Aesop Fable: Hare and the Tortoise: re-retold

This is a very, very old story and posted earlier, Now reposted, sorry! Kachua is an old client of mine – filled up SIP forms and keeps doing the SIP – now for almost 10 years. Kharghoshs were referred to me post 2008, in tears and in Red. Not sure how long they will last with me – not enough congruence in what they need and what they say they want. However it is a nice long story. When I wrote it it was 3000 words…so i cut out how they earned money, how much they invested…and made it shorter…read on..

The Kharghoshs were leading a comfortable, lifestyle. Typical Alpha male knew everything about investing by reading brokerage websites and blogs! He knew that equity gives best returns, so he had a leveraged life style! His house, car, vacations, were all from borrowings. He had ALWAYS earned far greater than the interest rates that he was paying. He had removed money from his provident fund to make the down payment on his house – debt is for sissies he said. However during the third quarter of 2008 he discovered one of the harsh truths of investing: It is a very sharp double-edged sword that cuts mercilessly.

Markets gave him a lecture on Investments and Statistics 101.

Suddenly he remembered ‘Reversion to the Mean’, Standard Deviation, ‘how to lose money in IPO’, ‘floating rates floats both ways’ , ‘never ask a barber whether you need a hair cut’ ‘The Future has no Option’ etc.

Sadly the lecture series cost him more than 55% of his peak net worth. His wife was downsized from her company after 12 years service. All that could go wrong happened. His own bonus disappeared. He had given a bank guarantee for – his brother’s business. The bank sent him a notice regarding the same. His equity portfolio even today consists of very high price paid DLF, Satyam, Jindal Power and Steel, L& T, Gujarat Heavy Chemical, GMR Industries, Unitech, Reliance Capital, Reliance Infocom to name a few.  Mr. Kharghosh’s choice of stocks was stunning. Of course his biggest loss came from playing around in Nifty options. Largely a momentum investor his portfolio at various points consisted of the equity stocks with the highest sound bytes on television!

As for me, I am a former broker turned passive investing champion and a domain trainer. Recently I went through the training done by one of the top financial companies in the world. The training included things everything on “Selling Skills”—not, the “Make Money for Your Clients” nor the “Understanding the Financial Markets.”  The emphasis was totally and completely on prospecting and sales. They need to study every day, five days a week for three weeks and learn about how to create a prospect list, how to cold call, how to open, and how to close. There is no training on concepts like asset allocation, risk, alpha, beta nor any other topic which may save clients from the devastation waiting to happen because of a sovereign default in one of the rich European countries!

Risk tends to be a voracious consumer of cash when one is unprepared! True, it may have been hard for Mr. and Mrs. Kachua to be at the same social party with the Kharghoshs because they were riding the wave of huge returns from their concentrated investments. Their success, it turned out was caused by a cyclical economic tide than to the stock-picking ability of their “broker turned financial advisor”. The most recent age of foolishness in investing had ended in 2007.

The Kharghoshs learned a painful lesson at the hands of an unregistered ‘Portfolio adviser’ they proceeded to lose over 55%of their portfolio’s value. Soon after, they come knocking on my door, somewhat shell-shocked and looking for answers. The impact of the media was visible even in the way they spoke!  The Kharghoshs were obviously looking for my personal version of the alpha-seeking, magic formula to restore their lost wealth – quickly. Waiting for 25 days was fine, but you could not take 25 years to create wealth. After all if ‘n’ or the number of years was the only value add that I could offer, it was of no use for them. They were hoping that ‘r’ could be much better and came to me – and I a passive investment zealot had to ensure that!

“Can we make up our ‘Real Estate stock losses in Power stocks’ was one of the innocent questions. They had invested in some stocks which were about to list – it was sold as a fantastic 3 year story about 5 years ago. Of course they were still waiting. “Am I okay”?- this was their first question. Then it got more ambitious!

As you think of the shades of this question, you do not understand that this question is ‘present continuous’ in its grammar! Clients aren’t just asking, “Am I okay today?”

No, what they mean is,

–    Am I okay forever?
–    Am I saving enough?
–    Am I converting my saving to investment?
–    Am I spending too much?
–    Am I using the correct strategy?
–    Will this strategy work for the next 17 years of my working life?
–    Once I retire I will not invest, correct?
–    Since I do not invest after 60, I do not require a strategy, correct?
–    Am I sacrificing my lifestyle by over saving?
–    Are my kids okay? – Right from career selection to boy friend selection!
–    Will I have enough money to support my parents, grand father, my favorite charity, my…..?”

You get the point don’t you? You either yawn or say I just lost my magic wand. Amen.

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4 Responses to “Aesop Fable: Hare and the Tortoise: re-retold”

  1. Subra,

    Surely i am one of thoses SIP investors who dont relish such social circles where people boast of the 150% killing they made on a stock and for whom 20-30% return is measily.


  2. though i am SIPper too, i had one question which has been nagging me:is there any billionaire or super rich guy who made money by investing passively?. what would be your guess about the wealth of india’s top passive investor?

    not saying that reckless dabbling in stocks make a lot of money,but active investment is not be knocked at.

  3. pravin

    i have been a broker and personally know some of Indias best wealth creators. No sip guy there..but the 99% of the people I know have neither the mental strength, nor the mental ability to be wealth creators. SIP works for them who do not understand buffets rules:

    1. never make a loss (weighted average capital cost including interest)
    2. understand 1 and remember it.

    for them…sip works. Lemme put it this way about 20-30 people out of about 3000 people I have seen doing transactions are direct equity material…sorry to say it may sound arrogant, but it is true.

  4. Hi SUbra,

    It is ok. Can you post the full 3000 words story, without sensored. I think that will make it a even greater read and retain.

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