29 November 2014

If Other People Were Like Stock Market People – Thankfully, They Are Not!

Stock Market is a strange place. A really strange one…

At times, things which happen here are so far away from common sense, that if aliens were looking at stock markets, they would refuse to make any contact with humans… because lack of common sense shown here proves that we may not be an intelligent form of life at all.

One of the simplest examples of stupidities in stock markets can be illustrated as follows: We wait for discount sales and promotional offers when we want to purchase clothes, furniture, etc. But when the same discount sale starts in stock markets, we run away. We are no longer interested in purchasing goods (stocks) which are available in markets at cheap prices and at very high discounts.

I just read an interesting article by Morgan Housel here, which almost forced me to imagine my own set of hypothetical situations, where other people start behaving like those in stock markets.

In each of the following situations, I have used my name (Dev) instead of anybody else’s, to avoid getting into conflict with readers for use of anybody else’s name. Unfortunately, if your name is Dev too, then please accept my apologies ;-)

So go on…Enjoy the rest of the post… ;-)

If we are as impatient about gardening as we are about investing: Dev plants some seeds in his backyard. He checks them after 4 hours. Nothing changes. He digs them up and replants them. Four hours later…. still nothing changes. Two days later, Dev is disheartened and angry that there is no mango tree in his backyard. He calls mango trees a big scam.

If we thought of private businesses like public businesses: Dev owns a bakery. One year he sells 1024 cakes. The next year he sells 1023 cakes. Business channel reporters stand in front of his bakery and call him incompetent and unworthy of running a bakery.

If medical advice is given as universally and indiscriminately as financial advice: Dev is a doctor who goes on TV talking about the benefits of a new cancer drug. He doesn't mention that unless you have cancer, the advice is irrelevant for you. Unaware, half of the viewers start using the new cancer drug despite not having cancer.

If we credentialed doctors as easily as we do stock brokers: Dev keeps shouting just one thing: "the hip bone is connected to the leg bone." This simple and obvious observation qualifies him to be a famous ortho-surgeon and your life is now in his hands.

If we held weathermen to the same standard as stock market experts: Dev, a local weatherman has been predicting since 1990s, that next year, it will rain in Delhi during monsoons. As common knowledge is, monsoons do bring in rains every year in India (including Delhi). But Dev is inducted into the Meteorology Hall of Fame for his "spot-on, dead-accurate forecasts of the Delhi’s climate for last 20+ years." 

If we checked our physical health as often as we check our portfolios: Dev wakes up in morning and checks his blood pressure. He checks it again before breakfast, during breakfast and after breakfast. He checks it again just before leaving for work. When he reaches office, he checks it again, then again before lunch, and twice before leaving office. During one of these times, he weighs himself during the day and notices that he has lost half a kilogram. He calls his doctor to find out about his health and what exactly is going on.

If we thought of school grades like we do corporate accounting: Dev gets an ‘F’ in maths test, but says he actually got an ‘A’ if you strip out one-time bad answers on a pre-mistake basis. His teacher* buys the logical explanation and gives him an ‘A’ in report card.

* -‘Auditors’ ;-)

17 November 2014

Stable Investor Completes 3 Years – My Letter to You


Today Stable Investor completes 3 years. So congratulations are in place. :-) I wanted to write a long speech but that’s not my forte. So will keep it as simple and as direct as possible.

So first of all, I take this opportunity to thank myself for being the one man unit behind the concept of Stable Investor. ;-P ;-P

Secondly but more importantly, I thank You. It would not have been possible without your support, time, comments and feedback. Had it not been for you all, I would have been like a person in closed room, shouting out his thoughts about investing with no one to listen to.

So thank you once again for listening to me.

Stable Investor Birthday

Not a day goes when I don't think about what I should write here on Stable Investor. It has become such an integral part of my life that I am now unable to imagine how I used to spend my free time before starting Stable Investor.

This 3rd year was an important one as I launched my first premium product Ultra Long Term Stocks in June. I was pleasantly surprised by the response which it received and would like to thank subscribers of Ultra Long Term Stocks in particular once again.

Some numbers to gauge what has been build in last 3 years – I have written a total of 179 articles; Have received more than 5.8 Lac pageviews; Email subscription has reached 1400+ and there are quite a few hundreds subscribing to RSS feeds using feed aggregators. Facebook Page has crossed 3200 Fans and there are more than 650 Twitter followers of @StableInvestor.

These numbers are not big ones but still mean a lot to me as each one represents a person who is ‘actually’ interested in real long term investing.

And that is what keeps me motivated on this long journey of learning about investing and of course about getting to know my real self a little better.

Stable Investor is all about Investing – So I share with you this thought by Morgan Housel which I read some days back:

Investing isn’t easy. It can get emotional. It can make you angry, nervous, scared, excited, and confused. Most of the time you make a decision under the fog of these emotions, you’ll do something regrettable. So talk to someone before making a big money move. A friend. An advisor. A fellow investor. Just discuss what you’re doing with other people. “Everyone you meet has something to teach you,” the saying goes. At worst, they give advice you don’t agree with and can ignore. More often, they’ll provide prospective and help shape your thinking.

So I request you to be my friend, advisor and a fellow investor – who helps me on this path and helps me learn and get over my mistakes.

Thanks once again…

Looking forward to do more in fourth year. :-)



15 November 2014

Someone Said I Have Double Standards. My Reply – It Works For Me & I Will Stick To It

A few days back on a flight to my hometown, I was reading a book on Warren Buffett – Tap Dancing To Work. The person sitting next to me got interested and asked me whether the old man on cover was the well known investor Buffett. This question was the start of our small but interesting conversation about stock markets in general and my investment philosophy in particular.

Now this person was far more talkative than a few which I know of. And hence for 90% of the 2 hour flight, I ended up listening to him. :-)
It became quite clear that he had burned his fingers (& money) in 2000 and again in 2008 Crisis. He also seemed to be having a tough time believing in market’s potential to make people rich. Anyways…he told me about a lot of stocks which I had not heard of. And unsurprisingly enough, these stocks had brought down his portfolio substantially in past.

But the interesting part came when he asked me about what I was buying in current markets, which are regularly making new life-time highs. I told him that apart from few stocks which I purchase regularly (almost irrespective of prices & for really long term), I am not buying anything.

He was surprised as he thought that since everybody else is buying...and if I considered myself to be an expert investor (since I was reading a book on Warren Buffett - ;p ), I should also be buying stocks and finding potential multibaggers. 
I told him that I am not looking at finding the next multibagger and am pretty satisfied with my mutual fund SIPs and few stocks which I am accumulating in my core portfolio. He unsurprisingly was not impressed with my reply.

Then he asked me what I did in 2008-2009 when markets crashed. And whether I was able to get out of markets in time? I told him that since I had just started earning during those years and still did not have significant sums in markets, I never cared about getting out of markets at that time. I was rather more concerned about getting in when share prices were falling like anything and there were plenty of no-brainer deals available if one looked carefully.

This ticked him off somewhere deep. He said that:

“This is not how an investor operates. You should be able to get out before a market starts to fall. And start buying when markets are ‘supposed’ to rise for next few years. You seem to have double standards in stock markets....you try to buy when no one is buying and try not to buy when everyone else is buying."

Double Standards Markets

I told him clearly that I don't know what a typical investor, or for that matter an expert investor should do or shouldn’t do. 

But I do what is in accordance with my personality and risk appetite. I also said that his comment of ‘markets are supposed to rise’ was not sensible as markets are not controlled by anyone and cannot be predicted. And that for a real long term investor, it doesn’t make much sense to time the markets.

If others are comfortable buying in rising markets then so be it. I am not and I will not go with the trend.

There was nothing noteworthy in rest of our conversation as this person realized that I could not be convinced and I realized that its not easy to convince someone about the benefits of long term investing when that 'someone' has lost a lot of money in markets.

Thankfully for me, pilot’s announcement of approaching destination came as a way out of the discussion, where for the first time I was accused of having double standards and I happily accepted it. :-)

12 November 2014

A Short Story About Monkeys & Goats – To Convince You To Buy Stocks of Only Good Businesses

Markets are making new highs. And increasing number of people around you are discussing about stock markets these days. Though we still haven’t reached a point where housewives start discussing stocks, there does seem to be an underlying current in market, which is making people believe that it’s easy to make money in stock markets.

I know that most people won’t agree with me if I say that it’s best to bet against the crowd in stock markets. Even though the same has been advocated by Warren Buffett when he asks us to Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.

So frankly speaking, there is no point in trying to convince someone who has already made up his/her mind to invest in a rising market. So instead, what I feel is that it’s more important for such people to understand something else...

Read the story and you will understand…

Monkeys Goats Stock Markets

Note - This story isn't quite the same as the monkey story you may have got in one of those chain-forwarded emails.

So there was this village where one day a man appeared and said that he wanted to buy monkeys. He said that he would pay Rs 100 per monkey. The villagers caught all the monkeys in the neighbourhood and sold them to him for a hundred rupees each. Soon another man appeared and said that he would pay Rs 200 for each monkey. But there weren't any more monkeys around. They were all owned by the first man. So the villagers went to him and said that they were willing to take the monkeys back and return his money. But the monkey owner was unwilling to sell. The villagers raised the offer price to Rs 150 per monkey, then Rs 175 and finally to Rs 199 but the man just didn't want to sell, even though he clearly didn't have any use for the monkeys. Eventually, just to see whether he would sell, they offered him Rs 200 but he still refused.

The villagers were puzzled by this. Finally, one of them figured out that there must be someone else who was going to come to the village and offer even more money for the monkeys. Convinced that this was the real explanation, they went and offered the man Rs 300 for each monkey and sure enough the man accepted. Joyous at having landed such a good deal, they quickly paid him off before he changed his mind and took possession of the monkeys. The man went away with his money and lived happily ever after. The villagers waited for the next buyer. And waited… And waited... But no one ever appeared who wanted to buy a monkey.
But wait.

If you think you've guessed the moral of the story, you are wrong because the story isn't over yet.

There was another village nearby. In this village a man appeared one day and offered Rs 1000 each for a goat. Now goats were valuable, but not as much as a thousand rupees so the villagers sold the goats to this man. A similar thing happened here too. A second man appeared, offered Rs 2000 for each goat, the first man refused and eventually the villagers ended up buying the goats back for Rs 3000 each. Here too, the two men disappeared and no one ever came and offered so much money for a goat again.

But there was a difference.

Goats aren't monkeys. They could be milked every day and the milk was good and healthy. Even the goat droppings could be used as fuel (not sure of it though). When the goats eventually grew too old to be milked, the villagers could kill them for mutton. All in all, it wasn't a complete disaster.

But the monkey-owners were not so lucky. Since these weren't demat monkeys, they actually had to be kept in one's house. The monkeys ate too much, shouted and shrieked all day and sometimes bit people.

Eventually, when it became clear that the monkeys were worthless, their owners abandoned them and tried to forget about their losses.

And that's the Moral of the Story.

In the stock markets today, there are good companies that are overpriced and there are worthless companies that are overpriced. If you are going to be a fool and pay absurd prices because you think that a greater fool will appear in the future, make sure you buy a goat and not a monkey.

Note– The story is sourced from here.
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