If you are a newbie investor, the world of investing can be intimidating but the lessons learned over time are invaluable, as this young investor discovers.
That is my number one takeaway from the past seven years of being an investor. Through endless nights reading numerous numbers and charts – balance sheets, Fibonacci retracements, and P/E ratios – one would have wagered that my biggest takeaway would have been a well-stocked arsenal of investment tools at my fingertips. Instead, the biggest lessons I’ve gained thus far are humility and self-discovery.
How I got started
Since I was a child, I always enjoyed games of skill – chess, RISK, and the like. I also possessed a fierce competitive spirit, which drove me to sports like hockey. As I grew older, I got introduced to the world of investing through conversations with family and friends. I still remember how in 2014, when I was around 21 years old, being enthralled when my best friend shared how he bought some SingTel shares, suffered a loss and eventually turned a profit by doubling down. It reminded me of my hockey days and how the underdog could turn the tables with heart and fight.
Shortly after, I applied for a Central Depository account (CDP), which is an account that holds all the shares you purchased on the open market, and waited eagerly for the confirmation mail to arrive. I also opened a CFD and Binance account mostly for Forex and Crypto trading. For the uninitiated, the former stands for Contracts for Difference, a way of speculating on prices without owning the underlying asset and is typically mentioned under the same breath as leverage and margin trading. The latter is a Cryptocurrency exchange that allows one to buy or sell tokens.
My first investment was mostly a get-your-feet-wet thing. Looking back, what I thought was technical analysis was much more a guessing game with intuition being the litmus test of whether a trade could be executed. More keen readers would have picked up that I used the word “trade”, immediately dishing out advice such as “don’t trade actively!”, “investing is different from trading!” On hindsight, that is indeed sage advice and urgently needed for newcomers to the investing scene. In a nutshell, investing is playing the long game, and typically involves buying and holding companies at prices lower than their intrinsic value. Trading involves actively buying and selling over shorter time frames.
Together with the advent of exciting technologies such as NFTs and the blockchain, I quickly realised how blurred the lines could get between trading and investing. After depositing my initial pot of gold, I (in typical millennial fashion) toyed with fantastical and grotesque imageries of me doing a 10X (or 1000% ROI) in three months and creating multiple streams of income.
It quickly became a smaller pot of gold.
Looking back, I am humbled, almost embarrassed, to realise how blinded I was with youthful idealism. I learned that while boring is not sexy, boring is dependable. Boring delivers results, not pipe dreams.
What I’ve learned from investing
Investing is not meant to be sexy. Boring wins, again and again. There is a fascinating feeling of watching your hard-earned money dwindle in freefall fashion – it evokes either of two emotions. You decide to flee for safety and never invest ever again, or, as in my case, experience an initial disappointment that which quickly grows into a deep dissatisfaction and intense itch to start knowing what you don’t know.
I found that it wasn’t so much the technical skills and fundamental knowledge that mattered most. On the contrary, gaining a keen grasp of the mind was the biggest challenge; if anything, this was the “skill” that would prove to be the most beneficial, albeit easily elusive. Not having it mastered would be akin to having the fastest engine on a sailing boat but with a poor captain. They say that the stock market is a zero-sum game, and that when someone wins another must lose. I was humbled to find out (quickly) the extent of work needed on my mental game, especially when I experienced losses and setbacks so early on.
Today, seven years after I made my first investment, I am starting to see the comparisons between life and investing. How so? In investing, a common adage is to be greedy when everyone is fearful, and to be fearful when everyone is greedy. To draw parallels to my own life, this has helped me to better see the opportunity and silver lining behind a closed door, and to exercise prudence when life seems extra smooth sailing. In a nutshell, I gathered the nimbleness to see life between two lenses, that of an optimist and a realist.
The road ahead
While I’ve mostly shared the hard-won lessons from my experience with investing, it has not been my intention to discourage anyone keen to start his or her journey. If anything, let me be the canary in the coal mine – through sharing my experiences, I hope that I have alerted newcomers out there understand the darker side of investing. We should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Even though investments come with inherent risks, I strongly believe that there are ways to mitigate the risk, for example, by deploying a “set it and forget it” strategy and using dollar-cost averaging to your advantage.
If you are looking for a stable approach to growing your nest egg, check out MoneyOwl’s Dimensional Fund today. I have been impressed so far with Dimensional’s investing methodology, and will be considering adding a 60-40 equities to bonds portfolio to help my retirement efforts. The MoneyOwl Dimensional Fund offers investors access to a globally diversified portfolio as opposed to stock-picking, based on the research-backed philosophy that time in the market delivers better returns as opposed to timing the market. And as a young millennial, I have all the time in the world.
About the writer: Young Millennial’s POV is a three-part series that examines the world of personal finance from a non-professional’s perspective. The writer, Kevin Ng, is an SG United Trainee with MoneyOwl who describes himself as a self-proclaimed optimist who chooses to see the glass half-full. He stubbornly (and perhaps mistakenly) believes the stock market isn’t a zero-sum game and that there is more than enough pizza to go around the table.