Thursday, August 23, 2007

Taking Stock of the Market

There was a time when my participation in the surging Indian financial markets was through a safe and steady Fixed Deposit in my bank. The prospect that the bank was paying me money simply because I had a balance with them was wonderful. (The fact that I was keeping the money in the bank by not paying my booming credit card bills and hence losing all the gains by paying interest when the recovery guys would come banging to my door dawned on me much later.)

The stock market was something that I did not understand and was a definite “not for me” item in my life. The images I had of the stock exchange were from the Doordarshan days – all I could see was a mass of humanity on the floor of a room, shaking their hands around wildly, rabid look in their eyes, holding little pieces of paper, and screaming at no one in particular.

It looked like a mob willing to tear each other from limb to limb if they did not have their way. It made me feel sick and I had mentally decided that I would dance on the pavements and earn money rather than put myself through that.

Also the fact that all my colleagues were equally oblivious to the Stocks and Shares world made it easier for me to renounce it. In 2000, when I was staying in good old Vashi, we ASMs would meet almost everyday and I don’t remember discussing the stock market or the economy even ONCE.

Well all innocence comes to an end as they say (if they don’t, then they should say it. It’s a cool phrase). Soon the lure of investments that “double money soon” caught me as well. Coupled with a slightly better understanding of what Bear and Bull meant, and the introduction of online trading, I was ready to plunge into the choppy waters of the stock market and swim to financial glory.

I bought a few shares on advice from Ritika and others and I was off. Investment in the stock market is like a new born baby. You want to see it move and change and grow all the time like an indulgent, obsessed parent. I would check on my baby every five minutes or so. When prices surged up I would smile. When they fell a bit I would scowl and will it to rise again. I truly believed that if I did not check on the INFOSYS stock price every five minutes, the stock would behave like an errant teenager and do something stupid. It was my disciplined monitoring that made the sunrise sector blossom.

For a while, things were good. The markets were up and everyday when I opened the “Your Portfolio Value today” mail from ICICIDirect, my chest would swell with pride and appreciation at my new found financial acumen. I was an intrepid surfer, riding the financial waves with ease and style. And I was shimmering in the shine of the Indian share market.

Then came the fall. It started innocuously. A few heads popped up from cubicles across office and said things like “Tanked” and “Volatile”. I looked around a bit nervously. It was only after I heard PJ laugh maniacally and say “..phat gayi YAAAR..” that I started getting a bit worried. You know something is really wrong when the guy with all the corporate airs in the world starts using phrases like that.

Soon there were tea cup holding little gatherings at almost every cubicle. I eyed the window nervously as more phrases like “SEXSEX slips further” “There is no bottom” “Huge correction” flew thick and fast across the floor. I sprang up when I heard “It’s a blood bath at the bourses”. The old images of the stock market with people screaming and tearing at each other came flooding back.

The day ended with me slumped on the chair in Guru Dutt-esque pose. For the first time I understood what the great depression must have been like. I slung my laptop on my shoulder and dragged myself home. My hair disheveled, my eyes sunk and dark, my outlook as bleak as the markets.

As I slumped into the chair, I sighed out a question to Ritika: “Did you see what happened to the stock market?”

She turned to me with bright cheery eyes and said “Yes. Good na? It fell sharply, now I can buy again.”

I did a double take. The market had claimed a victim in my own backyard!

I sputtered, “Why? Why? Why buy? There was a blood bath. It tanked. THERE IS NO BOTTOM!” I ended on a high note with my voice seeped in panic.

She gave me her “whatzthematterwithyou” look. “Shome, it’s a cycle. In few months time it will go up again. The papers have been talking about it for days now. It’s a great time to buy. Buy some more and average your prices. Haven’t you read the papers?”

I sheepishly admitted that I had not. “But I have been checking prices every five minutes”

“Usse kya hoga?” she asked

I tried my level best to come up with an intelligent response but failed miserably.

“Its all very simple. Every time the prices go down, buy the stocks you want. Every time the prices go up and reach your target, sell the stocks and realize the gains. That’s all that there is to it.”

I could hear harp and accordion and happy chorus in the background. The blinding clarity of Ritika’s words were… well… blinding. It made so much sense that I suddenly saw the stock market in new light. And for the first time, it did look very simple.

My wife made me understand the stock market the best. More that any article I had ever read, more than all those tips that the breathless experts from CNBC gave out, and much more than the sour faced brokerage house gurus who try to confuse rather than clarify.

Now I am back and deep diving with alacrity into the ocean of wealth that the stock market is. I don’t check my portfolio every five minutes. In fact I check it only once a week. And I am not tearing my hair out when the markets fall or go skipping in joy when they go up…... All I do is wait for the right price.


diya said...

Well it is nice to see you are back,thought you had fallen off the edge of the blogging world. Let me tell you that along with your uber cool blog there is something else that is uber cool about you i.e. your wife. She also dropped this same info to me during a conversation and it has stuck on my mind more clearly than when I had the whole thing explained to me by my friend Avanti long years back (actually can't remember what she told me about those maniacs on the stock exchage floor, it had seemed clear enough at that time). Following Ritika's counsel I often call the husband at odd hours in the office after watching the news and say-" why don't you buy some shares, the the snsx hs faln so many points" which suitably zonks him out of his stupor. He has engaged these agents who call him from time to time to ask whetr he wants sme shares , but not being enlightened by Ritika he has not dared to get any! My prob is that I have no money of my own now, but the moment I start earning I kno I'll dabble in this stuff.
Anyhow keep going bro ur blog is as interesting as it is beautiful, or should I say handsome?

CS said...

So glad some things never change! I always knew she was smarter than you.

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