The Intelligent Investor Summary | The Bible Of Value Investing

The Intelligent Investor Front Cover
Reading Time: 13 minutes

Author: Benjamin Graham
Published: 1949
Pages: 640
Amount sold: Over 1 million


Often described as the ‘Bible’ of value investing, “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham is a must-read in the world of finance.

The highly acclaimed book was written in 1949 and is filled with Graham’s key lessons that have shaped how we think about investing today.

Graham teaches readers to invest in a disciplined and intelligent manner – with an emphasis on minimizing risk while maximizing returns. While this advice seems to be just common sense at first, you would be surprised at how few investors actually strive to follow these principles when they are investing in the markets.

The investing manual introduces several concepts, including ‘value investing’, the ‘margin-of-safety’ principle and ‘Mr Market’ – all of which have become hallmarks in the investment world.

In addition to these core concepts, Graham covers topics such as how to interpret financial statements, portfolio selection and management, the effects of inflation, and psychological considerations in investing.

In this summary, we will take a look at some of the key themes and principles from “The Intelligent Investor” and how you can use them to become a more ‘intelligent’ investor.

The Intelligent Investor Quick Summary

“The Intelligent Investor” is one of the most important financial books of all time and has been hailed as the “bible” of investing by famous investors like Warren Buffet.

The book differentiates between investing and speculation right off the bat, where an investment promises the safety of principal (initial amount invested) and an adequate return upon thorough analysis. At the same time, anything that doesn’t meet these requirements falls under speculation.

A key metaphor introduced in the book is “Mr. Market”, representing the capricious nature of the stock market. Investors are advised not to follow the market blindly but to make their own value estimates.

One of the central tenets Graham advocates for is the principle of “margin of safety”. This principle entails that there should be a significant gap between an investment’s intrinsic value and its market price, providing a safety net against poor decisions and market downturns.

The focus on the intrinsic value of investments forms the basis for the value investing approach that Graham strongly endorses – purchasing stocks significantly below their intrinsic value.

Graham further categorizes investors into defensive (passive) and enterprising (active). Defensive investors aim to preserve their principal with satisfactory returns, while enterprising investors commit more effort and risk for potentially higher returns.

Regardless of the type of investor, Graham emphasizes the importance of diversification in investment portfolios to mitigate risk and increase the likelihood of overall success.

The Intelligent Investor In 4 Sentences

  • “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham is a foundational text that establishes the principles of value investing, encouraging systematic and analytical approaches to earning profits. Its emphasis is on finding undervalued securities and has greatly influenced the practice of many successful investors worldwide.
  • The book provides a wealth of advice on various facets of investment, from stocks and bonds to overall strategies, thus broadening the readers’ financial perspective. It offers a holistic understanding of the financial world, with chapters dedicated to market fluctuations, portfolio policy, and risk management.
  • Despite its original publication in 1949, the wisdom and advice presented remain timeless, making it an essential read for novice and experienced investors.
  • Beyond mere strategies, the book also focuses on the psychological aspect of investing, promoting a balanced temperament and rational decision-making in volatile market conditions. It emphasizes the importance of maintaining emotional discipline and not being swayed by market sentiment, effectively highlighting the mental fortitude required for successful investing.

Top 5 The Intelligent Investor Quotes

  1. “In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.” This quote reflects the book’s emphasis on the intrinsic value of a company over its current market price.
  2. “The investor’s chief problem—and even his worst enemy—is likely to be himself.” Graham recognizes that investors often act out of emotion, leading to poor investment decisions.
  3. “To achieve satisfactory investment results is easier than most people realize; to achieve superior results is harder than it looks.” This quote underscores the idea that while it’s possible for most investors to achieve decent returns, outperforming the market consistently is very challenging.
  4. “It is absurd to think that the general public can ever make money out of market forecasts.” This quote is a stark reminder that predicting market movements is an unreliable way to secure profits.
  5. “The function of the margin of safety is, in essence, that of rendering unnecessary an accurate estimate of the future.” Graham underscores the importance of the margin of safety, which can protect investors from the unpredictability of the future.

Themes Of The Intelligent Investor

“The Intelligent Investor” covers a broad range of topics around investing. Here are some of the key themes:

  1. Investing vs. Speculation: Graham distinguishes investing, which requires thorough analysis and provides safety of principal, from speculation, which does not meet these criteria.
  2. Value Investing: Graham strongly advocates for buying stocks significantly below their intrinsic value, which can only be achieved through fundamental analysis of the company.
  3. Margin of Safety: This principle requires that there is a significant difference between the intrinsic value and market price of an investment.
  4. Psychology of Investing: Graham discusses the importance of maintaining a disciplined approach to investing and avoiding emotional decision-making.
  5. Mr. Market Metaphor: This allegory portrays the market as a capricious character whose moods investors must tolerate but never follow.
  6. Defensive and Enterprising Investing: Graham suggests different strategies for defensive (more passive) investors and enterprising (more active) investors.
  7. Importance of Diversification: Graham highlights the need for spreading investments across different assets to reduce risk.
  8. Long-term Approach: Graham argues for a long-term investment perspective over chasing short-term market fluctuations.

Benjamin Graham – The Father of Value Investing

Benjamin Graham was a renowned economist and professional investor who has been labeled as the “father of value investing.” His revolutionary theories laid the foundation for disciplined investing, breaking from the prevailing attitude of speculation in his time.

Born on May 9th, 1894, in London, Graham emigrated with his family to New York City when he was just a year old. The youngest of three children, he had a difficult childhood, with his father dying when he was just nine and his mother struggling to keep the family afloat.

Graham’s first experience with the markets was not a pleasant one as at the age of 13, his other opened a margin account to buy US Steel stock. The ensuing panic of 1907 wiped the account out.

Despite the hardships, Graham excelled in his studies, eventually earning a scholarship to attend Columbia University, where he graduated second in his class in 1914.

Graham had a brief stint as a lecturer at Columbia before he ventured into Wall Street, beginning as an employee at the bond-trading firm, Newburger, Henderson, and Loeb. His keen interest in analyzing financial statements helped him rise quickly within the firm.

Graham had a knack for identifying undervalued companies with strong fundamentals, a trait that would later become the bedrock principle of his investment philosophy. During his time on Wall Street, he managed to amass a considerable personal fortune, demonstrating the practical effectiveness of his investment strategies.

In 1926, Graham co-founded the investment partnership Graham-Newman Corporation, serving as the firm’s chief investment officer until he retired in 1956.

During his tenure, he developed and refined his investment philosophy of purchasing shares in companies for less than their intrinsic value, a strategy now known as value investing.

The catastrophic market crash in 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression greatly influenced Graham’s views on investing. His experiences during this period underscored the importance of thorough analysis, conservative valuations, and a margin of safety.

These principles were articulated in his seminal works, “Security Analysis” and “The Intelligent Investor”, which continue to be must-reads for investors around the world.

Graham died on September 21st, 1976, aged 82, leaving behind a legacy of value investing that continues to be relevant today.

The Intelligent Investor Summary

As we have discussed, The Intelligent Investor is a seminal piece of financial literature. that has inspired many investors throughout the world since its release in 1949.

Here in this summary, we take a detailed look at the chapters of the book and the key concepts presented therein.

Investment versus Speculation: In this section, Graham clearly differentiates between investing and speculating. He defines an investment as one that promises the safety of the principal and an adequate return based on thorough analysis, while anything that doesn’t meet these criteria is speculation.

The Investor and Inflation: Graham discusses the impact of inflation on investments. He also offers advice on how investors can protect their portfolios against the eroding effects of inflation. This issue is more pertinent than ever and Graham offers market solutions for investors to protect themselves from the risks of inflation.

A Century of Stock-Market History: This chapter is a historical review of stock market performance, where Graham underlines the necessity of long-term investing. He emphasizes the importance of investor patience, discipline, and understanding of market history.

As stated by one of our favorite quotes, “In the short run, a market is a voting machine, but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.”

General Portfolio Policy: The Defensive Investor: Graham introduces the concept of a “defensive” or passive investor. He proposes a strategy for such investors which focuses on maintaining a diversified portfolio comprising bonds and stocks.

The Defensive Investor and Common Stocks: Here, Graham elaborates on how defensive investors should approach common stocks. He suggests an equal division of the portfolio between high-quality bonds and conservative stocks.

Portfolio Policy for the Enterprising Investor: This chapter is dedicated to “enterprising” or active investors. Graham explains that while they can take on more risk, they also must dedicate more time and effort to their investment decisions.

The Investor and Market Fluctuations: Graham presents the allegory of “Mr. Market” to demonstrate how investors can capitalize on market fluctuations. He encourages investors to take advantage of Mr. Market’s mood swings rather than being influenced by them.

Investing in Investment Funds: Graham discusses the role of investment funds, particularly mutual funds. He scrutinizes their advantages and disadvantages and provides guidance for investors considering these funds.

The Investor and His Advisers: Graham provides insights on how to work with financial advisers. He urges investors not to follow advice blindly and emphasizes the importance of personal understanding and decision-making.

Security Analysis for the Lay Investor: This chapter outlines some basic security analysis techniques. These techniques can help the average investor make informed choices when selecting stocks and bonds. As the author states throughout the book, without any deep analysis of what you are investing in, you are speculating rather than investing.

Things to Consider About Per-Share Earnings: Graham advises investors not to rely solely on a company’s reported earnings. He underlines the importance of considering a variety of other factors when evaluating a company’s financial health.

A Comparison of Four Listed Companies: Graham demonstrates his principles of stock selection by comparing four companies. He uses this comparison to highlight what to look for in potential investments.

Stock Selection for the Defensive Investor: Here, the value investing guru, provides practical, step-by-step advice on stock selection tailored to the defensive investor. His suggestions are based on his fundamental principles of value investing.

Stock Selection for the Enterprising Investor: Here, Graham covers stock selection for the enterprising investor. He provides a more detailed and active approach to stock selection compared to his advice for defensive investors.

Convertible Issues and Warrants: Graham discusses the use of convertible securities and warrants in an investment portfolio. He sheds light on how these instruments can offer potential benefits for the informed investor.

Four Extremely Instructive Case Histories: The author uses four case histories to illustrate his investment principles. Each case provides practical lessons drawn from real-world experiences in the stock market.

A Comparison of Eight Pairs of Companies: Graham compares eight pairs of companies to further illustrate his principles of stock selection. Each pair provides insights into different facets of company evaluation.

Shareholders and Managements: This chapter discusses the relationship between shareholders and company management. Graham provides a critical examination of management practices from the perspective of shareholders.

Margin of Safety as the Central Concept of Investment: Graham concludes the book with the core concept of the “margin of safety”. He presents this principle as the most critical strategy in successful value investing.

Who Recommends The Intelligent Investor?

Don’t just take our word for it as being one of the most important (if not the most) investment books of all time, “The Intelligent Investor” is recommended by a number of high-profile and successful investors and financial experts.

Warren Buffett, one of the world’s wealthiest individuals and a renowned value investor, has famously credited the book as a crucial influence on his investment strategy.

Buffet was employed by Graham at his investment fund before he started Berkshire Hathaway and is Graham’s number one student.

Other notable individuals who endorse the book include Charlie Munger, Ray Dalio and founder of Flexport.com Ryan Petersen.


While “The Intelligent Investor” is widely respected and has been instrumental in shaping the investment philosophies of countless individuals, it’s not without its critics. One of the common criticisms revolves around its perceived lack of applicability in the modern, fast-paced investment world:

Outdated: Some critics argue that the book, first published in 1949, is outdated. The financial landscape has evolved significantly since Graham’s era, with the emergence of complex financial derivatives, algorithmic trading, and other sophisticated investment strategies. Some of Graham’s ideas might not be as directly applicable in today’s context.

Complexity for Beginners: Despite being a guide for the average investor, some readers find the book quite dense and complex, especially those new to investing. The book delves into detailed explanations of numerous financial concepts and techniques that might be difficult for a beginner to grasp.

Value Investing Critique: The book’s strong emphasis on value investing has drawn criticism from those who believe in different investment philosophies, such as growth investing. Critics argue that strictly adhering to value investing as suggested by Graham may cause investors to miss out on high-growth companies that might not meet the stringent criteria of value investing.

Underestimation of Macro Factors: Some critics suggest that Graham’s approach tends to downplay the influence of macroeconomic factors, focusing instead on individual company fundamentals. In today’s interconnected global economy, macroeconomic factors can significantly impact investment performance.

Remember, no investment strategy is one-size-fits-all. Each investor should learn from various sources and tailor their approach based on their personal financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon.

3 Lessons From The Intelligent Investor

  1. Learn from Mr. Market, Don’t Follow Him: The “Mr. Market” metaphor is a crucial lesson in dealing with market volatility. Rather than being influenced by the market’s irrational behavior, take advantage of it. Buy when Mr. Market is overly pessimistic and sell when he’s overly optimistic.
  2. Know Your Investment Style: Identify whether you are a defensive or enterprising investor and invest accordingly. A defensive investor prefers a more passive approach, while an enterprising investor is more actively involved.
  3. Commit to a Long-term Approach: Avoid chasing short-term market fluctuations. Patience and a long-term perspective are crucial for successful investing.

The Intelligent Investor Summary Conclusion

The Intelligent Investor is an essential read for anyone interested in value investing. It provides a comprehensive overview of the fundamentals of stock selection and management and introduces the essential concept of the margin of safety and the importance of taking a long-term view when investing in the markets.

Critics might argue that Graham’s insights are outdated, but his advice still holds relevance for today’s investors.

This book is not just a read but a study – an essential resource to revisit as you journey through your investing life. Ultimately, the wisdom found within its pages could mean the difference between an average investor and a truly intelligent one.


What Does The Intelligent Investor Teach You?

The Intelligent Investor teaches readers how to become successful long-term investors. It outlines the core principles of value investing, such as distinguishing between investments and speculation, understanding the margin of safety, and taking a long-term approach to investing in the markets.

What Type of Book Is The Intelligent Investor?

“The Intelligent Investor” is a renowned investment book that focuses on the principles of value investing and provides readers with a practical guide on approaching the stock market.

It is considered a classic and one of the most important investment books of all time. The book is aimed at both beginner and seasoned investors and covers various topics, including fundamental analysis, portfolio management, risk management, and behavioral finance.

Is The Intelligent Investor Good for Beginners?

“The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham is a great resource for beginners who want to learn about investing. The book covers a wide range of topics, including fundamental analysis, portfolio management, risk management, and behavioral finance, providing a comprehensive introduction to the world of investing.

One of the book’s most significant strengths is its clear and concise writing style, with numerous examples and case studies to illustrate the concepts discussed.

Is The Intelligent Investor Worth a read?

Yes, “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham is definitely worth a read. Despite being written over 70 years ago, the book’s advice still holds true and is relevant to investors today. The book demystifies the complex world of investing and provides readers with a practical guide on how to approach the stock market.

The core principles of value investing, such as distinguishing between investments and speculation, understanding the margin of safety, and taking a long-term view, are timeless wisdom that can help any investor succeed in the stock market.

In addition, the clear and concise writing style makes it easy for new investors to understand and apply these principles. Overall, “The Intelligent Investor” is an essential resource for anyone looking to learn about investing or brush.

What is the intelligent investor about?

The Intelligent Investor is a seminal work in the world of investing, written by renowned investor and professor Benjamin Graham. The book demystifies the complex world of investing, laying down a solid foundation for a prudent, value-oriented investment philosophy. It outlines the core principles of value investing, such as distinguishing between investments and speculation, understanding the margin of safety, and taking a long-term approach.

Is The Intelligent Investor Outdated?

No, “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham is not outdated. Despite being written over 70 years ago, the book’s advice still holds true and is relevant to investors today.

While the financial landscape has evolved, the core principles of value investing have remained steadfast, providing a compass for navigating the ever-changing investment seas. The wisdom found within the pages of this book can mean the difference between an average investor and a truly intelligent one, making it an essential resource for anyone looking to invest.


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