Studies of Life

Learning by doing.

Factor Portfolio Test for 2017: A Sun and its Satellites

03 February 2017 by Jim

(Picture by Steve Snodgrass)

Another year has gone by, and I would like to give an update on my personal stock portfolio. I currently think that index investing is the smartest choice, and that is why 75% of my portfolio is made up of index ETFs. However, a part of me continues to think that if you try to invest intelligently using a portfolio that is different from the overall market, you should be able to do better than the market. Maybe a few more years of dabbling and getting subpar returns will cure me of this illusion. For now, I’m not yet fully ready to accept that index investing is the best anybody can do. Not because I’m greedy and dream of making 20% ROI per year, but because I think that it should be possible for a rationally thinking human to be better than average. (more…)

Would an old Indian marvel at the sight of an elephant?

19 January 2017 by Jim

Photo by Toshihiro Gamo.

Rob Siltanen, the creative director of an ad agency famous for working with Apple in its early days, wrote in an ad campaign:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things.” (more…)

China’s rise will be the central story of the 21st century

07 January 2017 by Jim

(photo by Maher Najm)

I've been reading the excellent When China rules the world by Martin Jacques, and his views on China are very illuminating. The book is not really focusing on the future, at least to me it isn't, because it spends a lot of time trying to explain what China is right now, and the many ways in which reality does not conform to the Western view of the country. This Western view was also my own, which is why it feels so illuminating to correct it.

First of all, China has different values from the West. It does not exist in a binary world of either democracy or authoritarian rule. There has never been a tradition of a strong civil society in China, and the government is not an iron-fist ruler on top of a squealing mass of people, but rather an integral part of society and the country. There is no distrust of the government, no feeling that its power needs to be constrained in the way that the Europeans and Americans try to keep their governments in check. In one specific way, though, China does believe in democracy: international democracy, i.e. the right of all countries to have a say, which means that the current Western, i.e. Initially European and now American-dominated world order is coming to an end, in favour of more multipolar structures, including the G20, with lots of developing countries finally getting a say. (more…)

Burning the bridge to the past and the future

07 December 2016 by Jim

I have already written about Buddhist thought on this blog, and part of Buddhist meditation is about being fully present. This is extremely important and shows that Buddhism has a deep understanding of how we experience reality.

What does that mean?

Well, have you ever experienced flow? Have you ever been so absorbed in what you were doing, be it dancing, working, drawing, running, or even a good discussion with a friend? That is a moment where you were present, and fully in the present, without your mind being drawn away from that moment to other places and times. If you’ve ever experienced this, you know it makes you profoundly happy. (more…)

The Risks in European P2P Investing: From 20% to 10% and then 5%

18 November 2016 by Jim

(Image by InvestmentZen – www.investmentzen.com)

I am an investor in P2P loans in Europe. I started out with Bondora in 2014, and after burning my fingers there, I moved on to seemingly safer alternatives, including Twino, Mintos, ABLRate, SavingsStream, FellowFinance, etc. Many people scared by what happened at Bondora will have made the same journey.

What went wrong with Bondora you might ask? Well, misaligned incentives for one thing, and shoddy management decisions for another. The platforms basically promised 20% ROI per year, which was – with hindsight obviously – excessive. They have since revised this figure. Also, they tried to hide data by changing the way that statistics are displayed on the site constantly. None of that builds trust.1 (more…)

Buddhist meditation as blueprint for an enjoyable life

28 October 2016 by Jim

 (Photo by Wonderlane)

After years of dabbling in meditation, and after having been inspired by the wonderful books of Daniel M. Ingram, Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki and Culadasa, I’ve been getting more serious about it and meditating almost every day for close to three months. That might not sound like much, but to my personal life it has already made an enormous difference. I feel blessed to have discovered how powerful it is, and that is why I want to share my thoughts to inspire others.

What is so powerful about meditation? (more…)

Chinese modernity and its idiosyncracies

25 October 2016 by Jim

As Martin Jacques suggests in his book When China rules the World, further development will not lead to China becoming like the West. Instead, Chinese modernity carries its own cultural idiosyncrasies, as Japanese modernity does: even though Japan is at least as developed as Europe and Northern America, it is very different in even the most basic features of its society, including its social relationships and the role of its institutions.

This in itself is a lesson in humility. China will develop in its own interesting way, so we do not have a blueprint for how things work out. Indeed, it might be suggested that instead of all countries converging on Western liberal market democracy as the ultimate form of the state, developing countries might well get inspiration from other, well-functioning and fast-growing countries like China, which enjoy a lot of social peace despite not having the same kinds of freedoms as the West does. (more…)

What are your personal truths?

04 August 2016 by Jim

Note for the long-time subscribers of this blog: This post is mostly about philosophical thinking, it’s not centred on investing, so you might want to skip it if that’s not your thing. 

After reading Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World, an excellent children’s book that’s also an introduction to the history of philosophy, I felt it might be quite useful to talk about a very important distinction about what truth means.

In the history of philosophy, it’s quite obvious that what is held to be true in one age or century can be deemed false a few decades later, so how much of an actual absolute truth is there really to find? Do we even have a deep, unchanging nature that philosophy can tell us about? According to French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, the answer is no. (more…)

How should I invest? Have a look at the Universal Investment Equation!

30 April 2016 by Jim

After my last post on switching to an evidence-based investment strategy, I continued thinking about what we could consider to be the ‘truth’ of investing, and I’ve had a sudden epiphany.

What you can see above is a very simple equation that describes what investing is about. In other words:

Capital x Time x Rate of Return = Wealth.

If you increase one of these three first factors, you increase the product, i.e. the end result. So your wealth increases if you:

  1. invest more capital, or
  2. invest for a longer period of time, or
  3. (more…)

Recalibrating to an evidence-based investment strategy

16 January 2016 by Jim

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a few months know that I love experimenting with stock investing strategies. While I was using the Trending Value strategy in my own portfolio, and constantly looking for a way to improve it further, I’ve begun to think that maybe the best way to improve my portfolio was not to be found in another stock selection factor, but instead in another direction.

According to many people, including the founder of Vanguard, a portfolio of passive index ETFs is the best approach for most people. I have more reason to believe Vanguard than other fund providers, because Vanguard asks significantly less for its service, which tells me it’s not in it to make a quick buck. I think Bogle really wants to educate investors. (more…)

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