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A Common Man's View of Stock Market Investments

I am a marketing professional holding a postgraduate degree in management. I am an active retail investor in Indian stock markets.

A Peak Market Scenario

When stock markets peak across the world, valuations look expensive. Corrections will look imminent when markets reach peak levels. The correction could be about fifteen percent from the peak levels or even as bad as fifty percent. It is difficult to predict how much the markets will go down when they go down.

But what goes up must come down. The markets have gone up for too long. Easy money policies by central bankers around the globe have resulted in the long bull run. Easy money cannot, should not, and will not continue for long.

If the central banks tighten the screws on liquidity, stock markets will give away some or most of the gains. Greed and fear are the two stages in the investment cycle, resulting in a boom or a market crash. It is my view that the markets are due for correction across the world. I am not a stock market expert, and I am just sharing my views as an ordinary retail investor.

The 4 Critical Investment Strategies

  1. Stay in cash.
  2. Identify hidden gems.
  3. Fish at the bottom.
  4. Stay invested for the long term.

1. Stay in Cash

It is prudent for most individual investors to move bulk of their investments to cash, deposits and safe government bonds for now. I am not saying one should sell every stock. One can keep quality stocks with strong fundamentals and sell only the others.

Deposits or government bonds may not give attractive returns, but these do not go down when the rest of the markets do. I am afraid the corrections will not be limited to stocks alone this time. The easy money policy has inflated asset prices across commodities, real estate, and other asset classes.

Therefore, we may see pain in sectors such as commodities and real estate. Digital currencies are susceptible to serious damage.

2. Identify Hidden Gems

This is also the time to identify good value picks among stocks. I follow the old school thought of looking at fundamentals. We need to look at the price-earnings ratio, revenue growth, earnings growth, dividend yield and dividend growth of a stock to decide if a stock has the potential for growth. Most of the metrics are available at the click of a button now. We should also analyze the company's historic performance for the last five years to assess the trends.

We should never listen to advice from financial experts blindly. An expert may recommend, for example, buying a company because it would do well in a low-interest rate regime. But if the low-interest rate regime ends in two months, the expert advice that was given earlier would not be valid anymore. Therefore, we should follow expert advice only when we understand the reasons behind their advice.

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What if one is not interested in all the number-crunching involved? Such a person should stay away from direct exposure to stocks but can invest through the mutual fund route. But even for a person investing in mutual funds, a basic understanding of markets is needed. They should appreciate the differences between an index fund, a sector fund, or a growth fund.

3. Fish at the Bottom

Once the hidden gems are identified, wait for the market to bottom out before buying. This is easier said than done. No one knows for sure where the bottom lies. It could be 25% below the peak, 50% below the peak or even worse.

This is a judgment one needs to make on their own. My personal expectation is that the markets could correct anywhere between 30% to 60% from their peak values across the globe. The assumptions driving such a prediction are tight monetary conditions, excess valuations, and increasing interest rates. But it is tough to predict markets. One should take the views of a non-expert like me with a bagful of salt. You can and should take efforts to understand the markets and form your own judgment on market directions.

One practical approach is to buy when the market corrects by about 10% from the peak. We can divide our planned investments into twenty equal parts, and one part can be invested every month for the next twenty months. This way, we can average out the market fluctuations and hence minimize risk. We can use market correction as an opportune moment to buy.

The stock market is an attractive investment option if and only if an individual is prepared to put in the effort to understand the markets. This would involve a detailed analysis of the sectors and the companies one is interested in investing.

4. Stay Invested for the Long Term

The recipe for success is staying invested in stock markets for long. It is difficult not to sell a stock that has gone up by 25% within a few months. It looks like a great return to make in a short period. But it is possible that this stock has the potential to go up in value by ten times or more only if we stay invested.

Most stocks give attractive returns only when we stay invested for long. It is tempting to make a huge profit in a short time. But success does not come fast. A mango tree takes about eight years to bear fruit. Stock market investments take about the same time to bear fruit in the form of dividends and capital appreciation.

I learnt this the hard way by making small returns and even losing money with a short-term approach. But I made very good returns whenever I have invested in mutual funds or stocks over a longer period.

Experts like Warren Buffett and Rakesh Jhunjhunwala have always advocated the importance of staying invested for long. The compound annual returns from the stock markets could be as high as 20% but only if we stay invested in the long run.

I used to invest only a tiny portion of my savings earlier. Now that my understanding of markets is getting better, I am slowly increasing my exposure to stock markets. I hope you taste success with well thought out investment decisions.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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