Thursday, April 19, 2018

You can choose your reality.



When I was single, I thought of wanting to join SDU, so I consulted an engineering classmate who frequently attended these SDU events, hoping that he can give me some  dating advice. I was a desperado and wanted to know what were my chances of finding a significant other when I joined these events.

My friend understood my 20-something self very well so he wanted me to be less of a jerk than already was then. I remember we were riding on the north-south line and he told me that in order to succeed in SDU, I must get used to having dates with average-looking women. So he pointed to me three women of my age sitting opposite us in the MRT.

The first woman was really plain and I would not have noticed her even if she was standing in front of me. The second woman was actually quite a turn off because she had a lot of acne on her face. I can't remember what turned me off the third woman, it might have been her weight. What I do remember was jokingly telling my friend that if I am left with these girls, my family line would be essentially over and I would choose eternal loneliness over a domesticated life.

What is the moral of this ridiculous anecdote ?

Organizations and salespeople exists to create a new reality for you.

SDU's approach towards getting more graduates to date is to bombard them continuously with average looking women and men with average charm so that expectations can be lowered and an eventual match takes place.

They are the in the business of lowering your expectations.

As investors in the 1990s, unit trusts were the rage. In my first book, I wrote about expense ratios and management fees. In those days, I invested in unit trusts like the Templeton Global Equity Fund which could charge over 2.75% in annual fees. Even if equities gave 9%, I would make barely 6%. Dollar cost averaging was the hot new thing 20 years ago.

That was the reality then.

The insurance industry is worse. Agents routinely sell their products as being better than bank deposit rates.

While the situation is much better, we need to careful about the products sold in the markets today, ETFs are highly advantageous compared to actively managed funds but we are seeing very unexciting returns from the STI ETF at around 3.5% last year when simply buying an equal-weighted basket of STI components can give a 1.5% boost to your returns.

So in essence, in the world of investments, you can create your reality.

When I started back-testing a portfolio on Bloomberg, the world of double digit returns with a lower semi-variance suddenly opened up to me. When I started employing leverage, having an expanding portfolio without the need for a day job became a new reality to me. So much so that there are projects that I am eagerly looking forward to doing by the end of this year involving the shorting of stocks.

New realities can also backfire. Cryptocurrency prices can double in a short span of a week. Now we could be seeing a nasty backlash in 2018.

The trick is to stick to the fundamentals like diversification and risk-position-sizing to ensure that there is a way out when the reality changes.

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