors; general; grocery and ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Are companies with high Book Value Of Equity Per Share (BVPS) takeover targets?

    Companies with high book value of equity per share (BVPS) can be good takeover targets if those companies are public and ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What is the formula for calculating the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) in Excel?

    The capital asset pricing model (CAPM) measures the amount of an asset's expected return given the risk-free rate, the beta ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the formula for calculating return on investment (ROI) in Excel?

    Return on investment (ROI) measures the performance of an investment by measuring the gain from an investment and the cost ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  2. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
  3. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  4. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  5. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  6. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!