Investing Beyond the Numbers

A myriad of investment evaluations are available today for us investors to study and analyze for our own portfolios. Normally this involves a lot of calculations and numbers which will really help you arrive to a logical and rational decision whether to take on a particular investment or not.

Rate of return, Discounted Cash flow analysis, charts, book values, 5-year performance tables, etc.

Then you also have to account for the economic state of the country you are investing in. Is their GDP growth OK? Is domestic consumption robust? Is the currency stable? Which industries are booming and not susceptible for a market bubble? Is the fiscal and monetary policy fine-tuned?

After all the countless hours doing these analyses, we must not take into account a factor that is easily overlooked by investors: investment behavior.

What will you do upon the thought that you might lose all your money on this investment? Will you cry because you invested money that you are not willing to lose? Or you take it as a lesson and move on? Can you sleep at night confident that your investments will be ok in the long term? Or you keep rolling in your bed getting so affected by the short term volatilities of the market?

This is where your analysis homework matters. First you must be confident enough to overcome the worry/panic behavior we usually see with investors. After this, the questions come in:

1. Am I using the least amount of time and effort to monitor my investments and still generate excellent returns?

2. Am I sleeping like a baby at night, not worrying about my portfolio’s performance?

3. Does my investment makes sense economically?

These 3 very simple guidelines/indicators is what I use to completely gauge if I have indeed invested correctly. One “NO” answer from this, and I pull out my investment right away (either capture short term gains/cut losses).

These guidelines matter to me because once I have invested on something, I don’t want to waste my time monitoring and worrying about it anymore. The more I worry, the more I tend to make terrible investment decisions. There were times during my younger days in the stock market, where I spend the nights thinking about tomorrow’s opening price for my favorite stock. The result? Bad morning due to lack of sleep, and the uncertainty of how your stock will perform on opening bell.

I don’t want to have a sleepless night and a stressful morning all in a span of 12 hours.

I believe that reward-to-effort ratio must be high. Otherwise, if you keep stressing yourself out and keep monitoring your investments just to make money, it is still considered “working for money”, and not “money works for you”. It pretty much defeats the purpose of investing.

Perhaps the most important investment guideline for me is if it makes sense economically. Being trained to be a long-term fundamental investor, I ensure that my investments are aligned with how the country is moving forward and if the demand for a particular product/service/sector is strong. This is what I need for my portfolio to weather the short term volatilities and perform well on the long-run.

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.

At the end of the day, it’s every investor for himself. His preferences, his attitude, his style, his temperament and his financial goals will steer the direction of what kind of investments will he be in.

“The investor’s chief problem – and even his worst enemy – is likely to be himself.”

Benjamin Graham

Happy investing!

Advertisements

POLITICAL THOUGHTS

We have our opinions and preferences kung sino ang gusto nating mamuno sa ating bansa.

No two humans are alike so asahan talaga natin na may mga conflict at arguments as to who is better than who. Unfortunately, may nagkakasiraan at the expense of friendship pero ganun talaga.
Nakakafrustrate tingnan ang mga kandidatong napakagagaling manligaw pero alam naman na natin ang kahihinatnan kung titingnan ang kanilang track record. Pero ganun talaga, kaya nga “ligaw” eh. Pag naupo na sila, ibang usapan na yun. Tandaan natin, ung dating nagsabi satin na tayo ang boss nya, sa huli, na-boss-abos yata tayo. Pero anyway…..

We can always post lahat ng saloobin natin sa social media and that is really fine. Nakakaaliw nga eh. Ako nga eh, feeling ko naging overnight political analyst ako (lol) pero believe me this ain’t my cup of tea. After this, I am back to posting economic news again and I myself gets bored at that.

But what am I really trying to say? At the end of the day, we will still have to take care of our own backyard.

Our candidate may or may not win pero buhay mo, sagot mo. Pera mo, sagot mo. Pamilya mo, sagot mo. Kung disiplinado ka, or matino ka or disente ka, good for you and your family. Kung financially literate ka, mas mainam yun dahil you control your wealth and hindi mo talaga maaasahan ang gobyerno ng tuluyan para lang kupkupin ka. Kung masipag kang mamamayan, ipagpatuloy mo lang kaibigan. At least hindi ka nagreresort sa krimen para lang matugunan ang pangangailangan na naging resulta ng katamaran. Kung tapat kang nagbabayad ng buwis, patuloy kang manalig na hindi makukurakot ang kontribusyon mo sa bayan. Sa mga OFW, nawa’y ang mga pamilya nyo’y manatiling ligtas sa panganib at makapamuhay ng matiwasay kahit kayo’y magkalayo.

Sa mga bagay na hindi na natin kontrolado, ipasa-Diyos na lang natin. Sa mga bagay na alam nating makakaimpluwensiya at makakatulong tyo, pagtuunan natin ng lakas at atensyon para bago tayo matulog, masasabi natin sa ating sarili na tayo ay naging mabuting mamamayan.

WHAT REALLY MATTERS AT THE FINAL MOMENT

Dreams have its own way of changing our lives. I am a witness to this truth. I remember asking God for two gifts from our Life In The Spirit Seminar: Gift of Prophecy and Discernment.

What makes this combination so powerful is that God speaks to me through my dreams and often make things come to pass as I dreamt it. These dreams also include many realisations that my conscious mind wouldn’t even process.

Just today I had a grim dream. A purely psychological battle.

It is about the final moment of my life just before the higher power takes me. Before, I often dreamt of me being dead and seeing my dead body lying in an hospital bed. Nothing much to discern or figure out. I can’t even recognize how old I look then.

But this one is different. I am lying in a boat, sailing freely into the middle of the dark sea, with a dark statue of a hooded figure — Death himself. After him, is a sea without a horizon but a dark abyss waiting for me. Moments before I come across death, memories keep flashing in my head.

I kept crying but without tears. I am anxious but without fear. I am surrendering but without loss.

And what of the memories? They were the little but priceless memories: from my childhood games, my college graduation, the hugs, the goodbyes, the laughters, the pains, a gondola in Venice, a sweet little girl, family outings, snowball throwing, the nightly cuddle, my first grandchild, a last cry, and a surrender to God.

As these memories gushed in like a river, I told death that I lived a good and happy life. I told him to tell my children these important realisations:

 

At the closing stages of our lives, what matters will be the simple yet meaningful memories you spent with your loved ones, friends, and family. You will never think about how much money you made or how many investments you put up. 

What matters is how many people you have served, not how many people you command. 

What matters is the smile from your child’s face, not the dress being worn. 

What matters is appreciation, not expectation. 

What matters is inspiration, not achievement.

What matters is being able to love wholeheartedly, not being loved with demands and guidelines.

What matters is dying a happy man, not a rich man.

At that closing moment, just when I am about to fall into the deep nothing, I found the boat rushing back to a river where the sun shone brightly. I saw leaves fall on an autumn sky, and I heard children laughing drawing close to me.

I closed my eyes and thanked God for giving me a second chance.

–end.

 

THE “STOP DOING” LIST

The real question is, once you know the right thing, do you have the discipline to do the right thing and, equally important, to stop doing the wrong things? — Jim Collins, Good to Great 

I am now approaching the 3rd month since I started #ProjectTrim , a personal project to trim down weight and be lean again (as the project name implies). So far it has been an effective one, from 71 kgs last August, I am now 9 kg lighter and just 1 kg shy of officially completing this project (because 61 kg is my “ideal” weight).

I have a number of “to-do” lists to start this project: detox, eat more fruits, more veggies, etc. But the things I focus on are in the  below”stop doing” list:

  • stop white rice/refined white bread
  • stop drinking sodas (oh, the sugar)
  • stop eating sweets at night
  • stop taking carbs at night
  • stop complaining

Take note of the word “focus”. I focus on what not to take because eventually, I will give in to other food during the day, and that’s normal. Also, I cannot  choose a crazy, specialized diet for me. It’s just not practically cost-effective and I find it not sustainable in the long term.

I want my diet to be simple, yet effective.

The above “stop doing” list is the one I can say I can do long-term. And that’s what we would want: long-term strategy.  Does it mean you don’t have to do those 3-day or 1-week diet regimen? If you can, just do it. What I am pointing at is after those diet programs, better make sure you can sustain your health revolution by knowing what “not to take”. Ofcourse the “stopping” doesn’t really mean you’ll never put a gram in your mouth for the rest of your life. It just means you have to take these only at a minimum. In my case, if I can help it, I won’t take a single gram of it. Again, it’s a case-to-case basis.

I believe that sticking to your “stop doing” list is already ensuring at least 50% of your success in what you want to achieve. Take my word for it as I have done this four times already. Focus on your “stop doing” list, and you can find yourself binging on the good stuff without any feeling of guilt or worry.

Do your health a favor. She deserves it.

The Hidden Cost of Active Trading

I have been in the Philippine stock market for almost a year now. The reason why I put my money in the stock market is obviously to make money out of my already existing money that isn’t enough to re-invest again on real estate (OK fine, I call it play money, the money I am quite willing to lose). So I understood all the costs to trade: commissions, VAT, fees, etc. and their impact on my overall returns.

For the first 2 months, I am an active trader. Following some simple guidelines from Truly Rich Club’s stock recommendations, I also tried picking stocks of my own. Call it excitement or over-eagerness, I find myself staring at the monitor during trade hours, compromising my productivity at work. As if it’s not enough, I spend my weeknights practicing my charting skills, just to figure out whether this stock will go upwards or downwards, whatever.

Countless nights passed by and I realized that the more effort I put in charting and monitoring, the results aren’t that spectacular. You know why? Because the more trades I do, there’s only 1 who gains from it: the broker. Frequent trading has destroyed my returns. I have only helped my broker get revenues, that’s it.

Are you familiar with Law of Diminishing Returns? This is it.

At this point you may realize that the hidden cost is the commissions and the fees. Well, they are not.

TIME IS THE MOST VALUABLE COMMODITY

My financial mentor always tell me, “Time is the most important commodity, use it wisely.” I realized that for that couple of months trading, I have wasted a lot of my time. Imagine, 4-1/2 trading hours, + 2-3 hours of charting every weekday. That’s 6-7 hours daily, 30-35 hours a week. My returns-to-efforts ratio is in serious waste.

Then I chose to read The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing and the mentor of the greatest American investor Warren Buffet. This book has changed my whole perception in stocks, and I owe my success and knowledge in stocks now to “them”.

I focused on the fundamental approach of stock investing: buying stocks below its intrinsic value, backed by solid balance sheet numbers and good economic probability and “moat”. I learned to pick fantastic companies at a sensible price. It taught me to become a stock investor from a businessman’s point of view.

This kind of investing made me do all my homework before I actually buy the security. So that after that, I don’t have to worry about it anymore — as long as I bought it at a decent price (below its intrinsic value) with minimal downside and exceptional margin of safety. The homework itself is daunting, but I have learned a lot browsing through hundred pages of financial reports and balance sheets. Endless Excel spreadsheets are used to calculate all the financial ratios I need to know for a particular security. In return, I gained knowledge that I will never learn by spending those nights charting.

The result: I now spend less than an hour per week checking my stock holdings/portfolio. Compare that to 30 hours of week and I get 97% more time to do more productive things. True enough, for the past 8 months, I have finished several books and online courses about leadership, accounting, corporate finance, economics, business/entrepreneurship, investments, etc.

Had I continued my trading path, I won’t have time to do these.

Even better, I was able to free up time to resume my workout activities, and quality time with friends and loved ones. I am also able to make time for a couple of business startups that me and my fellow investors are venturing now.

REWARDS-TO-EFFORT RATIO

How about my rewards? Since I have already picked up stocks from great and established companies, I am already in the “leave it and forget it” mode. The returns YTD are quite decent (since I have bought them at a very good price, not to mention the dividends). I was able to do it with 97% less time and less risk (through margin of safety). The effort (if measured in time spent per day) is also minimal as I only do my homework quarterly. Does this mean fundamentalists are lazy investors? No. There’s nothing lazy about studying balance sheets over and over again. They just get the job done at the right amount of time.

That extra time gave me enough information about economics and the reason why I was able to successfully “sidestep” my stock holdings into safer havens just before that big market correction started by Chinese stock market. Most didn’t see it coming that fast. As Warren Buffet always say, “Games are won by players who focus on the playing field, not the ones looking at the scoreboard.”

After the bloodshed, I was one of the most excited investors to go shopping for stocks with bargain prices. That’s what I call being defensively smart with your investments. I can forget about big gains if my downside safety is being compromised.

You see,  more time for productive things means acquiring more learnings and more value to your skillbase. Thinking long term, this is the kind of time you and I want to have going further.

MONEY MUST WORK FOR YOU, NOT VICE VERSA

By staying away from active trading, I have successfully let my money work for me. One friend asked me “But isn’t investing itself already means money works for you?”  I answered her in the nicest way possible:

“If you need to monitor your stocks the whole day just to create returns, you are still actually working for money.”

I can remember my mutual fund back in 2009. I rarely check on it but you can just imagine its fund return 6 years later. That’s what I call no sweat returns (I am not promoting mutual funds here by the way). That is money working for me without  the need to look at my NAVPS update everyday.

DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS

I am not against active trading, as I believe that people can still get rich with that. Fact is, each one has his/her investing style and principles. One is advised to study their craft and plan their investment moves very well. Most of my investor friends are very good stock market technical operators with awesome charting skills, and I am happy for their spectacular returns.

At the end of the day, it’s all about your risk appetite/tolerance and time available to do the thing not just for the present, but also in the future. In my case, I see myself running businesses / companies and the last thing I want to do is to spend the whole morning and afternoon doing 5-min charts just to pick up gains. Not that it’s a bad thing but I have other plans in my mind.  Instead, I can simply buy preferred stocks from very good companies and receive my quarterly dividends. Who knows, I may have one of my companies enter into an IPO — and that’s the big! Now those traders will be going for the stocks owned by my company.

So much for the 97% more time I had in my hands and used it well. So much for the hidden, intangible cost that I am able to save in the long run. Wisdom is looking at the bigger picture and figuring out the overall risk-reward you are willing to give for a successful venture.

Happy investing!

The Blame Game

There are people who make mistakes and point their fingers to others:

Got failing grades, it’s the teachers’ fault.

Bought a non-performing investment? All of a sudden, that instrument vehicle is the riskiest of them all.

Ventured into a business opportunity and failed. The business now becomes a scam.

pointing-finger-finger-point

Welcome to the Blame Game. Just imagine the convenience one experiences when he/she gets to do what he/she wants to do and never take the blame for any failures. For that person, it must always be another’s fault. For that person, he/she must always be the winner. But is that the case?

I won’t mention those crazy mistakes we do back in college. What I will mention though is what my peers are exposed to nowadays: INVESTMENTS.

Yes, your hope of getting your hard-earned money work its magic and produce extraordinary returns at such a short span of time. Forget the power of compounding, all you want is big-time gains as crazy as your wildest dreams.

But let me tell you something: it’s not always rainbows and butterflies in the world of investing. You gain some and you will lose some. More importantly, don’t expect fantastic returns when you don’t even have the effort in investing your time and energy in knowing your investment.

“The investor’s chief problem – and even his worst enemy – is likely to be himself.”

— Benjamin Graham

An investment is very risky when the investor does not know what he’s investing into. As I always tell my fellow investors, the risk lies in the investor, not the investment. Investors who fall for the get-rich-quick scheme only end up burning their money. Sad truth. Was the risk on the other side, or your side?

You think real estate investments are risky? Tell that to Andrew Tan of Megaworld.

You think stock markets are risky? Tell that to Warren Buffet, the greatest American investor of all time.

You think businesses always fail? Well most of the time, but tell that to all the businessmen that lives in Ayala Alabang Village. They will just give you a warm smile and an encouraging word or two.

You see, if no investment is good for you but seemed to work on others, then perhaps it’s time to take a good look at yourself as an investor. Being an investor is not just about having the money to invest, in fact, you don’t need money to gain money.

You must have the heart and mind of an investor. 

These dictate your attitude towards success and failure. These involve a fiery passion and desire for knowledge in learning more about the investments. These will separate you from others who tell the whole world how bad a particular investment is — without even giving time to assess what went wrong. Most of the time, it’s not “what” went wrong, but “who” went wrong.

I am into numerous business and investment ventures. Real estate, stock market, mutual funds, network marketing, property management, etc. Believe me when I say that it’s not the investments that kept me doing this, but the habit of investing. When you put your heart and mind in your investments, the habits will automatically surface and these will make you become a better-equipped person. Success and failures? Yes they are inevitable. Accepting this fact only makes you strive harder in reaching your financial goals.

Do I hope to become a successful investor? Ofcourse I do, who doesn’t? But the thing is, hope is not a strategy. Speculate if you like, but success is built on failures, planning, studies, and  hardwork. Henry Sy took half a century to build the SM empire. Warren buffet more than 60 years to get Berkshire where it is now.

And you dare shout to the world how your investments failed you?

Use your failures as springboards to success. Use your mistakes as important lessons in life. Use your milestones as key progress reports. Use your journey as a motivation. Use your success as an inspiration to others who are taking a similar road.

When things fail, blaming others and burning bridges will not help. It only makes things worse. It inflicts irreversible damage. When you point the blame to others, take a good look at the three fingers pointing back to you.

“As with the butterfly, adversity is necessary to build character in people.”
— Joseph B. Wirthlin

True enough. Character is built on adversities, not on convenience. It is at these trying times that you have to be in control of your emotions as an investor. Do that, and you’ll continue growing and maturing. As Warren Buffet says, temperament is better than intelligence. It is your temperament that will make you step back and see a bigger picture. Surely, there will be better opportunities on low times. It’s up to you as the investor to recognise it.

Think before you invest. More importantly, think before you blame.

THE QUOTES CHALLENGE DAY 3 – THE BOOMERANG PRINCIPLE

For the last day of doing the Quotes Challenge, I like to share with you an excerpt from one my most favourite chapters from one of my most favourite authors, John C. Maxwell. I will not do a book/chapter review about this but instead share some of my thoughts on why giving and helping reaps more rewards compared to just sitting still and selfishly do things only for your own benefit.

Taken from a book by  John C. Maxwell ,

Taken from a book by John C. Maxwell , “Winning With People”. This chapter focuses on what you can give rather than what you can receive.

No one becomes rich unless he enriches others.

— Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie certainly knew and lived what he said. He was a self-made steel tycoon and one of the wealthiest 19th century businessmen. He is also a philanthropist: contributed to the expansion of the New York Public library and spent the rest of his days helping others.

Many of today’s richest businessmen are into philanthropy as well e.g. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet. Our very own Henry Sy, Sr. of SM Investments is also a philanthropist.

You’ll say, “Yeah right. They are billionaires. Philanthropy for them sure is easy.” Good thing is, we don’t have to be billionaires to leave a mark in the society. Generosity is not a matter of money.

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

— Pres. Woodrow Wilson

Investing our time and effort in improving the life of others will eventually have an impact in our life. There is a deep satisfaction seeing little children show their sign of gratitude to you (it’s really heart-melting, the best thing I have ever felt). There is a different kind of achievement to be able to give back to the needy and poor. IT doesn’t have to be in form of money or material things. In fact, the intangibles are more gratifying and fulfilling — dedicating our skills to teach others, mustering our strength to help a weak hand, and focusing our energy in making them happy.

We don’t even have to flaunt it in social media. After all, only two will truly appreciate your act of kindness: the one you helped, and the One Above. That’s all that matters.

We are blessed by God. All that we have is from Him. Because of Him, we can have everything. Without Him, we are nothing. Knowing this, it’s only right that we give.

Every man shall give as he is able according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.

— Deuteronomy 16:17

Giving makes us a better person. Sharing our blessings to others will definitely lead to more blessings coming back to us. Blessings come in different forms, and this is what makes giving more exciting.  This is the Boomerang principle. What you throw will eventually go back to you.

Question is, what have you thrown to others lately?