Friday, May 05, 2023

Thoughts #31: Investment Advice for Friends

As self-proclaimed investment gurus, friends tend to seek us out for investment advice and we tend to give freely, without contemplating the consequences. Most of the time, we share ideas that we are thinking of OR ideas that we already own and as conversations with friends go, there is no in-depth discussion and exact instructions are not provided. For example, a typical conversation will be:

Friend: "Hey, any stock lobang (good investment opportunity)"

Investor: "Yeah, check out Sembcorp Marine,  I bought already."

Friend: "Why is it good?"

Investor: "Energy is in demand, now oil price so high. Sembcorp will benefit."

Friend: "Oh yes, that is true, any risk?"

Investor: "They always need to put in a lot of capex, basically capital expenditure to build rigs and the industry is highly cyclical, so some competitors go bust. But no worries, Keppel will buy them if anything goes wrong."

Friend: "Ok, ok, I go buy tomorrow."

There are a few issues right here. There is no entry price, no target price and as such we do not know when to exit. Also, what is the size to commensurate the risk involved? These important points are all not spelt out. So when things go wrong, the investor sells at a loss and recommends that the friend do so, he or she may not follow because psychologically, loss-aversion is at work. Most people find it very hard to cut loss. Even when things go right, it is time to take profit, greed takes over and when the investor has sold, sometimes friends do not want to sell also. 

Such is the difficulty of providing investment advice on a casual basis.

Well, most friends are understanding and they know, it is always caveat emptor. You cannot fault your investor friend for providing advice just as you cannot fault your makan guru (foodie) friend for recommending you to his favorite restaurant which may not be to your liking. Of course, not all friends are like that.

To continue to hypothetical situation above:

Friend: "Hey Sembcorp died! What happened?"

Investor: "Well, it is highly cyclical, they did a lot of capex in the wrong regions, so when things go wrong, I sold and asked you to sell. Did you sell?"

Friend: "But you said Keppel will buy them."

Investor: "Well they did merge in the end. But did not go too well for Sembcorp shareholders. That is why I sold. Why didn't you sell?"

Friend: "I was hoping can rebound. But now lost so much money. Thanks bro... Guess your stock tips are not too reliable."

Investor: "Sorry... can we still be friends? Can I buy you dinner?"

Over the years, I have come to realize that the negatives of providing investment advice outweighs the positive. If he is serious, maybe he should consider subscribing to my Substack and we can have real in-depth and robust discussions on the Substack platform with other like minded subscribers.

Alas, most people just want stock tips. Not to read a 15 minute deep dive note on Substack or anywhere else. Just gimme the get-rich-quick tip bro!

Well, to each its own, we can still be friends.

Huat Ah!

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