11Jun 2016

The Appeal of Long Term Investing

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Breaking with my normal method, I am scribbling this quite fast around 4.30pm on a Tuesday Afternoon (blimey, the Markets are about to shut, maybe I should be looking at my Stocks) as I want to watch the ‘Gold Rush’ new series tonight (Discovery Channel) and I know that will distract me from my ramblings (OK, you can see I started this Blog in Draft form way back in October – yes, sometimes they take that long for me to drum up the enthusiasm to finish them off.)

This will probably be quite a short Blog (yeah, right) as it is a fairly simple idea that I want to get down on paper – something that hit me over the weekend and I thought it would be a good Blog subject. When I say it hit me at the weekend, I mean the idea of a Blog hit me at that time – the actual concept I will discuss hit me a few weeks back whilst I was working on the Empiric Student Property ESP Blog (blimey o’riley, that was a long time ago – there’s even been a Rights Issue since that !!)

It hinges on why I like doing what I do. When I think back over my Life so far, one of the most happiest and enjoyable times for me was when I was a Student in Portsmouth doing a Business Studies Degree back in 2002 to 2006 ish, starting at the late age of 27. This is not to say in any way that I am generally a miserable git, ok, I probably whinge a lot but that is just my Gender and advanced Years, but on the whole I think I am a fairly positive and calm sort of geezer. I’m really not someone to be down and sad – it’s just not my thing.

Looking back on things, I feel that I have been a happy person all of my life, that is just how I am – or if not so much ‘happy‘, I have certainly been level and calm (Emotional swings take effort and I can‘t be arsed with all that sort of silliness). However, it is like I have gone through different stages of happiness and experience – I suspect most Readers of a certain age can relate to this. Living in difference places, with different people, doing different ‘career’ type stuff, all adds up to these different phases I guess.

Obviously one of the truly great things about Uni was the Partying and Booze etc. and the whole Social Thing which is pretty much an unbeatable experience in anyone’s life. One thing that always hits me is that wherever people went to Uni, even in some right dump of a place, they always had a great time – it is obvious that the whole experience of freedom, socialising, experimentation of youth, first steps into the Adult world, Clubs, opportunities to do Sports etc. make for some of the Best Years of our Lives. If you are really young (or not all that young !!) and not been to Uni but you have the opportunity, don’t hesitate, do it – worry about costs and suchlike later.

Anyway, enough of that. I must mention that I actually really enjoyed the ‘Work’ of Studying (please promise you won’t tell anyone cos it makes me look like a right Geek). It is unclear to me why this might have been, but I really did get into writing Essays, Assignments, Projects, etc. and the Big Daddy, my Dissertation, which was on ‘Retail Business Opportunities on the Information Superhighway’ – this was 1995 remember so it was pretty innovative and cutting edge – no-one else on my course was writing anything like this. It was so many years back that we didn’t even refer to it as the Interweb then !!

I guess I liked the writing stuff because of a number of things – partly because up until then I had done ‘real jobs’ like Managing a Supermarket and Selling Motorbikes etc. and this ‘sitting at a desk typing stuff’ seemed a shed load easier and of more importance to me I suspect. I was in control.

The more I think about it the more this ‘control’ aspect rings true – although I think I am a pretty good ‘Team Player’ the truth is that I will default to working on my own and being fully in control of something. When working on an Assignment or my Dissertation, I called the shots – I decided the Headings Structure, the Subjects to be covered, the Project Timeline to get the job done and the standard of the Final Submission, etc.

My last real job was working for Fujitsu (the IT Services company) as a Proposal Manager where my responsibility was to take charge of the End Documents that would be submitted to a Customer as part of the Tender Process for some sort or other £multi-million IT Project. I actually really enjoyed this Job but got crazily frustrated and annoyed by the lack of control I could exert over the Project Timeline to get the Documents produced to a very high standard. It was absolutely infuriating as everything got pushed to the last minute and the standard of Documents we submitted more often than not was well below the level I thought they should be and it was always a botched and rushed job.

This struck me as total insanity but after many years of raising the Issue with Senior Management nothing ever changed – in fact, their solutions usually meant the whole thing got worse !! Their usual solution to an overly complex and bureaucratic Process was to add in more layers of pointless ‘Box ticking’ tasks !! (I bet this is ringing bells with many Readers right now). So, the fact of the matter was that however much I tried to produce Submissions of the utmost Quality, the constraints and inefficiencies of the Organisation battled against me achieving that aim – and bizarrely the Senior Management could never understand why our Bid Win-Rate was so poor !!

Now, as a Full Time Long Term Investor and totally amateur Blogger (god, I hate that word actually, it sounds so Mickey Mouse) I am pretty much in total control of everything I do and I am the Boss. It really is a great lifestyle choice – no one bossing me about with dumb-ass ideas and stupid political rules etc. and I can work as much as I want and when I want (to a point obviously, I can’t just do 1 hour a week of research and expect to make money !!).

I really enjoy and revel in researching Companies and producing the Blogs like I did on ESP is like taking me back 20 years or so when I was doing a very similar thing with writing my Essays and stuff. It’s the elements of doing the research, taking notes, creating an Essay Plan and Headings Structure, producing First Drafts and then refining, and the final Proof Reading and upping the Quality. It’s sad I know, but I really like doing it.

My recent Blog on Netplay NPT was a great example of how I like to work – I had decided in advance that I really wanted to Push the Boat out on that one and do it to a very high standard – and because I am in control totally I was able to work on it until I was happy enough for it to go live.

I remember at Uni that several of the Students on my course were planning to become ‘Business Analysts’ and I didn’t really understand completely what this meant, but it did strike me that I knew massively more about Business than any of them did – the obvious fact being that none of them had actually worked full time in a business and I had at least 12 years of Work Experience behind me. However, it also struck me that I would like to have a job where I studied Businesses and Markets and suchlike – and in fact, for 6 months of my Placement Year with ICL I did exactly this and quite liked it. However, the way things developed was that I sort of fell into IT Telecoms Sales (probably because I had been Selling Motorbikes for many years) and that is how my path went once I left University – so the study and analysis of Businesses and Markets got pretty much forgotten.

Until I tripped over this weird thing called The Stockmarket.

It is rather strange in another way – when I was a kid I was utterly useless at seeing anything through to a conclusion. I am sure many Kids are like this, but I was terrible at starting something and then just giving up after a short time. I have no idea how or why this changed as I grew up, but now I am probably one of the Greatest Completer/Finishers of all time (now, that is some accolade) and once I have a Structure decided for the Document I relish filling in the gaps and getting the job done. Weird.

I suspect that this really comes from having worked for so many years. In the Real World of work you have to get things done and complete stuff (having said that, I did find that in Fujitsu many people seemed to create great careers by announcing they were going to do something innovative and amazing but never actually doing it !!), and I guess this has now got drilled into me.

I guess another attraction is a feeling of creating something – I must get some sort of satisfying glow out of producing a decent Blog and I have no doubt that creating my Website made me very happy – particularly because I had no idea what I was doing (yeah, it shows, I know) but I got stuck in and figured it out. I guess it is that feeling of taking on a Challenge and completing it pretty well.

So, to sum it all up, whilst writing the ESP Blog it took me back to a really fun and happy period of my Life while I was at Uni in Portsmouth – I am sort of doing similar ‘work’ with my Investing and Website activities but I am only missing out on the Booze and the Fast Women – but I am too old for the Booze now anyway !!

In a wider sense than just the Company and Market Research aspect of Investing, I guess the appeal of Long Term Investing also has the following features:

  • Freedom – luckily I seem to be able to make enough of a success of Investing to enable me to live very comfortably and to be totally free from having to do a Real Job. After nearly 7 years of Freedom I cannot possibly imagine having to go back to the daily grind of the Rat Race – no thanks !! I am in full control of my time and my life – I wouldn’t now swap this for anything. Life is too short and we never know how many days we have on this Planet – each day becomes marginally more valuable – so many people forget this.
  • Constant Improvement – as the years go by I am constantly amazed by the scope to continually improve my Investing Activities. I have been at this for probably about 17 years now but I am sure that every year I get a bit better – some years (even now) the leap forward in my abilities is quite noticeable. This is amazing really, after all this time you would expect any improvement to be marginal at best, but in fact it is possible to have some real ‘Eureka’ moments and make big strides forward. For instance, I have no doubt that in 2015 I learnt hugely from the Trader types on Twitter and incorporated many more ‘Trading’ concepts into how I do things – perhaps I did a bit of this before but in 2015 my discipline improved and I understand more the importance of these Trading techniques. Another big recent change for me has come from reading Kahneman’s ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ book – this has really made me realise how much my Brain tries to trick me.
  • Competitive Challenge – this has a couple of aspects – there is clearly a Benchmarking Process against how other Investors / Traders have done over a year but also it is about comparing my own performance against what I have achieved in previous years and trying to get better and better. It is a great thing about Investing that the Results are clear and quantifiable – you either make good money or you don’t. Yes, lots of the processes and techniques and skills are qualitative in their nature and there is a lot of ‘Art’ to how I do things, but when it comes to the crunch, the Returns I produce each Year are there in Black & White and are objective. I must expand on this ‘Art’ thing – many ‘Traders’ have a very disciplined and structured approach – this is no doubt a great way to make money but for me it is also about the Art of Investing – I am happy to trade superb Monetary Returns for smaller Monetary Gains but working with the Markets in a way which I find enjoyable and comfortable – this is really very important I think. If you do not enjoy what you are doing, then perhaps it is not really worth pursuing in that way. I am of the belief that if you enjoy what you are doing and work hard at it then the Monetary Gains will come.
  • Multi-disciplinary – there is just so much to Long Term Investing. Many a Layman might think dealing in Stocks is just “Buy Low, Sell high” but that is just so, so wide of reality. The truth is that the skills needed are almost never ending – here are some off the top of my head: Ability to Research, Mathematical skills, Probability skills, Statistics skills, Technical Analysis knowledge and ability to apply, understanding of Business Structures (HR, Accounts, Production, Legal, Sales, Marketing, Distribution, Operations, R&D, Public Relations etc.), understanding of Markets and how they function, understanding of Macroeconomic concepts, Psychology knowledge especially with regard to market players, understanding Risk Management concepts, Ability to be self-disciplined and patient, Understanding of how your Brain tries to fool you, a relaxed and calm disposition, ability to think in a rational and unemotional way – engage the Slow Brain, ability to overcome Fear and Greed when they hit you, self confidence to make and follow own decisions which could have serious impacts, Energy and self-drive to work alone and keep pushing forwards despite many and countless challenges, ability to work with other people to find and exploit ideas, humility to accept you get things wrong sometimes, analytical ability to constantly review and adapt your methods, openness to new ideas and techniques, adaptability to changing Markets, ability to cut out ‘Noise’ and focus on what counts, ability to peer into the near future and see the potential in a Business, critical skills to spot the WheelieBin Junk and avoid it, ability to seek out and differentiate to align yourself with the truly best Investors, ability to stay calm under severe pressure, enjoyment of analysis and the whole process of Investing, constant striving for improvement, interest and knowledge of Current Affairs and Politics, systematic and repetitive approach to working, grace under pressure (sorry, just had to get the title of a Rush album in), an understanding of the benefits of alcohol (or Choccie in Diana Patterson’s case) etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc………………. 

(I must have written that list way back in October – I am almost impressed myself coming across it again now in April 2016).

Of course this just focuses on some narrow attractions to me of Long Term Investing and barely touches things like Complexity, Challenge, all round Skills required, Competitive element and of course it pays the bills – but hopefully this gives Readers a throwback to a former life and my misspent younger days and will get you all thinking about your own motivations to drive towards greater Investing Achievements and ensure your Freedom if you have it or help you get there soon.

Sorry that turned out to be a ‘Wall of Text’ but I hope you found some interesting concepts shoved in there somewhere.

Geekily yours, WD.

LSE ST Article

Article written by @wheeliedealer

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