Yes, I’m still an InvestorGeek! It might seem like only Jason and Christian are blogging lately, but I don’t mind being the guest that drops in once in a while. I’m sure many of you have watched or heard of the new Mark Burnett-produced game show called “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader“. If not, you can read a quick description here.
I was inspired after reading Canadian blogger, Tony Hung’s short diatribe on who’s really smarter – the kids or the adults? Tony, if you don’t know, is an editor at the prominent new media site, BlogHerald. I’ve had the privilege to meet him, and trust me, he’s one smart dude! But I digressed since the question remains, who ARE the smart ones? What does it mean to be smart? Is it just about random trivia or knowledge? After all, adults were able to create a show like that to make money! Aha…. now that money comes into play, that’s my lame segway to discussing financial smarts!
Investors come in every shape and size, as well as risk tolerance. That last quality can really vary depending on whom you’re discussing the subject of investing. So let’s approach today’s rant in a way that should appeal to you whether you’re ultra-conservative or a daredevil risk taker.
One of the things to do during this holiday season after you’ve completed your shopping, should be to plan out your finances for next year. Most people I know put more thought and time into planning for their vacation than they do for their retirement. I’m guessing the majority of IG readers hold down a job somewhere so the first place to look at planning are your company’s offering of retirement plans. And I’m also guessing that most of us will not be able to say we spent a larger portion of our life taking vacations vs. being in retirement.
Retirement Plans Are Not Built Equally!
Complaints about one’s own retirement plan from disgruntled friends and family are common. My reaction is to ask them how much time they spent studying the features of their company’s offering? Too many people have the misconception that all plans are built equally. Throw that out right now! Ask for your company’s retirement plan prospectus and scrutinize it. Don’t say it’s boring, because you’re just giving yourself an excuse to fail. And if you can’t accomplish such a simple task, you really have no one but YOURSELF to blame for your future.
It doesn’t have to get all hot and heavy and technical here on InvestorGeeks all the time! If you tell me an investor with good temperament needs a serious attitude every second, I’ll counter that by saying sometimes you really need to let loose and have fun! Even Warren Buffett gets crazy once in a while; even if his idea of crazy fun may be playing a ukelele, playing bridge or eating Dairy Queen ice-cream.
Investing should be an enjoyable experience, perhaps even fun for you! This is NOT the first time that InvestorGeeks have reviewed sites that try to bring to fun into stock picking with social websites. But I don’t believe my fellow InvestorGeeks have reviewed Motley Fools CAPS; which I believe is on the right track to injecting some fun into a mundane task.
My recent “discussions” with fellow InvestorGeek, Steve, about “baseball cards” as a metaphor for stocks have prompted more thinking on my part. Isn’t that what you wanted, Steve? Actually, I’ve already known that trading stocks is very much like trading baseball cards. I’ve already blogged about the same metaphor many times.
Though Steve and I disagree on whether dividend paying stocks are more than just baseball cards, another point of mutual agreement is that fact that most investors cannot affect any changes with their meager number of voting shares. Whether you own 1,000 or 10,000, or 100,000 shares of a company (even penny stocks), your ownership is no more than a drop in the ocean. But there are investors who do affect positive change through shareholder activism. Notable names include Warren Buffett (Coca-Cola), Carl Icahn (Time Warner), Kirk Kerkorian (General Motors), Ed Lampert (Sears/K-Mart). What if you followed them instead?
In case you doubt my membership in InvestorGeeks, I love movie trivia! What’s the highlight scene in James Dean’s 1950s cult movie, Rebel Without a Cause? You are right if your answer is the game called chicken, where Dean and his rival each drove a car towards a cliff. There are many variations of the chicken game, but in the movie, the game is won by jumping from the car later than the other player; but still in time to avert the cliff. For investors, it sometimes feels like your rival is Mr. Market daring you to jump out of your car first. The person who blinks first loses, but if you don’t blink, you might lose even more when you fly off the cliff! Sounds familiar?
I bet many investors out there have had the situation where you did all your homework before buying a stock and yet it still tanked 10%, 20% after you bought a position. It happens to the best of investors. What’s a person to do in this situation? Should you buy more? Should you get out early?
I know my writing often sounds like I’m preaching for everybody to be value investors. That’s simply not true! I only feel that some people can be value investors due to the temperament and the time needed to perform analysis. So what do I tell the general public who couldn’t care less about reading financial statements, or sitting in front of the computer day-trading?
Mutual funds are still the no-brainer solution for the average joe. Much “marketing” debate has been made about management fees. They’re not wrong to be critical but everything is really dependent on the “net” returns you’re able to achieve. My only concern is that consumers do the minimum work of researching the track-record of the fund and the fund manager. A long, consistent and positive tracking record is a must for active-managed funds.
But when John Bogle, founder of Vanguard, decided to balk the norms of the financial industry and aggressively market passive index funds, it was a strong indictment on the vast majority of managers who fail to beat their corresponding benchmark indexes. Vanguard’s promotion of this strategy still trumpets strongly, but there are signs of shifting towards actively managing their index funds, even if it’s just a little bit!
Is it possible to predict the quarterly earnings for a business, or a giant multi-billion dollar conglomerate accurately down to a single/narrow cent-per-share figure? A large number of investment analysts out there sure think so! After all, who wants to be the sucker who can only give you a broad earnings range, when “I” can give you the exact figure, so “I” must be better. So pay “me”, and hire “me”! And may god strike it down if that company misses “my” estimate by even one cent! It’s not “my” estimation error, it’s their fault! (Returning back to normal) I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me just now!
But can you hear the analysts tooting their own horns as they predict earnings? And when did companies think it was a good idea to help these overpaid statisticans along with corporate guidances? Is it a good idea? I’d love to hear from you, but I’ll first share my perpsective!
One of the reasons I get into stock investing is that I like to live vicariously through my investments? Say what? Yes, I live vicariously through my stock holdings because I imagine that I’m the owner of the company — hard at work building it. I become an intimate stakeholder of the business by owning its stock; as opposed to investing via mutual funds. But how many investors out there feel that their miniscule ownership can actually affect changes like Warren Buffett or Carl Icahn?
The market has come a long way since its last major crash — an event that transferred much wealth from the ignorant to the informed. It almost feels like deja vu when you see VCs lining up again to fund startups, or companies commanding unreasonable stock price multiples based on little more than hope for the future. Don’t you wonder what we’re not knowing this time around? I don’t wish to convince everyone to be value investors, but what if there’s a way to play a popular trend, but also err on the safer side of risk to avoid the extreme volatilities?
Can you tell I’m happy and proud to be an InvestorGeek? Though I’m one of the new writers here, I have been blogging about investment and finance issues for a while now. Nevertheless, I am excited and looking forward to sharing with you some of my thoughts on investing. Why did I decided to join with the geeks? For that, let’s go back to Wikipedia’s defintion of a geek:
A geek (pronunciation /gi:k/ ) is a person who is fascinated, perhaps obsessively, by obscure or very specific areas of knowledge and imagination.
It’s hip to be geek nowadays! Just look at the varieties we have — music geeks, movie geeks, gaming geeks, singing geeks. Even when I was young, the foundation was being laid out for me to become the InvestorGeek that I am today.