Premium Value Investing NewsletterDownload Free Issue

How Much is Enough, and A Few Other Questions

Note: I gave this talk to a group of friends working in Silicon Valley during my recent trip to the US. Surprisingly, they liked what I spoke and wanted me to share the transcript, which I am doing today in a deeper and more refined form.

Hi Friends,

Thanks for inviting me to speak to you today. I have nothing intelligent to say. You guys score much higher than me on the IQ charts. And it’ll be for the benefit of us all that I speak less and that you keep your expectations from me low. In fact, very low.

So, given that I have been given the freedom to talk whatever I want to today, I have smartly avoided intelligent stuff because I completely believe in what Mark Twain said and I quote, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.”

Instead of talking intelligent stuff around stock market, investing, human behaviour, etc., let me focus on a few important questions I have tried to seek answers to at various stages of my life, and that have helped me tremendously in choosing a path that, when I look back at, I am glad I chose.

[Read more…]

Charlie Munger on Bitcoins, Banking, AI, and Life

I recently attended the annual shareholder meeting of Daily Journal Corp, a publishing company based in Los Angeles, US. I am not a shareholder in DJCO, but this was a chance to hear the 94-year old Charlie Munger, who is its chairman and director.

Mr. Munger answered questions from the audience for around two hours – on wide-ranging topics like bitcoins, banking, artificial intelligence, and life – including one from me (see below). Here are excerpts from the notes prepared by Adam Blum (see the link to entire notes at the bottom of the post).

On searching for ideas – The two rules of fishing are to fish where the fish are, and don’t forget the first rule. Investing is the same thing. In some places, no matter how good a fisherman you are, you won’t do well. Life is a long game. Take it as comes and do the best you can, and if you live to an old age, you will get your full share of opportunities, which will be two in total, maybe, but seize one of the two, and you will be alright.

On personal success – Approach life like [Thomas] Carlyle, and get up every day doing the best you can. Marry the right person. Everyone here who’s your age will do well. You’re not that mad at the world; instead you’re trying to cope with how to make it a little better. If you were here with placards shouting, you wouldn’t have bright future. Avoid extremely intense ideology, because it ruins your mind. The kids with the placards are pounding the idiocy in instead of shouting it out.

[Read more…]

13 Secrets to Becoming a Better Writer

Note: Obviously this post is not about investing, so you may skip if you don’t want to read anything on Safal Niveshak except investing. Just that writing well – the topic of this post – can also help you think through your investments better. Most great investors write well for a reason. Now that got you interested, isn’t it? Read on.

There was a time when my writing hurt. Even my close friends were not interested to read what I would write.

That made me afraid to write because I feared offending others. I was afraid of the backlash I thought I would receive from what I wrote. I was afraid of people judging me. I was afraid of what people would say when they read what I had to say.

This was sometime in 2003 when I was about to get into a career of, well, writing about stocks. However, things improved over years as I wrote a lot. Apart from that, I read a lot of books on good writing. That helped me move past the fear of judgment and into a place where I could be confident about what I wanted to write about.

[Read more…]

The J-Curve Model of Thinking, Living, and Investing

My friend Ravi came home for lunch last weekend. He looked dejected.

“It’s a bull market, Ravi!” I said trying to cheer him up, but he was in no mood to give away his dejection.

“I’m nearing forty, Vishal, and that makes me depressed.”

“Why Ravi? You should be happy that you’ve already left your dumb forty years behind!” I said jokingly.

“Be serious, Vishal! I mean, forty years have passed and it seems I have not achieved much in life. My salary is good but not great, I am travelling long hours every day for my job, my investment portfolio size is still a far cry from what I want to retire with, my stocks are doing well but not as well like what my other friends’ stocks are doing, and my dream of writing a bestseller novel is still a dream.”

“Wow! And you are nearing forty!” I said with a smile.

“You don’t have to remind me that!” Ravi replied with a smirk.

“Ravi, how much would you rate your life so far on a scale of one to ten?”

[Read more…]

Inverting the Money Problem

In the controversial movie, The Social Network, which supposedly portrayed Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook journey, Sean Parker’s character famously quipped –

“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”

It’s probably the most favourite problem that majority of the individuals in the world are trying to figure out i.e., how to get rich?

So let’s investigate this problem by using Charlie Munger’s most cherished mental model i.e., inverting the problems to solve them.

One of the ways to invert the question of “How to Get Rich?” is to ask, “Is getting rich worth it?”

Before you decide to skip this article thinking that it’s another one of those “money can’t buy happiness” rant, just stick with me for few more minutes and I promise that you won’t regret it.

In fact, this is a good opportunity to wear our curiosity hats and look at the hardships that tag along with large sums of money. Now given the fact that the author, yours truly, isn’t super rich (money wise at least) and likely never will be, is it justified for him to comment on the problems of the rich?

In my defence, all I have to say is that I never let my lack of first-hand experience with a topic stop me from speculating on it. 🙂

Maybe, like the proverbial fox and his sour grapes, I am deluding myself with a story that I never wanted what I will never be able to get. Or maybe I belong to the camp of those cash-poor intellectual types who want to prove to the world that rich people secretly live a miserable life.

I am not ruling out any of these possibilities where my subconscious is playing a game.

[Read more…]

Safal Niveshak is 6 Years Old!

Birthdays aren’t a big deal when you grow up. And if you are like me, with a fading memory, you sometimes forget that you are growing up fast.

Like it happened yesterday. It took a reminder from someone to, well, remind me that it was Safal Niveshak’s birthday. 😉

So, this initiative that I started in 2011 with just one reader – yours truly – has completed six years. The tribe is now 32,422 members strong, with one-third of these coming in the last twelve months.

A lot has happened in these quick six years, but as with my six-year-old son, Safal Niveshak is just getting started.

Most of all, I want to thank each and every one of you for “raising” this initiative to this point — it truly could not have happened without you, dear tribe member.

I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – Thank you so much for reading, for commenting, for your interest and support, for keeping me honest, for helping this entire movement of creating smarter and independent stock market investors become greater and spread wider.

You are magnificent, and I am supremely grateful for your time and attention.

[Read more…]

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…

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]