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Math is the Simple Part

“Investing is simple, but not easy,” said Charlie Munger.

Why? Because…

Understanding that sensible investing is about buying a thing worth Rs 100 at Rs 50 is simple, but actually buying something worth Rs 100 that falls to Rs 50 is not easy.

Working on spreadsheets is simple, but not twisting spreadsheets to fit your version of reality is not easy.


Calculating past growth and profitability numbers for a business and understanding whether those are good or bad is simple, but actually trying to understand a business deeply enough to visualize how it will look like in the future is not easy.

Knowing that a business has moat as seen from its superior profitability and clean balance sheet is simple, but understanding whether this moat is sustainable or fleeting is not easy.

Calculating book value of a company is simple, but understanding whether that book really has value, and roughly how much, is not easy.

Knowing the results that numbers shout out of financial statements is simple, but knowing which of those results are signal and which are noise is not easy.

Knowing how DCF works is simple, but looking at businesses with a DCF frame of mind is not easy.

Calculating precise intrinsic values for businesses is simple, but trusting approximations that really work is not easy. (Keynes said – “It’s better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.”)

Knowing beta is a measure of volatility is simple, but appreciating that volatility isn’t the real risk you face in investing is not easy.

Understanding that money can multiply 100x in 25 years when you compound at 20% annually is simple, but sitting through these 25 years patiently when others are cashing in after having made 5-10x is not easy.

The celebrated American physicist and a great teacher Richard Feynman said that there’s a big difference between ‘knowing the name of something’ and ‘knowing something’.

Math helps you know the name of a lot of things, which is simple. But it’s your mindset that helps you really know things, which is not easy.

Of course, understanding basic math is a prerequisite for becoming a smarter investor. But if you need math to tell you whether you are doing right in investing or not, you are doing something seriously wrong.

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About the Author

Vishal Khandelwal is the founder of Safal Niveshak. He works with small investors to help them become smart and independent in their stock market investing decisions. He is a SEBI registered Research Analyst. Connect with Vishal on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Bharath Shetty says:

    as always simple & profound read.

  2. Our biases often make things difficult for us. Contrarily, adopting a mindset to prioritize rationale over emotion is also difficult.

    Superb, crisp post, Vishal.

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  2. […] Keynes said – “It’s better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.”… (Math is simple Part) […]

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