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Archives for June 2017

Small Circles: The Theory of Mastery in the Art of Learning and Investing

One of the best books on the art of learning I’ve read is, well, The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin.

Josh is a champion in two distinct sports – chess and martial arts. He is an eight-time US national chess champion, thirteen-time Tai Chi Chuan push hands national champion, and two-time Tai Chi Chuan push hands world champion.

In his book, Josh recounts his experiences and shares his insights and approaches on how you can learn and excel in your own life’s passion, using examples from his personal life. Through stories of martial arts wars and tense chess face-offs, Josh reveals the inner workings of his everyday methods, cultivating the most powerful techniques in any field, and mastering the psychology of peak performance.

One of my favourite chapters from Josh’s book is titled – Making Smaller Circles – which stresses on the fact that it’s rarely a mysterious technique that drives us to the top, but rather a profound mastery of what may well be a basic skillset.

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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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Latticework of Mental Models: Risk Aversion Vs Loss Aversion

On April 10, 2003, Pepsi announced a contest called “The Pepsi Billion Dollar Sweepstakes”. It was scheduled to run for 5 months starting from May in the same year.

For the contest, Pepsi printed one billion special codes which could be redeemed either on their website or via postal mail. According to Pepsi’s estimate, about 200-300 million of these codes were redeemed. Out of these, 100 codes were chosen in a random draw to appear in a two-hour live gameshow-style television special. Each of these 100 people were assigned a random 6-digit number, and a chimpanzee (to ensure a truly random number and of course to rule out any monkey business) backstage rolled dice to determine the grand prize number. This number was kept secret and the 10 players whose numbers were closest to it were chosen for the final elimination. On the evening of September 14, the final day of the contest, the event, titled Play for a Billion, was aired live. If a player’s number matched the grand prize number, he would win US$ 1 billion.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Given the scenario, it was highly unlikely that anyone would win a billion dollar. The chances were literally 1 in a billion. In spite of that, Pepsi was unwilling to bear the risk of the possible billion-dollar prize. So they arranged for an insurance company to insure the event. They paid US$ 10 million to Berkshire Hathaway to assume the risk. Yes, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The same guy who is famous for his two iron rules –

1. Never lose money
2. Don’t forget rule number 1.

Then why would Buffett expose his company to such a big risk for a relatively paltry premium of US$ 10 million? Isn’t this akin to playing Russian roulette?

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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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