Simplify …

Most financial products have seen complexity rising over the years. As we spend some time in the financial services, there is an itch for innovating. many innovations end up as complexities. Now a research conducted in the US finds that majority of consumers choose the wrong plan for their financial and health needs because they do not understand basic health insurance concepts. The study recommends standardisation and simplification of health insurance plans.

In the absence of any regulation doing so, at least the consumers should stick to simple plans – to what they understand – be it health insurance or investment products. Simple is beautiful, at least it is less risky.

#RidingTheRollerCoaster – 227

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A must read for everyone …

Lessons from financial market cycles is a must read for everyone . Learnings from various financial cycles have been put together for readers by Amit in a very simple way , easy to understand . One should Learn from these cycles and learn to invest when others r fearful and disinvest when others are greedy.

If you don’t know whether you are right …

If you don’t know whether you are right … what is the option?

So many investors keep asking the so-called experts what investment avenues are good for them. In many cases, the discussion revolves around the returns or guarantee. However, seldom the discussion is about both returns and risks together.

The problem with such an approach is that the upside is assumed to be a certainty, even when it is not. This leads to a portfolio either too loaded in favour of risky investments or completely avoiding these.

When you don’t know whether you are right, the best defence you have is to diversify. In the world of investing, this is the only “proverbial free lunch”.

If you don’t know whether you are right, diversify. When in doubt, diversify.

#RidingTheRollerCoaster – 100

Reader reviews on www.infibeam.com

Three reader reviews on http://www.infibeam.com – all 5 stars

Thank you so much

 

Common sense

Common sense is not so common, after all.

#RidingTheRollerCoaster – 59

Review of the book by Prof. Pattabiraman Murari

Popularly known as Prof. Pattu, he runs a very popular personal finance blog:

Review: Riding The Roller Coaster -Lessons from financial market cycles we repeatedly forget

 

A review of Amit Trivedi’s new book, Riding The Roller Coaster -Lessons from financial market cycles we repeatedly forget.

I was fortunate to listen to Amitji on March 1st 2015 at the Mumbai Investor Workshop. We were short of a speaker and Subra requested Amitji  to speak on debt mutual funds.

Amit Trivedi is a renowned BFSI trainer who runs the Karmayog Knowledge Center

I am a fan of anyone who can objectively talk about investment risk. His talk was various risks associated with debt mutual funds and how to keep it simple. He has a calm and collected persona which shines through his work.

Before we head to the review, I would like to point out that I rarely complete books. I just don’t have the attention span to do that. “Riding The Roller Coaster -Lessons from financial market cycles we repeatedly forget” is a book I completed because it is a compelling read. I also don’t know how to write a proper review. I am just going to cover the gist of the book and my experience reading it.
Riding-the-rollder-coaster

What is the book about?

“Lessons from financial market cycles we repeatedly forget” is an apt title. That is just what the book is about. Don’t feel the same way about ‘riding the roller coaster’.

Don’t feel the same way about ‘riding the roller coaster’. There are too many books with that name or  close variants.

This is a book about greed. About asset bubbles, about market crashes and my favourite phrase in finance – investment risk. It is to the author’s credit that he has managed to convey a complex subject in simple, easy-to-understand language.

It is a book meant for the retail investor to understand, compare and contrast the reasons behind the major stock market, bond market and commodity market crashes that we have seen so far. The book emphasizes the importance of being diversified at all times and avoid leveraged investing.

The Contents

The book can be divided into two parts.

Part 1

A series of past economic bubbles and past market crashes are discussed. I present below a brief snippet of each (Pictures here are provided for context, are from Wikipedia and not part of the book).

For those who are not familiar with these economic bubbles, the book is the quickest way to understand the reasons behind the rise and fall.

Tulip mania:  In the 1630s, the Dutch started speculating on the price of Tulips bulbs. Tulip bulb contracts (promise to deliver) were changing hands at ever increasing prices without any actual deliverable in sight. It is believed that bubonic plague resulted in abrupt reduction in trading and bursting the bubble.

Tulip price index1.svg
Tulip price index1” by JayHenry – Own work from data of Thompson.

The south sea bubble In 1710, the South Sea Company was formed in England and claimed that it had a monopoly to trade with Spanish territories in the South seas.

Investors gave up regular income from government bonds and exchanged them for company stock in the hope of rich and regular dividends.  The company carried out no business, manipulated stock price and soon the price came crashing down. This is crash made popular by Benjamin Graham in the Intelligent Investor – the one in which Sir Isaac Newton lost a fortune.

South-sea-bubble-chart.png
South-sea-bubble-chart“.

The Great Depression

The 1920s was a decade of innovations and productivity. In order to participate in surging stock market, investors, including Ben Graham purchased stocks on borrowed money. When banks realized it was dealing with bad debt, it started selling shares which triggered the crash.

1929 wall street crash graph.svg
1929 wall street crash graph” by Lalala666

The book details how Ben Graham quickly realized his mistakes and save his partnership from ruin.

The Japanese Bubble  when inflated real estate and stock prices came crashing down in 1990. If interested, you can read my study of Rupee Cost Averaging in a Sideways Market with the Nikkei.

Nikkei 225(1970-).svg
Nikkei 225(1970-)Opens in a new window” di Monaneko – http://www.stat.go.jp/data/getujidb/zuhyou/d09.xls

The Great Indian Securities Scam (1992) When Harshad Mehta became a broker in the debt market to finance his stock investments and started to misuse bank funds. How he jacked up stock prices with his definitions of ‘value’ in the early 1990s.

Slide13

The lone point on the right is because of the price manipulation by Harsha Mehta. Read more: What Return Can I Expect From Equity Over the Long term? Part 2

The IPO Mania (1995) when investors were sold IPO application forms without any guarantee of allotment!  The mania ended when IDBI deferred its IPO issue.

Long term capital management

This is a US Hedge fund which took on risky arbitrage positions driven by leverage.

If you wish to know more about what arbitrage means, you could consult these links:

How Do Arbitrage Mutual Funds Work?

Can You Think Of A Risk-Free AND Tax-Free Mutual Fund?

Risky arbitrage?! An arbitrage opportunity carries minimal risk only when the underlying security being traded in different markets is the same! Amitji warned that such a danger could well be present with arbitrage mutual funds as well during the Mumbai meet.

LTCM assumed the currencies of weaker and stronger European economies would converge in time. When Russian defaulted on its external and internal debt, the arbitrage spread widened and became larger than the cost of borrowing. The fund crashed.

LTCM.png
LTCM” by JayHenry – Own work.

The dot-com crisis When every dot-com company was believed to be the ‘next best thing’.

Nasdaq Composite dot-com bubble.svg
Nasdaq Composite dot-com bubble” by Lalala666

The sub-prime crisis When it was believed (again!) that real-estate could never crash and bad debt was creatively structured as a high-rated bond.

Subprime mortgage originations, 1996-2008.GIF
Subprime mortgage originations, 1996-2008” by National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States – Final Report of the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States, p.70 figure 5.2.

Part 2

This is the most delectable part of the book. Given these crashes, Amitji goes about comparing and contrasting them to offer us patterns common to these economic bubbles: greed, leverage, ignoring basic notions of valuation, euphoria, a sense that this time it would be different!

This part would appeal to everyone – those familiar with the crashes and those reading about it for the first time.

The book is filled with anecdotes and interesting quotes. Here are my favorites:

“What we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history” – Bishop Desmond Tutu

Question to an expert: “What are the indicators of the next bubble?”

Response: “The day you stop thinking of this question!”

Incredibly, as the books opened for publication, the Chinese markets crashed! The 300% Instant Gains on China IPOs Are Suddenly Vanishing

I am sure that Amitji will include an account and analysis of this story in the second edition of this book.

The book is as enjoyable as it is enlightening. I strongly recommend it.

Buy it from Amazon. Hard Cover Rs. 450.0 Kindle: Rs 279.3 (not an affiliate link)

You can follow the author at the book’s website: RIDING THE ROLLER COASTER

Devastating crash

Between 1929 and 1932, Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) – the then popular index in the US stock markets fell from a high of 381 to a low of 41 – drop of almost 90% from top to bottom.

#RidingTheRollerCoaster – 56