Everything in Life is an Investment (2010)
The last of a three part stream-of-consciousness series from an armchair investor, the question/s raised here are how much money do we need, and why ?
Do cars, condos, cash, credit cards and country club memberships define our life’s objectives ? Is there a higher reason why we might seek money ?
PK lobs questions, notions and abstractions; he offers plenty of suggestions but provides no answers; merely the cryptic comment as an investor, your reaction is a part of my own personal consumer survey.
The hour I demand with my investor clients is almost like a confession. I get to know their aspirations, their plans. I learn what motivates people.
The question is are people mature enough to understand that there is no such thing as ‘free’ money ? It all comes at a price, a price that they should be aware of.
I find, he muses, that the younger a person is, the more trusting and optimistic he is. He knows his destiny. Somewhere along the way, as he grows older, he loses track of that conviction. Money becomes the alternative. People seek it with no knowledge of how to spend it. Money endows a great deal of power. But do they have the maturity to handle that power ? Because it shapes the kind of person you become.
Money affects value judgments. Take me for example. It is only recently that I have begun wearing shoes.
I’d noticed, I remarked dryly. The new look. The corporate look. Shoes.
Not because I don’t have money, but because I need to look as if I have money. A price I have to pay to provide investors with a zone of comfort. The reality is I get late because I have to have to shine shoes I neither need nor want to impress an investor into investing with me.
Money fuels perceptions. And money fuels greed. The question is how to keep the two independent of each other.
The greed to acquire more and more – in my opinion – is permissible if it is greed-for-developing-skills or greed-to-learn-more. But greed for money has to be justified.
My personal satisfaction comes not from the money itself, but the process of making it, and the reason why I’m making it. The Cause. Like let’s Save the Planet. Then I believe I have a reason to get greedy and tough.
I think there is something out of kilter when a person will not lend money to his brother just because he – the brother – is not a part of ‘mainstream society’ (and therefore considered an aberration) but will spend thousands of dollars on a car without a second’s pause. Is this right ? I feel I need to raise the question, even though it is a personal investment decision.
The point is that value judgments don’t necessarily result in value decisions such as I don’t need so much money, or I will not invest in this stock, or I need to contribute towards a better society. The ethics and morals of each investment decision should be your own.
Always invest in yourself.
As a new investor, I want you to think. This is the point of this whole exercise. To become aware. To play around with ideas. To become informed.
In a bull market the economic opportunities increase. People party, money rolls in and they think it’s because they’re great. One day the party is over. And then a person is judged on his worth to an organization. I say a person’s worth cannot be defined by a mere corporation; you need to invest in yourself because you are always worth something more than that.
Invest in your strengths, use money not just to make more money, but to develop your skills as each one of us something to contribute. Some employ their skills, some don’t. My skill with money is just an aptitude.
The point is not to get greedy. An investor needs to see the big picture. Is he mature enough ? Balanced enough ? Can he evaluate his life, his happiness quotient, his contentment quotient, his unhappiness quotient ? Where does he need to make the corrections ? Will money do it ?
Making money is putting together hypotheses
Investment choices mean ownership. A bank, an organization, will never explain your choices to you. An organization will never give you all the information, just the pertinent information. Which is why I keep emphasizing the need for due diligence.
You should expect and anticipate change – change of heart in partners, in economics, in opportunities. And you should be ready for that to happen and make your day-to-day decisions based on informed projections.
But the greater reality is how many of those hypotheses are proved wrong. The experts hedge their bets against their mistakes because the stock market is a risk at every single moment of time. The point is to try and work out how much money you might lose by getting it wrong, and then work out a buffer or safety zone.
Understand that in making money, you are constantly taking risks, and that six times out of ten you are likely to make mistakes. The point is to not allow the mistakes to sink you.
What I want you to understand is that no investor should wait for bonanzas – either in profits or losses. Situations change, new possibilities arise. This is how a market operates.
Chaos is natural, order is not.
This is what economic cycles are all about. An economy is as good as its past record but that is no assurance that the identical results will be replicated again and again. Things change. And so you should educate yourself, invest with ownership so that you are building a network of people who are driving each other. Invest in building trust. Opportunities. Networks. In yourself. Recognize potential across borders.
And then ask yourself, he said (with a cat-who-got-the-cream smile) when should I cash out ?
A new kind of company and ‘detachment’ in investing
The need of the moment, in PK-speak, is a new kind of investment company; a hard-nosed, unsentimental one that recognizes and respects the worth of every individual it interacts with. A company that works with the environment rather than against it, because only (if and) when nature and people are correctly valued, will there be increased profitability, heightened competition, reduction – even elimination – of waste and pollution, greater employment and a surge in innovation and morale.
A new chain of responsibility, he continued, through a network of intimate, interactive services in the global economy, firmly linking supplier, producer and consumer.
An investor needs detachment, he needs to divest himself of the emotional ‘baggage’ that comes with any investment – financial or otherwise.
Detachment, I repeated after him. How do you equate that with the passion necessary to drive the business of investing ?
By being a part of a group of people who are interdependent, he replied. It’s like the web of life – everything is interconnected and nothing – and nobody – is indispensable.
The inevitable fact is that money corrupts. Power corrupts. We need to create a structure that ensures ethical decisions are not just taken by one person.
Again, it all boils down to another cliché. The global village, the village-of-yore system. The carpenter barters his skills with the farmer. Both give their best, because they are dependent on each other for their continued survival, and prosperity. They don’t cheat one another. Multinationals are spending huge amounts of money trying to preserve this very same simple barter of skills.
I say the system is up for change. Put the same toughness to use, but let it kick in when there is loss of trust. This isn’t my personal philosophy, I just happen to be more articulate about it than others.
Each one of us is worth a lot of money, if we are able to put a commercial value on time. With trust between people, that commercial potential will be unleashed.
There is so much nonsense in the world, he states.
And all that stops a person from thinking big is the fact that he doesn’t think big.
The 5 C’s of Singapore : Cash, Condo, Credit Cards, Car and Club membership.
Some pictures googled off the Net, from webmoneymaker.net, gemnation.com, obsoletegamer.com, condoforsalesg.com and creditcardinfo.atspace.com, others by Anita and Vikram Thomas.