I never imagined myself writing a book on investing. I am not a finance person by education, so I am naturally constrained by a lack of mastery on the subject. Then why in hell am I writing this book?
And only yesterday, my wife told me for the nth time that she thinks I am wasting my life on MoneyWorks4Me (our website on investing and making your money grow). She added that it’s not important enough and it’s not me.
Without batting an eyelid and without being defensive (which shows how much I have changed and so has our relationship—to have a sane conversation that starts with one being accused of having wasted his life, and dammit, I am 61), I told her it was me 100% because freedom has always topped my list of values. And investing your savings is the route to ensuring freedom in our lives. It is a necessary condition without which you cannot enjoy freedom in the true sense. And frankly, most people suck at investing.
Then it hit me hard that I am forever talking about investing—the act, the verb. And that’s quite different from finance and investments—the subject and object, and the noun. And I hate nouns—that happened when some wise man said, “Don’t ask stupid questions like, What is
Life? There’s no life; only living.” That was f…… insane. No matter how much we pretend to know about life, what counts is how we live.
There’s a whole population at work that talks about nouns like life; it’s called academics, and we all know that their lives suck. The same thing is rampant in the world of investing. Simply put, understanding different investment options and finance from the inside out does not necessarily mean one will invest successfully. I think it works the other way around. Ask Warren Buffett.
But like most people, I sucked at investing for decades. And that’s saying a lot. Because I am, well, was probably in the top 1% in India on analytical abilities, numerical skills, reading, taking action, and probably a few more things. But I sucked at investing for 30 years after I graduated from the top-notch engineering college in India, IIT Kanpur (and yes, I am very proud of this), and I started my career as a Management Trainee with Hindustan Lever back in 1983 (when it was a coveted job).
So, if you suck at investing your money, you are in very good company. But why did this happen?
The reason I sucked at it was because when it came to investing, I used my mind like a dust-bin. Sucking up trash and filling it up with things that would never work for me. Trash. And the question that got humongous amount of trash was ‘Which stock should I buy?’
People go about asking this question and variants of it to google, youtube, friends, neighbors, relatives and even their dog; anyone who they think knows more about investing than they do. Do you do the same? Just stop it.
The secret to keeping your cup empty is to keep the trash out and let only the good stuff in. How? Did you have a cup of tea this morning? Did you use a sieve to keep the tea leaves from getting into the cup? Or you used a tea bag? Well, that comes with a built-in sieve, the bag keeps the tea leaves inside while allowing only the essence of the tea to flow through.
When you consume any information to make decisions you need a sieve, a good filter. The best one is having the clarity of the question you are seeking to answer. ‘Which stock should I buy’ is operating without any filter, everybody can put anything into your cup. And after it’s in your cup asking why it’s there is inviting people to fill your cup even more. It’s a losing proposition.