Is investing really that complex? Is anything really that complex? Is rocket science even rocket science?

It was December, 2017. My cousin, Dr Amit Prabhu, called up and said “I am coming to Mumbai for a week, will stay with you. Can you arrange for 4 dozen eggs, 4 kg of paneer from a good quality source and 1.5 kg of plain peanuts?” I replied “Of course!” while being perplexed about the oddity of his question.

When he came, he looked different! My 40 year old cousin looked like he was in his 20s. Jawline, defined biceps, wearing an M sized shirt. As if straight out of college. I punched him in the stomach only to have his washboard abs block my fist. He and I had idolized Hrithik Roshan, Salman Khan et al in our teenage years. Pumped iron senselessly at gyms, compared our bicep sizes, bought body hugging clothing, you know what a 90s kid went through! But never saw much progress for over a decade. Eventually, the grapes became sour and we concluded at that time “It’s all steroids. We would rather not have a beach bod if that’s what it takes.” And now at 40, he seemed to have cracked the code.

He gave me a 2 hour talk on how he got here. “Its simple” he said. An online community Fittr (then called Squats) helped him learn understand nutrition. All he did was:

  1. Set his fitness goals and accordingly set a calorie intake
  2. Monitored his total calorie intake
  3. Within that total calorie intake, he had set a certain proportion of carbs, proteins and fats
  4. Exercised moderately (and not senselessly like earlier!) but regularly
  5. Been disciplined on all 3 points above

And that’s it. Those six pack abs which eluded him for a decade showed up in 4 months with nothing more than the steps cited above.

The oddity of his eggs, paneer and peanuts question now was explained! That related to point no 2. More on that later.

This was a time when I was grappling with being overweight. Along with that came blood pressure medicines and statins for controlling cholesterol. Taking copious notes, I came up with my own customized 5 point plan. Took me 8 months to shed 18 kgs, stop my BP medication and bring my cholesterol to a healthy level.

So how is all this related to investing you ask?

Coincidentally at that time, I was also grappling with poor portfolio returns. Unresearched fun fact – Stress levels and health are inversely correlated with portfolio returns! What would happen if I applied these same principles to investing?

Think of it…

Me and my cousin focused on the gym and all things sundry, ignored eating right and didn’t see results

Have crash diets, meal replacements, protein supplements and long hours at the gym made anyone healthy? People may have lost weight, built some muscle, yes. But most gained back the lost weight soon enough.

Have share tips made anyone wealthy? People may have made gains. But most would have lost that money on the next tip.

We tend to focus on tips, short term plays – buy XYZ stock at 100, sell at 120, stop loss 90. That approach doesn’t create wealth. You are better off at a poker table – at least you enjoy the game! Can you be consistently right about XYZ hitting 20% every time you buy? If yes, skip reading further :-p

What’s the lesson here? Focus on 1. What matters and 2. what is sustainable

Focus on eating right. Not on short-term diets. Focus on regular exercise and break-up of diet i.e. allocation of calories between carbs, protein and fat.

Focus on investing right. Not on which stock is going up. Focus on asset allocation between debt, equity and gold.

We had cycles of being serious and being casual about our goal of six pack abs

In bull runs, the markets seem attractive don’t they? Your excitement about markets goes up. In bear runs, you blame the stock market and call it a gambler’s den. Sounds familiar?

Be a consistently active investor or be a consistently passive investor. Don’t be active when markets are rising and passive when markets are falling.

Was it really simple to get six pack abs?

5 point plan! That’s simple. Adhering to that 5 point plan? Now that’s the tough part. It’s easy to give up to temptations. Now do you understand my cousin’s obsession about eating right – both what he eats and how much he eats? And also he follows the same routine even while traveling.

One core life principle is – discipline trumps intellect. And it’s true about nutrition and more so about investing. Be disciplined about where you invest and how much you invest.

In the coming few weeks, we will delve deeper into this from an investing perspective.

What’s the 5 point plan for managing investments?

You can guess this by now but let me spell it out anyway.

  1. Assess your goals and risk profile
  2. Based on 1, form an asset allocation
  3. Within that asset allocation, pick the right investments. ‘Right’ here points to cost efficient and quality investments in each asset category viz. debt, equity and gold – more on this later
  4. Rebalance asset allocation at regular intervals (and not very often!)
  5. Be disciplined on all 4 points above

If you don’t believe me, ask Master Shifu!

Image credit: DreamWorks Animation (Universal Pictures)

Everything is simple. We end up complicating it to prove our intellect to ourselves. There are no quick results ever. If there are, they won’t last. Slow, boring but consistent is an approach that should be applied to everything in life.

And if that’s not enough proof, here’s Po looking at the dragon scroll reflecting back “there’s no secret, it’s you”.

Image credit: DreamWorks Animation (Universal Pictures)

And before you ask – No, I do not have six pack abs but I am fit. I am no billionaire investor but I have managed my investments well.

Some day……..I will be a billionaire with six pack abs.

3 thoughts on “Is investing really that complex? Is anything really that complex? Is rocket science even rocket science?

  1. Great article Mihir. I’m looking forward to more from you. You were the person who helped me choose and decide where to invest to build my emergency fund. As of December 2020, you’ll be happy to know I met my goal in three years. Consistent approach. Thank you for your help long ago!

    Like

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