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Poke the Box: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Let’s Start with Safal Niveshak
Here are some useful posts from Safal Niveshak archive which you might want to read again…

Book Worm
Rolf Dobelli’s The Art of Thinking Clearly is one book I like going back to again and again. Dobelli has done a fine job of compiling a list of mental models especially from the field of psychology.

Winner’s curse is an interesting mental model capturing the auction phenomenon. Dobelli writes –

The Winner’s curse suggests that the winner of an auction often turns out to be the loser. Industry analysts have noted that companies that regularly emerged as winning bidders from these oilfields auctions systematically paid too much, and years later went under. This is understandable…The highest bid at an auction is often much too high – unless these bidders have critical information other aren’t privy to.

Today this phenomenon affects us all. From eBay to Groupon to Google AdWords, prices are consistently set by auction. Bidding wars for cellphone frequencies drive telecom companies to the brink of bankruptcy.

Initial public offerings (IPO) are also examples of auctions. And, when companies buy other companies – the infamous mergers and acquisitions – the winner’s curse is present more often than not. Astoundingly, more than half of all acquisitions destroy value, according to a McKinsey study.

So why do we fall victim to the winner’s curse? First, the real value of many things is uncertain. Additionally, the more interested parties, the greater the likelihood of an overly enthusiastic bid. Second, we want to outdo competitors.

According to Charlie Munger, open-outcry auctions are a perfect set up for driving people to highly irrational behaviour. Auction is a place where multiple psychological biases act together, creating a lollapalooza effect, and results in a series of bad decisions.

You don’t have to go very far in search of an example. Here’s an excerpt from Prof. Bakshi’s recent post, where he talks about Tata Steel’s disastrous acquisition of Corus in 2006 in an competitive open-outcry auction. –

Just before Tata Steel’s first bid on 20 October, 2006, the market cap of the company was about Rs 26,000 cr. On 31 January, 2007 Tata Steel won it’s bid for Corus after offering 608 pence per share for the target company, valuing it for about $11 billion. Eight years later, Tata Steel’s market cap stands at Rs 23,000 cr. What an amazing case of value destruction! And Hindalco’s acquisition of Novelis was not different.

Knowing what happens to people who get into open-outcry, auction-like situations, psychologically astute people like Buffett and Munger have a no-fault rule when they get invited to auction situations.

The rule is: Don’t Go.

Stimulate Your Mind

Forget the stock market for now, and consider some amazing content we read in recent times…

Poke of the Week – It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Market timers like to think they can capture large returns by jumping in the market to profit during periods when stocks are up, and jumping out of the market when stocks are down. This strategy may work in the short run, like a sprinter who overtakes a marathoner at the beginning, but the gains are reversed abruptly by events that could never have been predicted.

Many researches have proven that the biggest portions of investment returns come from short periods of time but trying to identify those periods and coordinate stock purchases to them is nearly impossible.

Trying to time the market creates the danger of being out of the market right at the time when the big moves occur.

If you just go by the rate of return, Warren Buffett may not be the best investor. There have been many other sprinting money managers who have produced better returns. But what separates Buffett from others is that he’s been doing it for more than 50 years. He didn’t rely on the strategy of dancing in and out of the market to create his wealth. No wonder, 90 percent of Buffett’s wealth was created after his 60th birthday.

Peter Lynch, the legendary and extremely successful fund manager, revealed a very surprising statistics about his fund. According to him more than half of the investors in his fund lost money. And these were the investor who were trying to time the entry and exit to Lynch’s fund. They would jump in just after a couple of good quarters and bail out after few bad quarters. Investors who benefited from Peter Lynch’s long term performance were those who stayed invested with the fund for long time.

Remember, what counts is the time in the market and not timing the market.

If you want to create wealth for long term, learn to treat investing as marathon. Don’t burn yourself out with short term market sprints.

You have to be ‘in the game’ to win it.


Skip the auctions.

Stay happy, stay blessed and stay invested.

Be kind to others, and to yourself.

Keep poking!

With respect,

Vishal & Anshul

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About the Author

Anshul Khare worked for 12+ years as a Software Architect. He is an avid learner and enjoys reading about human behaviour and multidisciplinary thinking. You can connect with Anshul on Twitter.

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