29 July 2014

One of the Biggest Reasons You should be Investing. Even if you can’t beat the Markets.

Surprised?

I am asking you to invest, knowing very well that most of you may not be capable of beating the markets regularly.

Let’s be honest here. Most investors haven’t been able to beat markets consistently over long periods. I am not talking about greats like Buffett. I am talking about common people like You and me. People who have an intention of making a killing in markets, but somehow or the other, end being killed by the markets.

But if you know that you cannot beat the market, then does it make any sense to be in market?

Yes it does.

But first and foremost, please understand that accepting and embracing the fact that you are incapable of beating markets is an achievement in itself. 95 out 100 people in markets do not know this or don't want to accept this. But it is the hard truth and tough to swallow.

But...if you are ready to accept this uncomfortable truth, then it can be one of your biggest strengths in stock markets. 

Market has an unbelievable potential of creating wealth. On an average, markets deliver annual returns of 12% to 15% over long term.

For someone who is capable of beating these numbers, returns would be in excess of 15%. But for those who are not in markets, all they can possibly earn is 7% to 9% depending on taxes applicable on the chosen asset class like banks deposits, etc. By not investing in markets, these people are missing out on extra 3% to 5% which can be earned by staying in markets.

Now these might look like small single-digit numbers. But you will be shocked to see the effect these numbers have on your wealth over a period of 10-20 years.

And the graph below clearly shows this. It’s a very simple depiction of what happens when an annual investment of Rs 60,000 (5K Per month) grows at 12%-15% (Equities); and what happens when the same money is parked in safer options at 7%-9% (FDs, PFs, etc).

Monthly Investment 20 Years
Returns on Rs 5000 per month investment in 20 years (At 7%, 9%, 12% and 15%)

Over a period of 20 years, you would have put in Rs 12 Lacs, i.e. Rs 5000 every month. Now this can either grow into Rs 26 to 34 Lacs if invested at 7% to 9% class of assets. Or into a much bigger amount of Rs 48 to 71 Lacs if invested at 12%-15% in stock markets.

Now wait…if you think that markets guarantee 12%-15% every year, then that is not the case. Returns in market are volatile. It can be 50% in one year and (-)30% in another. But over long periods spanning decades, the average returns are in line with these numbers.

And this clearly means one thing…

Even if you cannot beat the market, you should still not avoid investing in it.

Avoiding markets would prevent you from achieving higher long-term returns when compared with other options like bank deposits, PF, etc.

So is there a way to invest in markets, which is…

1) Simple
2) Sensible
3) In line with the thought that it is not easy to beat markets?

The answer is yes.

And the way to do it is Index Funds.

What is an Index Fund?

According to Investopedia, Index Fund is a type of mutual fund with a portfolio constructed to match or track the components of a market index (such as Sensex or Nifty 50). An index fund is said to provide broad market exposure, low operating expenses and low portfolio turnover.

You might not know which individual stock or sector will outperform. But on an average, a carefully selected group of companies across sectors can do a decent job of maximizing diversification and minimizing exposure to few individual companies or sectors.

I am not saying that you should invest all your money in index funds. But if you think you want to save (invest) for long term, then atleast a part of your money should be parked in instruments linked to stock markets. And your safest bet can be Index funds. You can also choose well diversified large-cap or multi-cap funds which have proven track records. But that would mean that returns achieved by such funds would depend on fund manager’s ability to pick stocks. On the other hand, there is no active selection of stocks in index funds. Such funds simply replicate the composition of an index.

So if you feel that you have a knack of picking stocks which give market beating returns, then there is nothing like it and you should surely invest in stock markets directly.

But if not, then may be its time to think a little more seriously about Index Funds. And that is because if you are not in markets, then over long periods, you are missing out on some seriously big wealth creation opportunity.

Interesting Story:

When Google was about to launch it IPO in 2004, the company realized that this would create quite a few millionaires among its employees. The company therefore brought in a series of financial experts to teach them to make smart investment choices. A 1990 Economics Nobel Prize winner was also brought in. Even he advised Google employees “[not to] try to beat the markets” and to park their money in index funds.

Seems like Someone has rightly said - If you can’t beat them, join them. :-)

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13 July 2014

P/E Ratio of Indian Markets in July 2014 - Is It Telling Us Something?

I regularly monitor index ratios like price-to-earnings, price-to-book values to gauge overall market sentiments. I know it’s a very crude way of doing it. But still it provides a decent picture of what is happening in markets.

Now here is something interesting what happened on July 7th, 2014.

Nifty 50’s P/E multiple crossed 21 after almost 3 years. Surprisingly, last it stood past 21 was also on July 7th (2011). That’s exactly 3 years back!

Long term analysis (starting end of 1998) of Nifty’s P/E ratio tells the following story...

PE Ratio India 2014


We all know its common sense to buy low (Low PEs) and sell high (High PEs). And we also know that its difficult to do it. So if you go out and buy the index as whole when P/E multiples are less than 12 (quite low), then on an average, your probable 3 year and 5 year returns will be 39.5% and 29% respectively.

Similarly for index-buying during P/E multiples being in between 12 and 16, the 3 and 5 year returns are 28% and 25% respectively.

But we are currently in the band of 20-24. And this is not a cheap market at all. As per past data, your 3 year returns and 5 years returns look bleak at 4% and 7%. 

So does it mean that we sell all our stocks and put money in bank deposits?

The answer is I don’t know.

The above numbers are based on data of past 15 years. And there is no guarantee that past performance may be repeated. Or whether this time it might be different.

The last instance of PE21, for which 3 year returns data is available (May 02, 2011), the market gave a return of 5.3%.

Similarly for last instance of PE21, for which 5 year returns data is available (June 11, 2009), the returns were 10.3%. Not bad considering the superiority over returns given by safer ones, but also not eye-popping considering the optimism we have for next 5 years.
Now we are all quite hopeful that the new Indian government, if permitted by external uncontrollable like oil-shocks, natural-disasters, wars, etc… would be able to provide a conducive environment for India’s return to high growth days.

But having said that, I also beg to differ with those who believe that this would be achieved overnight and Sensex will hit 40000 by end of 2015.


As for the current markets which are rising everyday, it seems that they are now running ahead of the actual ground realities. But it is this over-optimism that gives us, the long term investors a chance. Isn’t it? :-)

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11 July 2014

Mailbag: Should I take a Loan to Invest Now? (because Markets are making New Highs everyday)

This is going to be a short post. It’s more of a warning for those who have questions like one in title of this post....in their mind.

Yesterday, I received a mail from a reader asking me the following question:

My portfolio has moved up almost 50% in last 3 months. Some shares of small companies are up more than 100%. Do you think it is a good time to invest more? I don’t have lots of spare cash to put in markets but I am thinking of taking a personal loan to invest. A loan would cost me around 15% and that is much less than what can be easily made in these rising markets.



I replied to this reader’s mail instantly and without any hesitation.

But I felt that right now, there would many people thinking on similar lines. And that is because in recent times, markets have been moving in just one direction. And that is upwards. And this gives a perception that it is very easy to make money in stock markets.

My personal interaction with people tells that they have now started feeling that Fixed & Recurring Deposits offer just 8% in one year....whereas some stocks can give that kind of return in a day. True. It is possible. But can we be 100% sure about this? Can we be 100% sure that we will be making 5% to 8% every day kind-of-a-return on regular basis in stock markets?

The answer is no. I can’t do it. I am pretty sure nobody I know has done it. And neither have people like Warren Buffett done it. And since we are not sure about the returns, it would be a big mistake to borrow money for investing. 

It’s possible that when you take a loan and put that money in markets, your expectation is that markets will move up, like they have been doing for a while now. And probably in a year’s time, you will make much more from your investments than 15% interest that you need to pay on your personal loan.

But what if markets do not rise as expected?

What if returns are less than 15% in one year?

What if markets just stay at same levels after one year?

And what if markets fall...say by 15% in one year? What will you do then?

I hope you are getting what I mean here. 

Market returns are unpredictable. You can never be sure of returns or losses which come your way in markets. But if you take a loan, your EMIs would be predictable and fixed. You can be quite sure that you will have to pay around 15% every year for the loan.

I have seen people make this mistake in 2008 during Reliance Power’s IPO. People took loans, liquidated FDs to invest in the hottest IPO of that time. And what happened after that is known to everyone. Everyone lost money. Those who borrowed to invest lost much more than just money. They lost their sleep and faith in markets.

So, please understand that its not wise to borrow and invest in markets.

Even if you are 100% sure that markets will go up, please don't borrow money to invest. If you do, I think it would be the biggest financial crime you can ever commit.

Note - Some months back, someone asked me just the very opposite question. I have a loan. Should I pay it back before investing? 

Seems like the question of this mailbag post is a side-effect of a bull market ;-)

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