Why most implicit guarantees are guaranteed to fail

When someone offer an investment that is 100% safe and still offers reasonably high returns, you are under no obligation to invest your money. Be careful. Read the article below:

China’s Wealth-Management Time Bomb

 

Courtesy: Alpha Ideas

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Herds galore …

We see many examples of herd mentality in the financial markets. Tulips were a huge craze in Amsterdam in the early 1600s. Dot-Com companies became a rage in 1999-2000. Both these were examples of greed. However, post the sub-prime crisis, when stock markets crashed in India, fear made people flock to the safety of capital protection products and LIC’s Jeevan Aastha – a guaranteed return (but lower than inflation) product.

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Think, does it really work?

In 2014, a news story int he Times of India caught my attention. A very well known movie star lodged a complaint with the Mumbai police. He had been duped. The con artist had promised to double his money in 45 days and then disappeared. The movie star could not believe that such a fraud was possible. The lure of the high “guaranteed” returns blinded him.

Just to put things in perspective, we present some calculations here. Assume that such a scheme is really available. Assume that one has an option of reinvesting the money in the scheme any number of times.

The scheme would double the amount invested every 45 days, or every 1.5 months. Ethos rate, Rs. 1,000 can grow to Rs. 2.56 lacs in one year, Rs. 6.55 crores in 2 years, and more than Rs. 1,677 crores in 3 years.

At the end of fourth year, one would have accumulated a sum of Rs. 4,29,496 crores. Compare this to India’s fiscal deficit for 2013-14: Rs. 4,90,597 crores.

Think, does it really work? Ask questions. When you are presented with a mouth-watering investment opportunity, your responsibility towards your money is even higher.

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Understand the risk you are taking

Recently, we came across this news item involving two cricketers’ and their investment in a “assured return” real estate scheme. Yes, we are talking about the news involving the Pathan (Irfan and Yusuf) brothers. (Read the news article here).

We will not get into the specific case of what happened here. However, there is a clear lesson to be learnt. The Pathan brothers and many other cricketers have seen a lot of money through their cricketing skills – thanks to their success at the international stage as well as the IPL. When so much money becomes available, the question is, “Where to invest?” This is the time to exercise caution (Too much money, where to invest? Don’t invite the Pied Piper), but usually we tend to become more aggressive as the amount of money makes us feel comfortable and safe.

Some numbers from the said article give us some wonderful insights. Read the last two paragraphs about the price at which Irfan Pathan was picked up by various IPL franchises.

Year              IPL franchisee                       Price for Irfan Pathan

2011              Delhi Daredevils                                  Rs. 8.74 cr

2014             Sunrisers Hyderabad                          Rs. 2.40 cr

2015             Chennai Super Kings                          Rs. 1.50 cr

2016             Rising Pune Supergiants                   Rs. 1.00 cr

As you can see, this is a case of falling income. Some things happen (though I do not know for sure if that was the case; I am only assuming) in such cases:

  1. You anchor your earnings at the highest level and assume continuation of the same. So if Irfan Pathan might have thought in 2011-12 that his base price would keep going up or at least stay there. Did not happen, at least in this case.
  2. When you see the fall in income or anticipate the same, you want to take some chances to increase the income through some other source. This could be the possible thinking in 2013 when the investment was considered.

Whatever the reason behind the thinking, 12% assured return must have looked a mouthwatering opportunity in 2013, especially considering what all happened in that year. (Read our article as a reminder of what happened in that year:  Here are events that shook world in 2013). This was a very interesting combination – a lot of money at hand and the world looked scarier than ever. We seek guarantees in such cases. However, is the guarantee good enough?

Please understand the investment these brothers made was a credit risk taken on the builders. When someone guarantees some return, we are taking credit risk – we are taking the risk that the guarantees would be honoured. We are assuming that both the ability and the willingness are sound. However, we tend to forget the word “risk” when we hear the word “guarantee”.

Be careful. Understand the risk that you are taking. There is nothing wrong in taking risks, but everything wrong in taking it without understanding it.

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