Personal Long-Term Investing Isn’t about Establishing a Mutual Fund

If it were the case, why bother?

Just put your money in a mutual fund instead. 

There are many competent fully equity-oriented mutual funds out there. 

Some of the competent ones have very reasonable expense ratios and eye-popping statistics. 

Investing in a mutual fund takes away your work-load completely. 

You put in the money for the longish-term, and then you’re done. Don’t bother for the next 5 years. 

If you’ve chose the dividend payout option, you get an SMS or an email maybe once or twice a year that puts a smile on your face. It’s a payout!

What is a mutual fund?

What’s so mutual about it?

You mutually agree to what the fund manager is doing. 

Thus, make sure that the fund-manager is competent. Study the fund-manager’s track-record. 

A mutual fund typically consists of 50-75 stocks. Some are weighted heavily, some more lightly. 

The return you get is the mathematical average of the 50-75 stocks, adjusted for the weight they carry. 

It would suffice here to say, that the MF delivers some kind of an average return, less all kinds of fees, which typically range around the 2.5% mark per annum. 

Therefore, as far as returns are concerned, after tax deductions, one is probably left with a high single-digit one or a low double-digit one, in the long run, compounded. 

Not too bad.

Remember, this is equity we are talking about. Equity is an asset-class which gives returns that are adjusted for inflation. 

Actually, great. 

Those of you who are satisfied with this need not read any further. Just go ahead and put your surplus funds into MFs.

However, some of us want that extra kick. We are not satisfied with low single digits. We want 15%+, per annum compounded, after tax and adjusted for inflation. 

This is not greed. 

Ambition perhaps. 


Renumeration requirement for the arduous work put in. 

We’ve struggled. 

We’ve gotten hit many, many times. Each time, we’ve stood up, taken the hit, and carried on.

We have learnt. 

All for what?

Now it’s time to cash-in.

We go about setting up our long-term portfolios in the proper fashion. 

Total number of stocks eventually in the portfolio needs to be well clear of the MF mark…otherwise, right, why bother.

MF-type diversification will give an average return. 

We will build a focus portfolio. 

Focused returns are higher in the long run.

What’s the magic number?

Well clear of 50-75 stocks in all is understood. For me, even 40 is too much. I could deal with 30, though. Hmmm, let’s steer clear of the 3 in 30, so 29 is good enough for me as a maximum. The pundits are satisfied with 15-20 stocks, no more. Focus-gurus swear by 10-15 stocks. I’m ok with a maximum of 29, (a limit I’ve not reached yet) because in reality, I just hold 6 sectors, and multiple underlyings within the sectors. Thus, even with a maximum like 29, the 6 sectors alone make it a focused portfolio. 

The bottom-line is focus. 

As long-term investors doing it ourselves, we are going to focus. 

Staggered entry. 

Small entry quantum each time, many, many times. 

How small?

Small enough, such that one can enter about 30 or so times in a year and still have ample savings on the side from one’s earnings. Why 30 or so? That’s a rough 10-year average calculated per annum, estimated by me, during which one gets margin of safety in the 220 days or so that the markets are open in the year.

There we are : focus-investing, margin of safety, staggered entry, many, many entries, small entry quantum each time and generation of ample savings despite equity exposure. 

Is that a formula or is that a formula?



When it Pinches, Then You Buy

What is a good time to buy for the long-term?

Is there some kind of formula? Mathematical equation? Algorithm?

Who doesn’t look for the holy grail?

Sure, there are technicals galore, to assist one’s buying and fix its appropriate time. 

Of course, fundamentals, when studied properly, are even more helpful. 

However, neither technicals nor fundamentals can replace emotion.

The emotional alarm, when sounded, is a good time to buy for the long-term. 


Here you are, getting alarmed at how the markets are falling. 

How are you supposed to buy with a straight face amidst the panic?

That’s just it. 

Markets are wired in an opposite fashion to our mentality. 

At the onset of margin of safety, our mental framework emits panic upon seeing the mayhem. 

Upon the vanishing of margin of safety, the same mental framework emits euphoria and wants to participate in the rally. This is trading, not long-term investing, and as long as you buy high and sell higher, you are good. What you are not going to do here is hold your trade for the long-term, thinking it’s a long-term buy. What has not been bought with margin of safety is not a long-term hold. 


Margin of safety gives us a buffer. 

Let the markets fall; they still don’t reach our entry price. Or, they only fall a tad under it, and then start to rise again. That’s the beauty of buying with margin of safety. You can use the low now created to pick up some more, if you are still convinced about the stock. Otherwise, you can always exit the stock on a high. 

In long-tem investing, one should not exit on a low due to panic. If one does so, it’s like market suicide. 

What causes exits on lows?


Need for money.

Weak hands. 

Become a strong hand. 

Put in only that money which you don’t need for the next ten years. Make sure before entry that you won’t be pulling out this money in the middle of the investment if you can help it. Have a fallback family fund to lean on ready before you start putting money into the market for the long-term. 

Teach yourself not to panic. Rewire yourself alongside the market. This takes time. It took me almost a decade to rewire myself. Everyone needs to go through this rewiring process.

Once you’re rewired and  financially secure, your strong mind will pick up on the emotional trigger, and will start buying when the pinch-factor kicks in. 

Your strong hands won’t let go owing to panic. 

In the long run, your investment, which has been made with margin of safety and proper due diligence, will yield you a fortune.

Happy investing!


Useless vs Useful Expansion

I’m guilty of useless expansion. 

I end up doing it all the time. 

Can’t help myself, you see.

I like to keep exploring new stuff in the market. 

The silver lining is, the even though I might be expanding sideways, there are two good things happening also. 

There is no scaling up happening immediately. Good. 

There is also a lot of discarding going on. Things that don’t work out are eventually abandoned. Great. 

My issue is that I might have between 1 to 2 useless strategies in my repertoire at any given time. 

These strategies are not working. In fact they are dying out. Reasons can be many. A strategy might be sound, but it might not be a fit. 

For a strategy to work for you, it must be practically lucrative in the long run, and it must fit you. 

By the time I realize that a strategy needs to be discarded, money has been lost. Tuition fees? Yes. 

Ultimately, things boil down to a handful of successful strategies. It can even ultimately boil down to one or two successful ones.

Get there. I’m trying too. To do so, useless strategies will need to be discarded, like, now. 

The problem is, you don’t know that a strategy is useless till it has hit you a few times. 

Also, you don’t wish to discard something that you think might just work out for you in the long run. 

Fine. Keep grinding, and ultimately narrow down your sideways expansion, till you’re only working with strategies that are yielding, and show a long-term promise of being around. 


You’re there. 

Now you can scale up. Doing so using a yielding strategy that fits is called useful expansion. 

Scale up slowly. 

You can position-size, and scale up using profits. This way you are not putting in extra principal. Let the strategy continue to prove itself by yielding. As long as it does so, you keep scaling up on your positions using the newly earned profits. 

Why is useful expansion not easy to maintain?

We get carried away.

We might scale up too fast, and then baulk at a loss when the size of the loss is too difficult to swallow. Large input can result in a largish potential loss.

Trading is about containing loss, and letting profits run. 

Scaling up too fast makes an early loss look big if we haven’t tasted the corresponding potential profits yet. Such an event can even cause us to abandon a successful strategy because we are disheartened. 

Therefore, try not to scale up by putting in new principal, if you can help it. 

Try scaling up on profits alone.

Position-sizing automatically controls the scale-up-scale-down factors by defining the size of a constant stop as a percentage of the principal remaining between trades.

Position-sizing makes one scale-up and scale-down on auto-pilot in a relatively balanced fashion.

Please incorporate this wonderful ideology (which comes from the stable of Dr. Van Tharp) into your trading strategy. 


Handling a Long-Long Trading Portfolio During a Market Correction

You’re probably laughing at the use of the term “long-long”!

Hahahahaha, I laugh with you, 🙂 !

In India, we like to get our point across without caring too much for terminology, and / or how funny it may sound. 

What I mean is, and you’ve obviously gotten the drift, that the average trader is normally long in a trading portfolio.

Now, how is the trader to deal with his or her trading portfolio and its dwindling valuation during a long-drawn out market correction?

Sure, there are many options. 

One is to hold and sit it out. 

No good. 

This is not investing. This is trading. Trading means that once a stop is hit, you’re out. Period. 

Second option – bludgeon it. Cut the entire portfolio. 

Hmmmm, that’s not trading. 

Many stocks will not have their stops hit yet. Why are you cutting these? This would mean losing your position. What if the reversal starts right now? You did the right research, you entered, and now you’ve lost your position. 

Not good. 

We’re not bludgeoning it all. 

Of course we are continuing to cut those stocks whose stops are hit. 

No question about that. 

Now comes a kind of a “pointe”. 

You’ve hit a stop during the correction. You’ve gotten out of this stock, as per your trading rules. Look for another stock with a northwards chart that is not getting so affected by the correction, but has fallen a tad so as to allow margin of safety during trading entry. 

You’ve done three things here. 

You’ve entered a robust stock. 

Simultaneously, you’ve benefited from a slight price advantage. 

Thirdly, your trading portfolio is still going. Its contents are getting robust. Come the rally, and the robust contents are going to zoom. 

You’re trading on surplus. You’re not afraid to lose till your stop. You’re not afraid to reenter. So why cut it all? 

There’s no telling about turnarounds. 

However, when they happen, you are positioned. 

Optimal positioning while trading leads to big profits.

What’s the worst case scenario?

Stop after stop being hit, and eventually you being out of the whole portfolio?

Remember, the other side of the coin promises big profits, were the turnaround to happen now, with your portfolio full of robust stocks.

Are you willing to make the trade-off?


Well, then don’t trade an entire portfolio. You’re better off trading one underlying, like an index derivative. Cut it when you like, no questions asked. 


Well, then, what’re you waiting for? Make the trade-off. Go for it!


Let if Fall to Zero, I Say

Markets are correcting. 

The correction seems to be gathering momentum. 

Long-term portfolios lose out on net worth. 

Trading portfolios get their stops hit. 

It’s not pretty. 

Should one be worried?


Have we not taken worry out of the equation?


We have. 

We’re not worried. 

In fact, we want the correction to linger. 


So we can buy more. 

How long can you keep buying?

Till eternity.

How’s that possible?

Very simple. Do you have savings?


Lovely. Do your savings grow?

Yes, month upon month, they do. I make sure of this by spending less than I earn. 

Even lovlier. Now take a very small potion of your total savings, and put it in the market. 

How small?

Small enough, such that if you were to put in that same small quantum on all off the approximately 220 days of the year that the markets are open, even then, your savings would keep growing at a representable rate. 

Ok. I see where you’re going with this. 

Absolutely. Now, suddenly, your whole perspective changes. You want your next quantum to go in. Thus, you want the correction to linger. 

What if the markets go up?

One keeps going in with the same quantum till one is getting margin of safety. No margin of safety anymore means no more entry. 

I see. That’s where your confidence is coming from.

Not entirely. You see, by the grace of God, I have made sure that my family’s bread and butter is secure before putting even a penny into the markets. 

Oh. Well done!

Then, whatever is going in, is surplus. 


The rate of entry, i.e. the size of each quantum is minuscule enough to not pinch me upon the onset of a lingering correction. 


Please note, that one gets one’s margin of safety on perhaps 20 – 30 days of the 220 days that the markets are open in the year, on average.



That means that your savings keep growing at almost their normal rate of growth, because you’re rarely deducting from them as far as your long-term entries are concerned.

Mostly. However, what if a correction lingers for 2 years or more? Even at a time like that, you’ve got the ammo. 

Ammo, yeah, ammo is paramount. Don’t you feel like spending your savings?

I spend wisely. I don’t blow them away. I make sure, like you, that I’m saving more than I’m spending, month upon month upon month. However, I do spend.

Ok, now I’ve understood how you are so confident. 

I’ve not told you about my due diligence yet.

Oh, sorry for jumping the gun.

Due diligence is my most powerful weapon. I delve into a stock. I rip it bare. I get into the nitty-gritty (I wanted to say “underpants” originally) of the management, and let all skeletons in the closet loose. If there’s something crooked, it will emerge. The internet is my oyster. Nowadays, any and everything is available online. Mostly, a stock fails my parameters within the first 15 minutes of research. If a stock  survives perhaps three full on days of head-on research, that stock could be a likely candidate for long-term investment. Then, one looks for an appropriate entry point, which might or might not be there. If not, one waits for it. One could wait even a year. Markets require patience. 

Wow. Can I now say that I understand where your confidence is coming from?

Yes you can. 🙂

Dealing with the Nag

Sadly, one’s spouse is the butt of many jokes in life. 

However, at the outset, I wish to make it very clear, that this piece is not about a joke at the cost of my beloved spouse, who, by the way doesn’t even fall under the N-word category. 

Having gotten that out of the way, what kind of nag are we talking about. 

This one’s almost a constant, and starts off as soon as your money goes on the line. 

At first it’s a tug. 

What are the markets doing?

How is your holding faring?

Let’s have a look. 

Come on, come on…

The tug is very compelling. 

You have a look. 

You see that your holding is taking a hit. 

There is disappointment. 

You shut your terminal in disgust. 

You’re trying to do other stuff, to divert your mind, but your mind keeps flowing back to the status of your holding. 

The tug has become a nag. 

This is the nag we’re talking about. 

We wish to outline a strategy which takes the nag out of your way. 

So, how does one deal with the nag?

It will be there. However it won’t be in your way. How do we create this condition?

If you can manage by ignoring, that’s just great. This might not work though. Nag-value mostly defeats ignoring power. 

Enter small each time. You will take away greatly from the nag-factor. It won’t hit you as much. You will me waiting to enter again, small of course, in the event that your holding has fallen. This is long-term investing we’re talking about. You’ve done your due diligence, and are not afraid to repurchase umpteen times as long as you’re getting margin of safety. Re-entry upon a fall in price of the underlying does not work while trading. In fact, re-entry upon a fall while trading is a strict no-no. You exit your trade if the fall goes through your stop-loss. You don’t re-enter. However, the small entry quantum during long-term investing goes a long way in reducing the nag factor. 

How do we wash away what’s left of the factor?

Do many market activities, as in, play multiple markets. After you’re done with one market, forget about it and move on to another. Mind will genuinely be distracted. Nag value will be further reduced, and greatly. However, it will still be there, minutely. 

Once you are done with all your markets, close your connection to them for the rest of the day, and only open the connection during the next market session, and that too upon requirement only. Meanwhile, you’re doing other stuff. Life has so much to offer. All remnant nag will be washed under the rug. 

You need to now just hold it together and resist the lure of a nudge in your mind to see how the markets closed, or any similar urge. You’re done for the day, and don’t you forget it. Don’t fall back into the trap, or the rest of your day (and perhaps your night too) would be ruined. Ask yourself if that would be worth it. No? Then move on. Enjoy the rest of your day doing other stuff.

You’re done already!


Poker and the Markets

Professional poker is not a gamble, when one takes a large sample-size of many, many hands into consideration. 

On the other hand, non-pro poker is more likely a gamble. 

So, what’s the difference between professional poker and non-pro poker?


Players make “mistakes”. 

Mistakes cause losses. Lets define “mistake” here as anything that causes loss. 

Winning players strategize in such a manner, that their mistakes make them lesser than average losses, and sometimes, no losses at all, but even a win results. 

Reads, bluffs, meta-game, what have you,…

…the reason the player is a winner is that he or she is winning even with hands that would normally cause a loss.

Also, when the pro senses a winning hand, the pro bets big because the odds are in his or her favour, and the pro would like to capitalize, given the odds.

A few big wins coupled with many small losses, whereby the sum total of all losses is lesser than the sum total of the wins – that’s a winning combination. 

Let’s just take this element of the winning combination, and see how it’s implementable in the markets.

Market play means mistakes. 

Almost all the time, we’re making mistakes while we’re attempting market action.

However, because of our due diligence, we make intelligent moves too. 

Our intelligent play wins us money. 

Our mistakes lose us money. 

How do we let our mistakes lose less money?

By having a very small entry quantum each time. 

How do we allow our intelligent moves to win big?

By not nipping a winner in the bud. Also, by putting money into the winner when it dips, and at an appropriate entry level.

What do we have here, then?

Many small mistakes, and a few big wins, whereby the sum total of the mistakes is lesser than the sum total of the wins.

This is the same winning combination we discussed above.