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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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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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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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How NOT to Teach Your Children about Money (A Personal Experiment)

“Kavya, what is money?” I asked my twelve-year old daughter recently, as she was deeply engrossed in a book.

Her answer stumped me, simply because I was not expecting it and in the way she said it.

She said, “Papa, money is something that, if we don’t waste, can get us bigger and better things in the future.”

“Wow!” I told her. “You deserve a hug for this.”

How Kavya defined money may not be its perfect definition, but it effectively contains almost the entire essence of how we must handle it (money).

It contains the importance of saving money by spending less money now, and letting the power of compounding grow that money so that we can maintain our purchasing power (and still have more money) in the future.

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Investing Lesson from How Doctors (Don’t) Think

It was a summer afternoon. Sunnybrook Hospital in Canada received an accident case. A young woman driver had a head-on collision with another car. She had suffered broken bones everywhere.

The doctors found multiple fractures in her ankles, feet, hips, and face. Initially, they missed the fracture in her ribs that they later found out.

During her diagnosis, the doctors found something else that was not right with the woman. Her heart was beating unusually. The rhythm of her heartbeat had become wildly irregular. It was either skipping beats or adding extra beats.

The emergency room staff soon diagnosed the heart problem – or thought they had. The woman told them that she had a history of an overactive thyroid. An overactive thyroid can cause an irregular heartbeat. So the staff no longer needed any further investigations for the source of the irregular heartbeat but to treat it.

By this time, they had invited an intern named Don Redelmeier, whose job at the hospital was, in part, to check the understanding of the specialists for mental errors. In other words, Redelmeier’s job was to serve a check on other people’s, especially doctors’, thinking.

As the emergency room staff was about to administer the drugs for hyperthyroidism to the woman patient, Redelmeier asked them to slow down. To wait. Just a moment. Just to check their thinking – and to make sure they were not trying to force the facts into an easy, coherent, but ultimately false story.

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