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Investing and the Five Laws of Holes

Centuries ago, a Chinese King was sitting in his cabinet meeting discussing the poor economy of his country. One economist said, “Sir, we can’t do anything about it. It’s the Law of Supply and Demand.”

The King said, “I’m the King. I will repeal that Law!” The Cabinet kept quiet, but one brave soul said, “Sir, you cannot repeal the Law of Supply and Demand. It’s like the Law of Gravity.”

And the King said, “I’m the King. I will also repeal the Law of Gravity!”

Obviously, this story is purely fictional. But the message that comes out is clear – You cannot repeal some laws that govern this universe.

Like the Law of Gravity, and maybe…

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Announcing Camp Millionaire – Money Workshop for Children

Given how important financial skills are to navigating life, it’s surprising that our schools don’t teach children about money.

How many of us look back at our childhood and wish we would’ve been taught more about money? A lot of people graduate from college without any idea how to manage their money or balance their bank account. Maybe you were one of them.

Now that you’ve learned more about managing your money right, I am sure you want to help your kids not make the same mistakes. But then, even when many parents know it’s important to teach their children about money matters at a young age, most don’t know where to start or how to go about it.

I have been through this situation wherein, despite knowing what to teach my kids about money, I lacked the structure and skills to teach them in the way they would learn best i.e., through games and fun-filled activities.

This was till I met Rachana Thamankar of Thrifty Gene. More on her and her initiative later, but let me take the pleasure to introduce you to a structured, games and activity-based workshop for kids to teach them about money and investing.

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Why I Don’t Talk About My Stocks Publicly, And Why You Shouldn’t Either

It was sometime in the middle of 2008 when the realization of a global financial crisis had finally settled on the Indian stock market. I was working on my job as an analyst.

One stock – an Indian engineering major – I had recommended to our clients at the start of the year had fallen around 30% since my recommendation. Not just the stock price, the business had started to wobble. But I closed my eyes to that because my recommendation was now public and many clients would have bought it in their portfolios. To change my view after a 30% cut in stock’s price, however honest I would have been to accept my mistake, would have been a disaster.

Now, this wasn’t just one example that I can think of from that time. There were a few similar such recommendations I and my team had made then.

Some stocks had fallen just because the markets were down. But a few had fallen because their underlying businesses were also bouncing around on a rough wicket.

“What would our clients think of us,” I asked my colleague, “If we change our view now after the stock has already declined? It would hit the trust our clients have on us!” He agreed.

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Safal Niveshak Stream – The Powerful Effect of Compounding Goodwill

Some nice stuff I am reading, watching, and observing at the start of this weekend…

Of Greater Fools and Bubbles

How many greater fools does it take to make a bubble? An old but highly relevant post from Jason Zweig

Economists have struggled and failed to explain why markets turn into manias. Some have denied bubbles exist; others have argued bubbles must somehow be “rational.” Often, the argument is that bubbles are caused by “uninformed” traders, or “dumb money,” while the “smart money” sits on the sidelines.

The latest findings suggest, however, that bubbles might be caused not by traders who lack information but by those who have too much.

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How to Generate Stock Ideas: An Unusual Lesson from a 1939 Book

One of the best books I read before starting on my journey of building Safal Niveshak was James Webb Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas, originally published in 1939. After all, I was trying to build my idea bank for things I wanted to do in life then.

In this book, Young lays out with brilliant simplicity the five essential steps for a productive creative process. Explaining how the production of ideas is largely a result of process than talent, he writes –

The production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Fords; that the production of ideas, too, runs on an assembly line; that in this production the mind follows an operative technique which can be learned and controlled; and that its effective use is just as much a matter of practice in the technique as is the effective use of any tool.

My limited experience in investing suggests that what is most valuable to know about idea generation is not just where to look for a particular idea, but how to train the brain in the method by which all ideas are produced and how to grasp the principles which are at the source of all ideas.

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Being Lucky Vs Being Good

Let’s say you sponsor a contest to determine the “world’s best coin flippers.” About 100,000 people from across the world come together to participate in this contest. Everyone flips a coin at the same time.

After each coin flip, those who flip “tails” must leave, until the only people left have flipped 10 consecutive heads. Basic statistics suggests that we could expect about 98 coin flippers to remain at the end of the contest.

The odds of flipping heads 10 times in a row are 1/2^10 = 1/1024. So, for 100,000 participants, there will be 100,000/1,024 = 98 people who would have flipped 10 consecutive heads.

Then, these 98 “skilled” coin flippers would get thousands of likes on Facebook, and followers on Twitter. Those with the best smile and social media skills will write bestselling books about coin flipping, sharing their secrets of how to become a world-class coin flipper.

Anyways, let’s now consider investing. If just 50% investors outperform the stock market every year, the odds of one investor outperforming every year for 10 years would be 1/1024. That is, just one out of 1,024 investors would achieve this feat of outperforming the market every year for 10 years.

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Safal Niveshak Stream – Three Magic Words for Investing Your Money

Some nice stuff I am reading, watching, and observing at the start of this weekend…

Beware of Charismatic CEOs

Guy Spier’s The Education Of A Value Investor is a book that reads like having a friendly conversation with a wise friend. It’s one of those very few books where the authenticity is reflected on each page and you can tell that every word has come out straight from the heart.

One of the most important things required for long term investing success, as I have learnt so far, is following a sound investment process. According to Guy, a sound process is a robust set of rules that makes our investment decisions smarter and less vulnerable to the distortions of our irrational brains.

Guy has developed eight such rules to bring an analytical rigour to his process. Here is one rule which made a lot of sense to me and cleared my dilemma about the need to talk to the management. He writes –

…my own experience is that close contact with management is is more likely to be detrimental to my investment returns. The trouble is, senior managers—particularly CEOs—tend to be highly skilled salespeople. No matter how their business is performing, they have a gift for making the listener feel optimistic about the company’s prospects…But this gift of the gab doesn’t necessarily make them a dependable source of information…This isn’t to say that CEOs, CFOs, and other top executives are malicious or immoral…They may be skewing information subconsciously, without any bad intent. But it doesn’t matter. Knowing my own rational limitations, I’d prefer not to expose myself to this potentially distorting influence.

If I want to assess the quality of the management, I’d rather do it in a detached and impersonal way by studying the annual reports and other public data, along with news stories.

So the rule is: Beware of CEOs and other top management, no matter how charismatic, persuasive, and amiable they seem.

And of course there are always some exceptions to every rule. Spier writes –

Exceptions to the rule: Berkshire’s chairman and CEO, Warren E. Buffett, and a small but growing minority of CEOs (at companies like Fairfax Financial, Leucadia National Corporation, and Markel Insurance) who take seriously the idea of sharing what they would like to know if they were in their shareholders’ shoes.

Meeting with management can seriously distort your view and mess up with your mind. Do that only if you’re confident about your ability to keep your mind insulated from a host of biases (Liking, Authority etc.) coming from the charismatic personality of the CEO.

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One Powerful Success Secret from Ben Franklin that Changed My Life

When I tell people how I manage my entire business on my own – from website management, to reading, writing, sending mailers, to organizing workshops and also booking a lot of travel tickets – a lot of them are in disbelief.

They disbelieve me even more when I tell them that I work for just 5-6 hours a day and take a lot of family holidays.

Well, I do not have any Masters degree in time management, but one thing that has really helped me manage my time well is a simple secret I’ve learned from people like Ben Franklin and Warren Buffett.

That simple secret is that of…

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