The multicultural equivalent of wealth

I grew up in a gated mining town where I was isolated from the world. Because of the mining company, the public school attended had better facilities than most public schools in my country. There were plenty of textbooks. There was a library full of books. The schools had everything.

I felt safe to walk through the streets at night because of the street lights. Since permits were required to enter the town, there were fewer people coming in town. This, for us, meant lower crime rates.

During my teenage years, my mother went back to university to further her education. Since she lived in a small apartment near her university campus, I went to live with my grandparents in their village. I attended a local junior secondary school (junior high) which was different from where I grew up. First, the classes were larger, and the buildings were rundown from years of vandalism. My new peers borrowed everything, pencils, sharpeners, anything. Most of them could not afford uniforms and had to bear the harsh winters since the principal did not approve of anything that was not the school uniform.

It made me uncomfortable to see people struggling while I had everything I needed for school. It was a shock. We were all around the same age, yet there was a wisdom in some of my peers’ faces. They had experienced more hardships than I could ever imagine. It made me feel spoilt. And I quickly grew out of the selfish, only child mindset and learned how to share my resources.

In addition to this, my grandparents lived near a bus rank (bus station). There was a constant bustle, with people either living or coming into the small village. There were constant attacks. Thefts. Harassments. The crime rate was high. At one instance, a young woman escaped her assailants by running straight into our house since the door was open. My grandfather kept it open because he wanted fresh air. This prompted my grandfather to put locks on the gates. I became paranoid. Every time I walked in the streets, I looked behind me to check if someone was following me. It was probably my own footsteps.

By luck, I ended up in a private school for my senior secondary school years, the equivalent of high school. I was in boarding school, so I was gated in again. I was safe from the outside world. I could walk freely within those gates. I could wear what I wanted within those gates. I felt lucky within those gates.

I was around “rich kids” during those years. They are not the selfish people who tv likes to portray, they just grew up having more. At times, I found myself longing for the things they had and their ability to travel the world. I was impressionable. I forgot about how lucky I was and how far I had come.

That school opened a lot of doors for me.

Now I live Australia. I attend the University of Queensland on a scholarship. My monthly allowance greatly exceeds the minimum wage of people who live in back home.  The university is amazing, advanced. Everyone has a laptop. Everyone has a phone. The internet is fast. Everything is fast. It is a normal way of life for people around me, they are used to it.

Here, I can walk in the street as late as 12 am, from the school library, and feel safe enough to walk, at a normal pace, from the bus stop to my apartment. Nothing is in the dark.

There is a sense of wisdom at having experienced this change. I was content. Now I feel lucky. I keep reminding myself to be grateful and to appreciate where I am. I keep reminding myself not to get used to it. Not because I feel as if it will not last. I never want to forget to be thankful.

 

 

Advertisements

The art of thinking clearly

Reading The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions was eye-opening for me in a lot of ways. I realised that it is absurd to try to rid myself of all kinds of emotions and impulses when making decisions. It is impossible to do that therefore chasing this obsession is futile. Emotion will always be the dominant part of my character. The best I can do is study stoicism.

I felt reprimanded after reading the first chapter. When I started investing, I had high hopes that my success rate would be quick and easy. That I was smart enough to succeed in this world. My arrogance has been knocked down a few notches after being reminded that I have “overestimated the probability of my success”. It was hard to read about the “cemetery”.  A place where failed investors who are just as hard-working and as ambitious as I am may end up regardless of how dedicated they may be.

The book is not as cynical as the previous paragraph makes it seem. It serves as a reminder to appreciate the successes that I have and to always remember that I have come far compared to how I was in the past. He calls to my attention the fact that the more successful people get, the more dissatisfied they are with what they have. As we succeed in life, we tend to compare ourselves to people who may be light years ahead of us and forget far we have come to achieve all that we have.

Additionally, I learned a lot about the human flaws and how we can live with them by just being aware that they exist. I have to have awareness that I am biased and fallible. I have to accept the fact that I am shaped by a lot of things out of my control, evolution, the way I grew up etc. It prompted me to borrow Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovik and Amos Tvesrky’s Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases from the university library because it sparked a new interest on human behaviour.

What I loved about this book is that the author did not claim to have come to some conclusion on how we can better ourselves. I did not want to spoil this book so I barely scratched the  surface. There is more to learn. It is perfect for people who are obsessed with cognitive science too. Like I told my friends, this is not a self-help book!

 

A momentary panic

I was alarmed to see that the value of my investment had plummeted more than 3%. I was not ready for the feeling of distress and the immense temptation I had to sell my asset.

This impulse is intense. It is a constant nudge. An itch I am finding hard to ignore. However, since I am trying to be less rash when it comes to making decisions, I will wait until the value of my asset reaches the lower limit I have set for myself (I learned from my online class that this helps letting go of stock easier). I fear falling into the trap of attaching too much value to my stock to the point where I am unable to let it go.

I am aware that I may be responding to sporadic noise and not information that is impactful. However, because I have one asset, I am keeping a close eye on the security. Watching the daily fluctuations is a highly stressful situation. Despite this, I have no choise but to endure this until my portfolio is more diversified.

Another impulse I am experiencing is the urge to buy another stock to attempt to tip the scale into a more balance position. Where this illogical thought is coming from, I do not understand. As a way to deal with my impulses, like I said before, I have ordered a stock, which I have to cancel in a few hours.

As a way to learn more about impulses and control, I have decided to learn about making decisions under uncertainty. I have already borrowed Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovik and Amos Tvesrky’s Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases from the university library. Hopefully knowing more about my flaws will help me be more reasonable in making decisions.

More kowledge, more confusion

“Information overload” is something most university students have experienced. Especially during those long research projects that drain the life out of them. I genuinely believe that a lot of information is making me stupider. Okay, that is incorrect. It delays my decision-making.

I was contemplating about how easy it was for people back then to make an investment. They probably had one trusted source of information. Therefore, they were more certain about the information they received. In this time of constant flow of information, we are disadvantaged. I am an avid reader and an enthusiastic student however I sometimes find myself uncertain about the accuracy of the information I am absorbing or if it has some bias. This applies heavily to information I look up on the internet. My naiveté may be projecting here and I should be more critical of the type of information I intake. Despite that, it is hard to filter out the noise from everything I read.

The more research I do, the more dazed I get. During the time I decided to buy a camera and have a hobby outside university, I was certain that I wanted to get a DSLR. However, since I was unsure about the brand to purchase, I went to my source of information (google). I looked up people who had  an idea of an appropriate camera to start with as a beginner. I was bombarded with comparisons of brands, pros and cons. Everything was attractive. I was probably drawn in by promotions too. My decision-making process about a simple camera took longer and eventually I settled for the camera I initially wanted.

I should have picked up a book on photography where I would not have been bombarded with a lot of advertisement. This is a valuable lesson. I have to figure out a way to learn more and avoid noise in a world where there is a cacophony of information.

Fixation

Fixation, for me, is when my mind anchors to an attractive stock from Company A and uses it as a scale to measure the worth of Company B. My judgement becomes distorted and biased and I cannot seem to research untouched by the impression Company A gave me. It seems that I have already made a choice before I have already gone through all the options I have. It’s an immense flaw in judgement that I would like to get rid of.

I have gone through the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) website to compile all the health care stock that are listed on it in order to choose one that trumps all of them. I don’t know if this is the right way to do research, but I have yet to come across a website that mentions the research processes that experienced investors use to sort through the many companies they hear of.

I am going to deviate from the topic of this article and clarify that my goal, for the moment, is to try everything until I find a method that works for me. I want to be more fluid in learning and be able to abandon a strategy that does not work for me. I believe everyone should not to be too rigid with their plans. If something does not work, it is justified to try something new. Being obstinate may be a flaw in this world.

After compiling all these companies, I highlight the ones that seem most appropriate to me and focus on them. I visit to their websites and learn everything I can about them. (Honestly, it takes me a while to read about one company because I have to refer to my fundamental analysis notes repeatedly.) When I come across Company A, with its attractive financial statements, my mind fixates on it and even when I move on to Company B and attempt to be more rational in gauging its worth, Company A is still stuck on my mind. It’s like that prediction a psychic tells you that you try to rebel against but end up molding yourself around.

I hope with time I get better with compartmentalization and sorting the longer I do this. I may have to chase rationality throughout this process.