Not Everyday is an MoS Day

Dear Long-Term Investors,

How are you?

Hope this finds you in the pink of health, and without itchy fingers. 

After running through a 70-odd day corrective phase, the Indian markets don’t seem to be offering margin of safety (MoS) anymore. 

Or so I feel. 

The groove had become natural from mid January to the beginning of April. 

There was something to be bought, almost everyday. 

One would wake up thinking about what one would be buying for the long-term when the markets opened. 

Over the last ten days, I haven’t felt like buying anything. 

My fingers are itchy.

I’m raring to go. 

However, margin of safety is not there. 

It might return, in some form or the other, and that too soon. However, it doesn’t prevail just now, as per my understanding. 

Where does that leave me?

I can now opt for compulsive buying. However, my market experience has taught me otherwise. It’s a simple rule – no margin of safety, no buying. Period. 

I focus on other stuff. 

I have a trading operation. 

I focus on that. 

I write. 

I read.

I chant. 

I plan my summer vacation. 

I attend to family matters. 

There’s other business that needs attending. 

I travel. 

However, I don’t resort to compulsive buying. 

Can you stop yourself from compulsive buying? However itchy your fingers are?

It’s not easy. Nevertheless, it’s mandatory. 

The follow-through energy from an existing groove needs to be diverted until it is fully dissipated. 

If you don’t succeed with this, you’ll end up with over-priced buys in your long-term portfolio.

This spells disaster, because lack of margin of safety won’t allow you to sit when markets crash. 

And crash they will. 

Every market crashes, some time or the other. 

That’s when your margin of safety allows you to sit quietly and sleep properly. 

You then have the acumen to recognize the re-existence of margin of safety.

Also, you have the energy to act upon your identification of the re-existence of margin of safety. 

You buy more, because MoS days are there again. 

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When is it Ok to Average Down?

Just remember one thing…

…that the words “averaging down”…

…only go with long-term investing. 

They do NOT go with trading. 

After you have fully digested and understood the above, let’s to to the when. 

When does averaging down go with investing?

The answer to this is – only after doing proper homework. 

If you’ve not researched the underlying well enough, don’t even think about averaging down, because you could be throwing good money after bad. 

When there’s a correction, the long-term investor does get tempted to increase his or her holding, because of the lucrative prices that are on offer. 

Sure, why not?

Please understand, that this “sure, why not” is coming out so casually because of course the long-termer has worked overtime to arrive at the conclusion that he or she wishes to increase his or her stake in something that is already being held. 

The fall in the price of the underlying does not perturb the long-termer. Solid research has been done, and the markets make huge mispricing blunders when in free fall. Market players go all psycho and discard their precious holdings at throw-away prices. Picking up quality stocks at bargains is exactly what the long-termer is in it for.

The long-termer has done a few more things. 

Family has been secured with multiple income-sources and emergency funds. What’s going into the market is sheer surplus, not envisaged to be required over the next ten years. 

Then, entry quantum is small each time, small enough so that entries can be made all year round, and there will still be ample savings left after all entries. 

How does one calculate a small enough entry quantum that satisfies all of the above criteria?

One works backwards. 

Pinpoint your income after tax for the year.

Decide what you wish to amply save. Subtract this from your income. Further, subtract expenses. You are left with an amount. Decide whether all of this amount can go into the market, or whether only a part. Maybe you wish to go for a holiday with your family, or perhaps you wish to buy a vehicle, or what have you. Subtract such additional expenditure too. Finally, you are left with the amount that you wish to plough into the market, over the course of the year. 

Next, take the amount, and divide it by 30, or 40 or 50. 

Why?

On the down-side, the market could offer you margin of safety on 30 of the days that it is open in the year. On the up side, the number could be 50. We are talking about ten-year average numbers. During a singular correction, the market could offer margin of safety continually for the whole year. Decide what your magic number is. 30-40-50 days per year works ok over a ten year period. Divide the amount you’ve set aside with the number you’re comfortable with to arrive at your entry quantum per entry-day, for the year in question. Now you can keep going in with this same quantum through out the year whenever margin of safety is offered, and you generally won’t have to worry about running out of investing money, on average. 

Great stock-picking, excellent due diligence, surplus going in, small-enough entry quantum, ability to sit – the long-termer is armed with these weapons, and now, he or she can average down as much as desired, whenever margin of safety is offered.  

Margin of Safety and Trading

MoS and trading have a somewhat funny relationship.

When MoS is offered, you don’t feel like looking at your trading portfolio.

Why?

Because it is bleeding?

Maybe.

Actually, you are in a hurry to clock some long-term investments. After all, there’s MoS on the table. Yes, you’d much rather occupy yourself with your long-term portfolio.

With serious MoS in the pipeline, the market makes it easier for you. It bludgeons your trading portfolio, such that you sheer exit it, and now you are free to focus solely on your long-term investing portfolio.

Fine. Great. Is that it?

There’s a tad more to the connection between MoS and trading.

What is trading?

Buying high, and selling higher? Selling low, and buying back lower? Yes, that’s trading.

On first instinct, you’d buy on a high, or sell on a low, that’s what you’d think.

However, on the ground, margin of safety makes itself felt.

Players wait for the underlying to correct a bit, or rally a bit, and then pick it up, or sell it. They’re not picking it up on the fresh high, with no resistance opposing them. They are taking a chance, that there will be a correcting move, and that’s when they will pick it up. Vice-versa for the bears.

Those few extra buck of fall will add to their profits when the underlying starts to rise again and makes new highs. Expressed for the bears, those few extra bucks of rise will add to their profits when the underlying starts to fall again and makes new lows.

The pay-off is, that this doesn’t always work. The trader might miss the trade altogether, if the correcting or rallying move does not take place, and the underlying zooms (falls) to make one high (low) after another.

So when does waiting for MoS actually work in trading?

Almost always. Except…

…when it’s a full-blown bull or bear run.

This means that it works like 90% of the time, which is a pretty high number.

Does that make you want to adopt MoS full-time while trading too?

Of course it does.

How do you still make use of the opposite strategy – buying upon highs, or selling upon lows?

You let a few setups go amiss. Missing a couple of trades due to bull or bear runs is the signal.

Now you can switch to buying on fresh highs or selling on fresh lows.

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. 

Surprised?

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. 

Why?

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?

Panic. 

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!

🙂

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?

Why?

Have we not taken worry out of the equation?

Sure. 

We have. 

We’re not worried. 

In fact, we want the correction to linger. 

Why?

So we can buy more. 

How long can you keep buying?

Till eternity.

How’s that possible?

Very simple. Do you have savings?

Yes.

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. 

Right. 

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. 

Great. 

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.

Really?!

Yes. 

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!

🙂

Standing Your Own Ground – 5 Things You Need To Do Now

Long-term investing is a battle of nerves.

It is not for the faint-hearted. 

It can also be… very lucrative. 

To be successful at long-term investing, one must bury the nerve factor, to ultimately stand one’s ground and emerge victorious.

Let’s see how we’re going to do this. 

First up, let’s look at the quality of money going in. 

Only that money is going in which we don’t really need over the next ten years. No other kind of money is going in. No loan money, no breaking-an-FD-money, no kitty-party-money, no child-education-fund-money etc. etc. Only surplus money and that too a very small fraction of this surplus money – that’s what is going to go in each time. Period.

Why?

We’re reducing the pinch-factor bit by bit and bringing it down to zero.

What is the pinch factor?

Corrections pinch. We need to make the pinch go away. When it’s gone away, there is no pinch. That’s when our minds are clear to do what they are supposed to do during corrections. Yes, during corrections, we diligently buy more with a very clear head and after doing a lot of homework.

Second up, we are only buying with margin of safety. 

When there is no margin of safety, we don’t buy. Period. 

Why?

Margin of safety reduces the pinch factor of a correction even further, and greatly. We’ve bought cheap enough, such that the correcting stock barely makes it back to our entry level as the correction ends and a rally starts. The pain-causing element is thus mostly washed away due to the existence of margin of safety. 

Third up, our due diligence is rock solid. 

We have a check-list of the things we want to see in our stock. 

Are we seeing all of these sufficiently?

We also have a list of all the things we don’t want to see in our stock. 

Are we not seeing even a single factor on this particular list?

When our arduous due diligence gives us a go, this action is coupled with a tremendous confidence-boost in the stock. 

Confidence in an underlying is a very powerful elixir, and kills whatever pinch-factor and nerves that remain. 

We’re not done yet. 

Fourth up, we look for an opportune entry point. 

We’re looking for an inflection-point to enter, a pivot, a Fibonacci-level, an Elliott-wave correction-level or perhaps a rock-solid support, and if none of these are available, we even try and make do with a horizontal base, though a rising base is ok too. A suitable entry point is the icing on the cake for us. If the appropriate entry point is not available, we don’t enter just yet. Instead we wait for an opportunity, when such a point is available, and that’s when we enter. 

Our armour is now very strong indeed. The time has come to seal and sterilize ourselves. 

We block all tips. We don’t talk about the markets with people. We don’t discuss our investments or any rationale. We don’t watch financial TV. There’s absolutely no need to follow live quotes. Market action is limited to as and when the need arises. Index levels and stock prices are only looked at upon requirement. After getting the basics bang-on and putting our money on the line, we are now fully equipped to stand our own ground…

…and this we do with great aplomb!

🙂