Happy Second Birthday, Magic Bull !!

Seasons change. So do people, moods, feelings, relationships and market scenarios.

A stream of words is a very powerful tool to understand and tackle such change.

Birthdays will go by, and, hopefully, words will keep flowing. When something flows naturally, stopping it leads to disease. Trapped words turn septic inside the container holding them.

Well, we covered lots of ground, didn’t we? This year saw us transform from being a money-management blog to becoming a commentary on applied finance. The gloom and doom of Eurozone didn’t beat us down. Helicopter Ben and the Fed were left alone to their idiosyncrasies. The focus turned to gold. Was it just a hedge, and nothing but a hedge? Could it replace the dollar as a universal currency? Recently, its glitter started to actually disturb us, and we spoke about exit strategies. We also became wary of the long party in the debt market, and how it was making us lazy enough to miss the next equity move. Equity, with its human capital behind it, still remained the number one long-term wealth preserver cum generator for us. After all, this asset class fought inflation on auto-pilot, through its human capital.

Concepts were big with us. There was the concept of Sprachgef√ľhl, with which one could learn a new subject based on sheer feeling and instinct. The two central concepts that stood out this year were leverage and compounding. We saw the former’s ugly side. The latter was practically demonstrated using the curious case of Switzerland. There was the Ayurvedic concept of Satmya, which helps a trader get accustomed to loss. And yeah, we meet the line, our electrolytic connection to Mrs. Market. We bet our monsters, checked Ace-high, gauged when to go all-in against Mrs. Market, and when to move on to a higher table. Yeah, for us, poker concepts were sooo valid in the world of trading.

We didn’t like the Goldman attitude, and weren’t afraid to speak out. Nor did we mince any words about the paralytic political scenario in India, and about the things that made us go Uffff! We spoke to India Inc., making them aware, that the first step was theirs. We also recognized and reacted to A-grade tomfoolery in the cases of Air India and Kingfisher Airlines. Elsewhere, we tried to make the 99% see reason. Listening to the wisdom of the lull was fun, and also vital. What would it take for a nation to decouple? For a while, things became as Ponzi as it gets, causing us to build a very strong case against investing a single penny in the government sector, owing to its apathy, corruption and inefficiency. We were quite outspoken this year.

The Atkinsons were an uplifting family that we met. He was the ultimate market player. She was the ultimate home-maker. Her philanthropy stamped his legacy in caps. Our ubiquitous megalomaniac, Mr. Cool, kept sinking lower this year, whereas his broker, Mr. Ever-so-Clever, raked it in . Earlier, Mr. Cool’s friend and alter-ego, Mr. System Addict, had retired on his 7-figure winnings from the market. Talking of brokers, remember Miss Sax, the wheeling-dealing market criminal, who did Mr. Cool in? She’s still in prison for fraud. Our friend the frog that lived in a well taught us about the need for adaptability and perspective, but not before its head exploded upon seeing the magnitude of an ocean.

Our endeavors to understand Mrs. Market’s psychology and Mr. Risk’s point of view were constant and unfailing, during which we didn’t forget our common-sense at home. Also, we were very big on strategy. We learnt to be away from our desk, when Mrs. M was going nowhere. We then learnt to draw at Mrs. M, when she actually decided to go somewhere. Compulsion was taken out of our trading, and we dealt with distraction. Furthermore, we started to look out for game-changers. Scenarios were envisioned, regarding how we would avoid blowing up big, to live another day, for when cash would be king. Descriptions of our personal war in Cyberia outlined the safety standards we needed to meet. Because we believed in ourselves and understood that we were going to enhance our value to the planet, we continued our struggle on the road to greatness, despite any pain.

Yeah, writing was fun. Thanks for reading, and for interacting. Here’s wishing you lots of market success. May your investing and trading efforts be totally enjoyable and very, very lucrative! Looking forward to an exciting year ahead!

Cheers ūüôā

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Your Personal War in Cyberia

Are you illiterate?

Literacy is not just alphabetical.

The meaning of literacy has expanded itself into your cyber world and also into your financials.

I mean, can you call yourself literate without knowing computer and financial basics?

I don’t think so. Not anymore. Times have changed, and so must you, in case you want to be called literate.

One of the first things one learns during one’s quest for financial literacy is the operation of one’s netbanking.

Once you are logged in, you soon realize, that your assets are under attack, and must be appropriately secured.

Login password, secure login, phishing filter, security questions, transaction password…you are learning fast. Your vocabulary is changing. Your defences are up. Yes, you are at war.

What kind of a war is this?

More of a cold war, till it gets hot for you, which can happen, but is not a must.

Worst-case scenario is that someone cleans you out. As in, a cyber thief steals all your money that was reflecting in your netbanking.

Your common-sense should tell you that your netbanking password is the all-important entity. Tell it to no one. Store it in a password safe. Keep changing it regularly. Don’t forget to update it in your safe. The safe of course opens with its own password, and is in sync between your mobile and your desktop. On both your mobile and your desktop, internet security prevails. Meaning, don’t use an el cheapo antivirus. Use a good one. Pay for it.

If there is a large amount reflecting in your account for a number of days without being used, secure it. Even if someone hacks in, available amounts should be as minimal as possible. Let the hacker first deal with unsecuring a secured amount. This gives you a time-window, during which you read and respond to any sms sent by your bank, that a secured amount has now been unsecured. The shot has been fired, your watchman has alerted you, and you now need to respond.

For the amount to be actually transferred out of your account, one more thing needs to happen. The hacker needs to set up a new payee under third party funds transfer. Some banks take three days for this, during which they coordinate with you whether or not you really want this payee to be set up. Other banks have a one-time password (OTP) system, where a transfer can only be activated by an OTP sent by sms to the registered mobile number linked to the account. Works.

Nevertheless, hackers seem to be getting around these systems, because one hears and reads about such cyber thefts all the time. However, the window created by your systems in place gives you crucial time to respond.

What is your first response, after becoming aware that you are under cyber attack?

Relationship manager (RM) –¬† call him or her. After you’ve alerted your RM, login if you can, and secure any unsecured amount. Change your login and transaction passwords, along with security images, words, questions and answers. Delete all payees. Logout. Close all windows on your desktop. Clear all history, cache, temporary files, cookies and what have you. Run a virus cum spyware scan. Clean any viruses, then shut your computer.

How does one go about securing unsecured amounts?

Make a 7 day fixed deposit with your unsecured amount. Or, configure your mutual fund operations through your Netbanking itself, and transfer the unsecured amount to a trusted liquid scheme offering 18-20 hour liquidity, all through your netbanking. Pretty straight-forward.

After you’re done, join your RM in finding the loophole. If you’ve incurred a loss, file a police report along with an application for reimbursal, citing all security measures you undertake as a given while also outlining the chronology of your actions after you realized that you were under attack.

That’s about it, I can’t think of anything else that you could do. If you can, please comment.

Right then, all the best!

Isn’t This Other Party Getting Too Loud?

We in India have decided to go for gold after the Olympics.

I mean, there’s a whole parallel party going on in gold.

What’s with gold?

Can it tackle inflation?

No.

Is there any human capital behind it?

No.

Meaning, gold has no brains of its own, right?

Correct.

Is there a storage risk associated with gold?

Yes.

Storage volume?

Yes.

Transport inconvenience?

Yes.

Price at an all time high?

Yes, at least for us in India. We’d be fools to consult the USD vs time chart for gold. For us, the INR vs time chart is the more valid one for gold, because we pay for gold in INR.

Getting unaffordable?

Yes.

No parameter to judge its price by, like a price to earning ratio for example?

No.

Then how am I comfortable with gold, you ask?

Right, I’m not.

Can I elaborate, is that what you are requesting?

Sure, it’s exorbitance knocks out its value as a hedge. A hedge is supposed to balance and stabilize a portfolio. Gold’s current level is in a trading zone. It is not functioning as an investor’s hedge anymore.

Why?

Because from a huge height, things can fall big. Law of gravity. And gold’s fallen big before. It doesn’t need to begin it’s fall immediately, just because it is too high. That alone is not a valid reason for a big fall, but the moment you couple the height with factors like improvement in world economics, turnaround in equities (if these factors occur) etc., then the height becomes a reason for a big fall. Something that can fall very big knocks out stability and peace of mind from an investor’s portfolio. The investor needs to bring these conditions back into the portfolio by redefining and redesigning the portfolio’s dynamics.

How?

By selling the gold, for example, amongst other things.

What’s a good time to sell?

Well, Diwali’s a trigger.

Right.

Then, there are round numbers, like 35k.

What about 40k?

Are you not getting greedy?

Yeah – but what about 40k?

Nothing about 40k. Let 35k come first. I like it. It’s round. It’s got a mid-section, as in the 5. It’s a trigger, the more valid one, as of now.

Fine, anything else?

Keep looking at interest rates and equities. Any fall in the former coupled with a turnaround in the latter spells the start of a down-cycle in gold.

Is that it?

That’s a lot, don’t you think?

I was wondering if you were missing anything?

No, I just want to forget about gold max by Diwali, and focus on equities.

Why’s that?

There are much bigger gains to be had in equities. History has shown us that time and again. Plus, there is human capital behind equities. Human capital helps fight inflation. What more do you want? Meanwhile, gold is going to go back to its mean, as soon as a sense of security returns, whenever it does.

And what is gold’s mean?

A 1 % return per annum, adjusted for inflation, as seen over the last 100 years.

That’s it?

Yeah.

And what about equities?

If you take all equities, incuding companies that don’t exist anymore, this category has returned 6% per annum over the last 100 years, adjusted for inflation.

And what if one leaves out loser companies, including those that don’t exist anymore.

Then, equity has returned anything between 12 -15% per annum over the last 100 years, adjusted for inflation.

Wow!

Yeah, isn’t it?

The Frog That Lived in the Well

Once upon a time, there was a frog.

It lived in a well.

Its cousin, however, lived in the ocean, and this particular cousin came to visit.

Cousin froggy was stunned. How could one thrive in such a small space? Our original froggy, however, did not believe that one’s world could get any better. It loved the well, and only after much coaxing did it agree to see what the ocean was like.

Upon seeing the magnitude of an ocean, our original froggy’s head exploded. This story‚Äôs from Paramhans Yogananda.¬†

I’m sure you’ve heard this story from someone. Something similar probably happened to you too, of course on a much smaller scale of magnitude, with no head explosions and all that.

I used to walk around pretty smugly with my Blackberry, thinking that I was like there, connected. Experienced kind of a head explosion upon moving to an Android smartphone.

What is it about us humans?

Why are we so limiting?

Why do we create barriers around our life-experience, around our possibilities?

Market conditions keep changing. Just as we get tied up into a rut and define a market as range-bound and going nowhere, it breaks out. Are you able to cope?

Be honest.

Can you adapt to such changes in conditions?

Are you quick on your feet? Or are you lethargic, and full of inertia?

What’s that song by The Black Eyed Peas?

“don’t…don’t…don’t … … don’t-stop-the-party!”

I know you’ve been humming this song during your continuing debt market party, but there is more to the scene than just the debt market. The debt market is not where things start and end in the world of investing. There’s more.

The world of investing is like an ocean.

The next buzzing market will make itself known. It’s only a matter of time. Be ready for it. Don’t remain clogged up within the claustrophobic walls of one market only, out of sheer laziness and a false sense of security.

Get out there.

Experience the ocean, without your head needing to explode.