Margin of Safety

The wisdom in having room for error is acknowledging that uncertainty, randomness, and chance—“unknowns”—are an ever-present part of life.


There is never a moment when you’re so right that you can bet every chip in front of you. The world isn’t that kind to anyone—not consistently, anyways. You have to give yourself room for error. You have to plan on your plan not going according to plan.


You can plan for every risk except the things that are too crazy to cross your mind. And those crazy things can do the most harm, because they happen more often than you think and you have no plan for how to deal with them.


Avoiding these kinds of unknown risks is, almost by definition, impossible. You can’t prepare for what you can’t envision.


Benjamin Graham mentioned in an interview that “the purpose of the margin of safety is to render the forecast unnecessary.”


Margin of safety is the only effective way to safely navigate a world that is governed by odds, not certainties.


Graham’s margin of safety is a simple suggestion that we don’t need to view the world in front of us as black or white, predictable or a crapshoot. The grey area—pursuing things where a range of potential outcomes are acceptable—is the smart way to proceed.


Room for error lets you endure a range of potential outcomes, and endurance lets you stick around long enough to let the odds of benefiting from a low-probability outcome fall in your favor. The biggest gains occur infrequently, either because they don’t happen often or because they take time to compound. So the person with enough room for error in part of their strategy (cash) to let them endure hardship in another (stocks) has an edge over the person who gets wiped out, game over, insert more tokens, when they’re wrong.



Morgan Housel. The Psychology of Money

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