Monday, June 15, 2009

My 16 rules of investment success

Here are 16 rules of investment success. Read carefully….

These rules are the crux of any investment ideas and philosophy. Let us examine their relevance in the present Indian context.

Rule 1: Begin with a prayer
Prayer helps you think clearly and make fewer mistakes. Meditation is known to reduce anxiety and stress, helping in better decision making.

Rule 2: Invest for maximum total real return
It is important to only consider the total real return i.e. the money you make in your investment lifetime after inflation and taxes. Many investors get carried away by short-term movements. They tend to ignore the long-term opportunities. Thus, it is wise to invest for total real returns.

Rule 3: Remain flexible and open-minded
Flexibility comes from being agile. Open-mindedness is learning from new ideas and perspectives. Many old-timers missed India's IT sector growth in the early 90s, which gave multi- bagger stocks like Infosys and Wipro. Cut to early 2005, many people were enamored with IT sector. They neglected the infrastructure and banking sectors, whose stocks multiplied within a couple of years. Hence it is important to be flexible and open-minded.

Rule 4: Invest, do not trade or speculate
Almost all successful people in the stock market are investors and not traders. They invest for long-term and are patient. There are many investors who have become millionaires solely on return of one stock in their portfolio over a decade. Sure they bought lot of other stocks which went nowhere but the one or two stocks that did well made all the difference. Traders think of the market as a casino where you play daily to win, investors think of markets as a long-term wealth building exercise.

Rule 5: Search for bargains
Just as we buy garments at discount sale, we need to buy and not sell stocks when markets are crashing. In October 2008, many high dividend yielding stocks were sold for meager amount. People who bought them have reaped huge profits.

Rule 6: Don't buy market trends or economic theories
Remember the India story told when the sensex was at 21,000 and markets dipped to 7,500 within a year. The boom gave way to gloom, economists and market experts were expecting a correction not a crash. Thus, you should not rely on economic theories and market trends while investing as they are told only after the event has occurred.

Rule 7: Diversify across assets and across markets, there is safety in numbers
Last year, when stocks dipped, gold and bond mutual funds thrived, an investor who had invested across all three assets would have got negative return in stocks but would have made good returns in bonds and gold. Thus, it is advisable not to put all eggs in one basket.

To spread risk, investments should be diversified across assets such as:

- Stocks / equity mutual funds
- Bonds/ bond mutual funds
- Gold/ gold exchange traded funds
- Real estate
- Foreign mutual funds
- Traditional assets such as fixed deposits and public provident funds

Investment opportunities come with risks. When markets are high, investors want 100 per cent equity exposure and forget the downside risk. When markets have crashed they want 100 per cent safety and ignore the upside potential.

Rule 8: Do your homework or hire experts who will do it for you

Some of us invest based on tips and rumors, that is speculating not investing. You should read and research all investment ideas well, take time to understand the upside and downside of each investment before buying. Or else, you must engage quality financial advisors before investing.

Rule 9: Aggressively monitor your investments
No investment is forever. Expect change and react to it. There are no permanent bull market and bear market.
Way back the BSE Sensex had bluechip companies like Scindia Steamship, Asian Cables, Crompton Greaves, Mukand Iron, and Premier Auto.

Today, these companies have become small or midcaps. Some are not even quoted. Indices and markets keep changing. Investors should be on guard always.

Rule 10: Don’t Panic

Many people panic and exit the market when there is a dip. It is better to sell before a crash not after. Panic and euphoria are the two facets of same investors. Both selling after a crash and buying after a huge rally make no sense.

Rule 11: Learn from your mistakes
The only way to avoid mistakes is not investing which is the biggest mistake of all. Those who didn't invest after losing money in 1994 crash wouldn't have made money in 1999 boom. Those who lost money and exited in 2000 would have missed one the best times to invest in India from 2002 - 2008.

Rule 12: Beating the markets is a difficult task
Even professional fund managers have tough time doing it. Hence, an investor should remember that getting above market returns year after year is difficult.

Rule 13: Buy low
So simple in concept, yet so difficult to practice. Humans tend to think in herds and not alone. Only a brave person would have invested in October last year when people were shell shocked and wanted to forget about stocks. (I didn't)

Rule 14: Anyone who has all the answers doesn’t even know the questions

Markets make even the most brilliant fund managers humble. We have seen big fund managers make wrong decisions. An investor who thinks he knows everything doesn't usually know anything. Success is a process of seeking out answers to newer questions.

Rule 15: There is no free lunch
Never invest based on a tip or rumor. Everyone talks about their profits however small and no one talks about their losses however big. (Well, I lost quiet a few bucks)

Rule 16: Do not be fearful or negative too often
There will be corrections and crashes in the markets, but markets do recover and reward diligent and patient investors. This century or next it's still buy low and sell high.

This article is based on my little experience, knowledge and analysis of experts views for Investment Success.

Disclaimer: All investments carry market risks, this article is not meant to be an investment advice but an educative one.