It Started With A K.I.S.S.

In the year 1982, the band Hot Chocolate churned out a hit called “It started with a kiss”. The number hit the top ten. Whenever this song played during the span of the 80s, entire dance floors used to get the hint.

Well, unfortunately, the K.I.S.S. we speak about is a little different.

Ours is a formula.

Expanded, our formula stands for “Keep It Simple (Stupid)”.

Nevertheless, for us too, it all starts with the formula of K.I.S.S.

In the world of finance, we apply this formula everywhere. We don’t leave home without it. Anything that doesn’t conform to our formula is booted out of our lives.

For example, how diversified are you?

Are you so diversified, that you don’t know where which investment of yours is? That’s like way, way off our formula trajectory. Please lessen your level of diversification, such that you have all your investments on your fingertips.

Or, is your prospective investment product’s math complicated enough for you, such that you are not understanding the product fully? Leave the product alone. Again, it does not lie on the trajectory of our formula.

Then, is some investment officer talking razzle-dazzle lingo, trying to psyche and bulldoze you into an investment? Please show him or her the door. You got it. Eliminated by our formula.

Is some promoter’s lifestyle very sophisticated and complicated? Think twice before buying into his or her company, because the sophistication with all its complications is (with very high probability) being financed by company money, at the cost of all shareholders.

How many financial advisors have you got? Why do you even need financial advisors, when everything is available to you on the Internet? Is a financial advisor going to share the pain of your investment loss? Of course not. You are going to bear that pain fully. Therefore, once you yourself get going, the quality of investments you decide upon for yourself are going to be better than those selected by an investment advisor. You know yourself better than an investment advisor does. He or she doesn’t possess the power to understand and define you better than you do yourself. So, simple, do it yourself. Since any resulting pain is yours, you’ll try to avoid all pain, at any cost, and after a few hits, you’ll eventually start doing it well. You won’t sink, you’ll swim, believe me. Once you get the hang of it, staying above water can be simple. There’s nothing complicated about it.

I mean, we can go on here. Yeah, like we can go on K.I.S.S.ing here…, but I’m gonna stop, because I think you’ve got the message.

On that note, cheers, and here’s looking forward to keeping it simple…and not stupid.

I know a guy who knows another guy who knows this guy…

Well, congratulations.

So you’re well connected.

You probably play golf with the CEO of Big Balls Incorporated.

We’re not even going into how you wangled the slot.

You probably feel, that because of your connectedness, you can get away with anything in life.

Well, almost anything.

That’s the bottom-line.

You can get away with almost anything in life.

Here are two areas where your connectivity counts jack. As in El Zero. Nadda.

One is before the Almighty (presuming that God exists). Buying a slot with God using connections isn’t gonna cut it with the big guy. You can’t buy personal time with deities using money and / or connections, even if you think you can. Also, that “bought” time, when you shoved everyone else out of line, well, that time’s not going to make your life any better, or richer. You’ve just established yourself as someone who shoves others out of line using connections….that’s how your deity is going to view your performance. So, what you’re going to understand from this space is that before deities – the Almighty – God – the Metaphysical – or whatever you might want to call what I’m talking about, connections don’t work. You only end up scoring negative in your deity’s books.

Which brings us to the more relevant matter – where else do connections not work?

In the marketplace of course, my friend.

Don’t believe me? Fine, find it out for yourself, the hard way. Or, read on.

You see, in the marketplace, insiders have an agenda. All insiders. They have an agenda.

That agenda is personal. It includes them. It doesn’t include you … … if you’re not connected to the insider. Once you are, and you use that connection to fish for “lucrative” inside information, that’s where the insider’s agenda starts to include you. The information you get is as per the agenda of the insider. If a promoter wishes to off-load huge quantities of stock, you will be told that the stock’s a good buy, because blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. On the other hand, if the promoter wishes to buy back large quantities of stock, because of attractive valuations, you’ll be told to sell the stock owing to tricky prospects in the future. You are not getting quality information when you fish for tips. You’ll only find yourself getting trapped if you follow insider tips.

There are good insiders too … is that what you are saying? Ok, fine, some insiders are good human beings. They are not vicious, and they wish you well. They might even want to do you a favour, wishing that you make some money from the information they are letting out. All true. Question is, does it really work?

No.

Why?

You see, an insider never functions alone. When a company experiences a turnaround or a great quarter comes along with excellent earnings, white-collared people connected to the functioning of the company obviously know this, and they leak this information out (for a price) to smart researchers and investors. These smarties (along with their entire intimate circle of connectivity) buy into the company’s prospects. The money moved is called smart money. Smart money registers / reflects on the traders’ charts. The scrip might show a bounce-back from a low with huge volume, or a resistance might be broken, or a new high could even be made (all coupled with large volume). Traders latch on. Price movers higher. All this is happening before the CEO has announced quarterly results, mind you. Finally, a few days before the results, the corresponding results-file lands on the CEO’s desk. He or she congratulates his or her staff on the spectacular performance, and over a round of golf, the information is shared with you. The CEO is obviously thinking that the market is going to react positively to the earnings surprise that’s going to be announced.

Well, the earnings are not going to be a surprise. The market already knows, and earnings have thus already been factored into the price, before results are announced. Announcement time is generally selling time for traders, who tend to sell all stock upon the first spike after announcement. With no more buying pressure (since traders are out of the scrip), the inflated scrip tanks despite the good news, leaving you stuck with a peak-price buy. Well done, well done indeed.

See, that’s why. Don’t listen to insiders, even if they mean well.

In the marketplace, you really are on your own. Isn’t that exciting? As in challenging?

All the best, my friend. Learn to rely on your own judgement.

The Ugly Side of Leverage

Not too long a time ago, in an existence nearby, people saved.

Credit was a four letter word, or a six letter word, or whatever you want to all it, as long as you get my point.

People worked hard, and enjoyed the sweet taste of their labour.

They knew their networth on their fingertips, and there was no question of extending oneself beyond.

People were happy. They had time for their families. Words like sophistication, complicated and what have you had simpler meanings.

At the end of the month, as large a chunk as possible was pickled away.

For what?

Safety. Steady growth. For building a lifetime’s corpus. For the future generation.

Life was straight-forward.

Then came leverage.

At first, leverage was an idea that was looked down upon. People were slow to leave their safety zones.

Then they saw what leverage could do.

It could make possible a lifetime of fun. One could do things which were well out of one’s financial reach currently. Leverage could even buy out billion dollar companies.

All one had to do was to pledge one’s incoming for many, many years. If that didn’t suffice to fulfill one’s fun-desires, one could even pledge the house. The money borrowed would eventually be paid up, along with the compound interest, right? After all, one had a steady job that promised regular income.

What use was a lifetime of sweat if one didn’t get to enjoy oneself? One couldn’t really live it up after retirement, could one? That’s when one would eventually possess enough free funds to do what one was doing now, with the advent of leverage.

The do-now-pay-later philosophy soon took over the world.

Without being able to afford even a meaningful fraction of their expenditure, people began to go beserk.

What people didn’t know, and what they are now finding out the hard way, is that leverage is a double-edged sword. Since people didn’t know this, and since they didn’t bother to read the fine-print of the documents they were signing while leveraging their monthly salary or their home, well, financiers didn’t bother to educate them any further. No hard feelings, it was just business strategy, nothing personal.

Today, we know more. Much much more. Hopefully we have learnt. We are not going to make the same mistakes again.

So, when you buy into a company, look at the leverage on the balance-sheet. A debt : equity ratio of 1 : 1 is healthy. It promises balanced growth. If the ratio is lower, even better. We’ll talk about debt : equity ratios that are below 0.5 some other day.

Most companies do not have a healthy debt : equity ratio. Promoters like to borrow, and borrow big. You as an investor then need to judge. What exactly is the promotor using these funds for? Is he or she using these funds to finance a hi-fi lifestyle, with flashy cars, villas and company jets? Or is the promoter using these funds for the growth of the company, i.e. for the benefit of the shareholders? Use your common-sense. Look into a company’s management before buying into any company.

As regards your own self, reason it out, people. Save. As long as you can avoid taking that loan, do so. Loaned money comes with lots of hidden fees. If I’m not mistaken, now you’ll even need to pay service tax and education cess on a loan, but please correct me if I’m wrong. There’s definitely a loan-activation fee. Then there’s the huge interest, that compounds very fast. Ask someone who has borrowed on his or her credit card. There’s the collateral you’re promising against the loan. That’s your life you’re putting on the line. All for a bit of leveraged fun? How will your children remember you?

Also, when you invest with no leverage on your own balance-sheet, your mind is relaxed. There is no tension, and your investment decisions are solid. Furthermore, if you’re invested without having borrowed, there’s no question of having an investment terminated prematurely because of a loan-repayment date maturing coupled with one’s inability to pay.

How does the following sentence sound?

” Then came leverage, and common-sense disappeared.”

Not good, right?