Of Decisions and Outcomes

Many a times we arrive at a metaphorical fork in the road, having to make a decision which way to go. Which dish to pick? which colour to choose for that bag? Which girl to choose? Which stock to buy? When to buy?

Fork in Road

For most people it comes naturally, decision making process learnt through parental influence, informed by knowledge through education, reading, friends etc. Do we choose the decision that feels right for us or do we choose the logically, rational decision. And then do we fear the decisions we make or potential outcomes that may come out from it that would paralyse our decision making process.

The classic analogy of how making decisions can be so overwhelming is an anecdote from the film, The Legend of 1900, think Forest Grump type of biopic lifestory about a musical piano genius who was born, grew up and died on an oceanliner.

Take piano: keys begin, keys end. You know there are 88 of them. Nobody can tell you any different. They are not infinite. You’re infinite…. And on those keys, the music that you can make… is infinite. I like that. That I can live by….

You rolled out in front of me a keyboard of millions of keys, millions and billions of keys that never end. And that’s the truth Max, that they never end. That keyboard is infinite… and if that keyboard is infinite, then on that keyboard there is no music you can play. You’re sitting on the wrong bench…. That is God’s piano.

Christ, did you… did you see the streets, just the streets? There were thousands of them! Then how you do it down there, how do you choose just one… one woman, one house, one piece of land to call your own, one landscape to look at, one way to die…?

Land? Land is a ship too big for me, it’s a woman too beautiful, it’s a voyage too long, perfume too strong…. It’s music I don’t know how to make. I can never get off this ship.

-Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon 1900

Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon never set a foot out of the ship, never existed out on land before, never knew what other wonders of the world, never know what love was or wasn’t out there because of the choices and decisions that he saw faced him and it overwhelmed him in the end.

You can never make the right decision

Faced with the idea of investing, it is equally a minefield of decision making process. What to buy? When to buy? How to buy? Are FANG stocks overvalued? Is the S&P overvalued? Is value investing going to provide better returns?

The thing is we will never know until after the event has happened and when we look back in retrospect, which is not very useful. And what every responsible mutual fund would have on their prospectus is the warning that past performance is not indicative of future results. What is useful though is evaluating the reasons why things played out the way it did. History tends to repeat itself after all.

What has been shown to affect performance of a portfolio are:

  • Expense Ratios
  • Trading Costs
  • Management Charges
  • Tax

Therefore, sticking to low cost index funds with a passive approach in a tax efficient strategy sounds like you might do pretty good enough in the long run.

Being Average is good enough

I used to have a friend who told me that if he had average grades, had an average girlfriend and lived an average life, he would be content enough in life. Thinking back, I thought how sensible this idea was.

The issue with chasing returns in investing through active investing is that it is a Zero Sum game. When someone in the system makes a profit, someone else has to be making a loss. (with the middle man taking his cut via the transaction costs). It is difficult to be make the right decisions again and again year after year. In fact there is evidence that over 10 years 83 percent of US active managers fail to match their benchmarks and perhaps only around 5% of managers do outperform the market for 3 consecutive years.

Perhaps for the average person investing for the long term, average is good enough after all.

Outcomes

Martin Lewis always had the knack of simplifying complex financial jargon and principles into bits that are easily digestible.

The Coin Bet

Say I offered you a bet on heads or tails of a coin flip.
If I win, I get £1 from you.
If you win, you get £100 from me.
50/50 Odds

We flip the coin and you lost! You lose £1 to me.

Was it a good decision (to take the bet)? Yes because there was a great potential upside to it.

But you lost £1 pound!

The crux here is that it was a good decision but the outcome was bad. The two are actually quite distinct really and we shouldn’t let the potential of a bad outcome affect our ability to make a good decision. Think of some of the decisions we make all the time that perhaps may not have had the desired outcome. Not neccessary on financial decisions, but perhaps in relationships, in choosing our habits etc. It might give us a idea of how closely related a decision is related to an outcome.

 

You can see the whole video of Martin’s lecture on Martin Lewis: How to teach your kids about debt here

Hope 2018 would be as kind as 2017.

FIREplanter

Brexit is Upon Us All. Life goes fucking on.

Life’s a relentless bitch so far for most of us. Just some quick thoughts for this month whilst I can get a break.

So we all heard, Article 50 for exiting the European Union has been triggered. Britain is going to be out of EU, loads of debate and negotiations going on about the terms and conditions of the exit. And then I start receiving emails about 50 opportunites in the Post Brexit World. As I mentioned above, I don’t have time nor energy for all these. If I were to start thinking about whether Brexit is going to affect me and worry about things like this, how would I be able to live my life?? (I should be worrying shouldn’t I)

I am starting to appreciate theescapeartist’s point on ‘No News is Good News‘ in the sense that not actively gobbling up the news or all information or reports out there like a news junkie is actually ‘good’ for your mental health, wealth and general happiness.

The idea of passive investing helps too, giving the market free rein to go where ever it wants. Let capitalism takes its course. We do our bit by focusing on ourselves, having tight finances and good cash flow and asking ourselves what we really need to be happy and really how much do we really need to be content.

The best things in life are the simple things.

I have also read a great article last weekend: The Greatest asset is YOU postulating that basically what we ourselves are our greatest asset. And with time we are in fact transmuting our human capital  into other forms of value, ie Financial capital, social capital, etc. It is up to us to make the transmution process be more efficient and maximise its potential, piling up the right kinds of assets rather than liabilities.

Fireflies-in-trees-by-Yu-Hashimoto
Fireflies in Trees by Yu Hashimoto

Some day I swear. I am going to see it with my own eyes.

Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House 21 April – 7 May 2017. Might be worth having a look. Photos are captured dreams after all.

-Fireplanter

 

AD 2017. Lighthouse for the Cruising Ship.

Living is nothing but consuming time until you die.

-Tehching Hsieh

I came across this performance art piece by Tehching Hsieh, a Taiwanese where he explored the meaning of time and living. Within a year from April 11, 1980 to April 11, 1981, he challenged himself to punch a time clock EVERY hour on the hour. In his ‘Timeclock’ piece, he recorded his progress every hour by taking a single film exposure. And then he compressed into a 6 mins video of art.

As crazy as it sounds, 24 punches per day for 356 days equals 8760 hours that he has to be awake to punch the time clock on the hour. I think he only managed to get 8627 mugshots, which meant that he missed 133 punches. All basic societal routine is thrown out, in terms of sleeping, eating, being free to roam about and this brings his interaction to time as close as it can be.  This is in essence watching a deliberate human interaction with time and his reflection on his experience shows how we can reinterpret living and time.

Notes:

  1. Notice how he wears a prisoner-esque clothing, perhaps to reflect the ‘Life Sentence’.
  2. Missing 133 time records in his piece either due to human failure or mechanical failure. Very reflective of how life experience is.
  3. Doesn’t this remind you of everyone around us, punching timeclocks as our daily routine? We are a slave to this then. There are some freedoms we cannot attain.

I punch time for every hour; its repetition but another way to see it, its is not repetition because it’s a new hour

In life we are in a process

 And here I am punching my time clock. If life is as bleak and simple as he breaks it down to be, I think it is up to ourselves to fill in all the bits in between punching the time clock to make it what it meaningful to ourselves and to have to freedom to fill it up with what we value and find important.

Lighthouse for 2017!

There are certain goals I would like to set out to try to get myself going a little. I don’t want to be too focused on attaining too far-fetched goals but hopeful this can be a guide to give me direction when I get lost in my journey (too often this has happened in the past). This are some financial ones I have set out in a forum I am part of:

1) Save £15 000 in 2017
2) See Dividend in 2017 increase compared to 2016
3) Keep outgoings at a similar level compared to 2016
4) Complete a full years worth of accounts, including Savings Rates, Outgoings
5) Read at least 5 Books
6) Join Park Run and get it going.

Others I want to include to keep exploring myself and help me grow as a person:

7) Produce a short film (A simple one will do)
8) Travel more – Crazy idea to plan a hike from Chamonix-Zermatt (Hey if you are not going to do it when you are in your 20s, when are you going to do it?)
9) Write more. Poems, Prose, anything.
10) Spend time with people I love (more than anything, it helps you learn about yourself)

I think like FI, many other things in life needs that bit of planning and visualizing and working towards before you arrive there. For some, it might come naturally or society has pre-programmed it into most, but for others it will take some exploration and deliberation. No one said it was easy.

I am curious what else I will encounter in 2017. And you?

-FIREplanter

The Pursuit of Freedom

We can only escape so far. We can only be so free. There is a point where we can no longer be free-er. Most times our own attitudes and fears are trapping ourselves. The environment most of us live in contributes to that as well.

I haven’t been feeling great these few days as I have taken 2 weeks off work and I know the team isn’t coping too well with other people being off sick and stuff. Imagine this, away on annual leave, but not getting peace along with it knowing you are contributing to part of the problem (not really, it’s the problem with the system i think). I think it is important to learn that live goes on with or without you. You are never the centre of the universe you thought you are. On the journey I realise there are many things other side of work that is worth valuing and spending time on (family, friends). On the other hand, the act of going to work gives me structure in daily life and new experiences.

A needless anxiety I shouldn’t be suffering. I need hasten my plan to build more of the plants to fuel this freedom.

 

The world is much more than I.

Greece
Refugees in Greece. Mum feeding kid along railway tracks Photo: Tobias

Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in work and life rolling on. Seconds become minutes, minutes becomes hours, hours become days, days become weeks, weeks become months and then years and decades and at some point people reach a point when they pause and think ‘what’s the point of all this?’ ‘Where is the end?’ (Midlife crisis?) I think we all have our mini crisis on a daily and weekly basis hence needing to look forward to happy hump day and weekends!

Well we are lucky that time flows in one direction and all things must come to an end (sounds morbid I know), but that means all things good or horrible will not last forever. So we should just enjoy the view, appreciate the tears of joy and sorrows along the way and consider that everyone else is on the journey as well. It is one reason I enjoy stories, real or fiction reminding me there are others out there feeling the same worldly frustrations or wonders. Reflecting on other people’s stories also reminds you that the world is much bigger than your five senses or your internal narrative.

Hence the photo narrative can hopefully be a therapeutic break for the mind. The world is much more than I.