Oppenheimer’s Chief Economist On Warren Buffett, Millennial Investors, ‘Creative Mistakes’

Benzinga had the chance to speak to Oppenheimer Funds’ Chief Economist Jerry Webman this week ahead of the ENGAGE 2015 International Investment Education Symposium being held at Wayne State University starting on March 26.

Dr. Webman provided his insight on a wide range of topics in the financial world.

Buffett’s 10-Year Rule

Warren Buffett is famous for his long-term value investing philosophy. Buffett once said, “Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.”

Benzinga asked Dr. Webman what single investment he would choose if he were forced to adhere to Buffett’s 10-year rule. “Buffett and I are both Nebraskans… but the world changes so quickly that I’m not sure that’s such great advice anymore.”

After voicing his objections to the premise, Webman then explained, “If I had to [choose one investment] I would look for a diversified global portfolio of high-quality stocks.”

Millennials Going Alone

In the past, Dr. Webman has written about the disproportionately small percentage of the millennial generation that seeks advice from financial advisors.

Benzinga asked Dr. Webman if he believes this phenomenon is a permanent, fundamental shift in investment philosophy that has been brought about by the information age, or whether he believes it has more to do with temporary mistrust by the younger generation of the financial services industry in the wake of the Financial Crisis.

“I think the Financial Crisis did create a fair amount of skepticism among people of various generations… One of the things a good financial advisor can do is prevent you from doing too much pointing and clicking on your investment portfolio… I think if people realized that, with using technology, they have the risk of whipsawing themselves, they may find that it’s helpful to have someone help them define a strategy and stay with that strategy.”

Street Smarts

Finally Benzinga asked Dr. Webman what he has learned from his real-world experience in economics that he wasn’t taught in a classroom at the University of Chicago or Yale.

“The idea of ‘creative mistakes’ that people make because of emotion, I think that’s something that I’ve come to understand much better as a practitioner than I could have read in a textbook or figured out with some algorithms or equations.”

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