Investing in the Stockmarket since 1998: My real returns are -$2,962 – 20:20 Hindsight Series

This series of posts will look at my purchasing mistakes I made for the limited amount of trading that I have actually. I will look at the entire record, and try to thrash out what lessons there are for investors.

Now bearing in mind that I have traded since 1998 online, I will struggle to remember my actual decisions, rationale, and performance. Who knows what we’ll find out. I hope that it will be useful to all investors.

A Simple Formula

Though since that time there have been dividends and other stock successes, the crude method of working out my return is Money Out+Money Left-Money In=?

Let’s look at the details: Since September 1998, I have deposited $24,980.15 into my trading account at TDAmeritrade.

During that time, I’ve also made withdrawals (to pay for the deposit on our house, to cover unexpected costs, etc.), the total withdrawals are $16,250.

And the remainder in my account is currently $5,767.20. The grand total doesn’t include wiring fees, taxes, etc.. Nor I’m sorry to say, because I live in Taiwan, does it include exchange rate losses/gains.


Simple math will show that I’ve incurred a gross loss $2,962.95 in those 16 years in the stock market. Truthfully, I’ve not been invested all of those years; and since 2010 I’ve been largely in cash anyway. This cash has been earning a measly 0.01% return (or something equally pathetic).

It would be hard to work out the actual profit across the time, but the numbers do tell the simple story. Money Out+Money Left<Money In. Therein lies the problem.

So what did we learn during that time?

That risking capital trading in the stockmarket is foolhardy, you will NEVER (as a private small time investor) EVER be able to be ahead of the BIG BOYS in trading the news.

That Return OF your Capital is always better than Return On your Capital. IOW, you need some ‘margin of safety’, some edge, some qualitative advantage that enables you to get back your capital. Trading the DOW 30 or the NASDAQ is always going to be risky. As we know, even BIG companies (like GM, BAC, Citbank, …) can have their ass handed to them on a plate; if you paid too much for them, or put on your rose-tinted specs too soon, you’ll be looking for your ass, too.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes regarding Bulls, Bears, Bubbles, Bounces, and … whatever other B-word I can think of. Why? Because I trusted other people’s advice, other’s people’s guts, other people’s news… in the stock market, I’ve come to realize, it always pays to do your homework. And never be swayed by the newspapers or CNBC or the Stock Forums or…

Lastly, if it weren’t for my businesses, house & other smaller investments increasing in value, I’d be doubly depressed. In other words, your stock market investing can never be your only or even your major investment. The markets are too speculative, too rigged, too capricious, and Mr. Market always seems to be wondering who he can ream next. Hint: it’s you!

I’ll be returning with a look at the batting average for each of those years from 1998~2014. And a few ideas about what I might be doing next.

Is the trend your friend? Investing in the Up or Down Cycle

When you talk to stock market experts, one thing that they will tell you is that the economies of countries all over the world are linked much more closely together, to the point that they can easily impact one another.


No longer do you have to think about just one economy if you are going to invest in something. You have to look at all of the trends, the news from the entire globe, and you have to consider how each story or event is going to play into each other. Only then can you make investments that are going to be successful.

Contracting Markets: Expanding Markets

For example, a failing economy in one part of the world might mean that more people are out of jobs. Consumers do not have extra money to spend on luxuries, on products or services that they do not need. All of their money has to go towards rent, food and other necessities that they cannot live without, while they spend their time trying to find new jobs. Can you imagine how the luxury goods market has been impacted in Greece, for example?

If you have invested in the stock of a company in your country that produces luxury goods, you might see their stock plummet. Were they making most of their money on exports, sending the goods to well-to-do people overseas? They may be based near your home, but their market could be everywhere else. When that dries up, they are going to lose a lot of domestic sales, even if the international sales keep going well. Or vice versa.

Taking Greece, as our example, the market for premium quality olive oil produced by local growers might contract as home consumers are hard pressed, and prefer to choose smaller amounts or cheaper brands; but export markets might welcome new olive oil for their salads or pizzas!

Depression vs. Recession: History Repeats

This is something that happened during the Great Depression in the United States, after the stock market crash at the end of the 1920s, and it happened again – though to a lesser degree – in the recent recession. When the economy was down, people were losing their jobs and their homes.

They stopped spending money on luxury goods from other countries. They held onto their savings or lived off of them. The economy is just starting to come back now, but a lot of luxury companies in other countries suffered simply because America was not doing well. And America is still one of the biggest markets in the world for exporters in Asia & Europe.

Does this spell opportunity?

Well, let’s take a look at some recent upcycle/downcycle stories. Did you buy Microsoft at $25 recently? If not, you’d be looking at a missed opportunity at an easy 40% upswing. However, if you had plonked your cash down for Lululemon stock, you might be sucking on lemons right now as they’re stock crashed nearly 50%.

And yet in those two stories, there are two vastly different products serving vastly different markets and in vastly different phases of the companies’ lives.image

Microsoft’s Rough Patch

Microsoft (NYSE: MSFT) has hit a rough patch with its consumer products division. Its new Windows 8/8.1 has not received much popular support despite being a nice OS; consumer staples are getting old; and repeated failures in Mobile have all challenged the ‘old’ dog. And wow! Have you seen those clunky Surface Notebooks? OMG.


However, new upcoming products are getting good buzz. Business & Services are going gangbusters… and (let’s face it) Microsoft just isn’t cool right now. Is this a good contrarian play? Perhaps…

Lululemon: SeeThru Performance?


Lululemon makes wonderful & popular quality Yoga & Sports Clothing for women (and men). (NYSE: LULU)

But botching a product redesign, consumer complaints, mishandling of their customer relations, a CEO switcheroo, and the P/E multiple got sliced in half.


Have their products suddenly gone from hot to not? Or is their customer message as see-through as their Yoga bottoms? Clearly the market is voting one way on Microsoft and the other on Lululemon. But when it comes to the final weigh-in, will Mr. Market be right?

As an Investor

… you need to know how this cycle works so that you can decide when to buy and when to sell. If you sold your shares before the recession, you got the most out of them. If you then bought them back after prices plummeted, you could have made a lot of money in the upcycle, as things turned around.

Love to hear your take on this: What are you voting for? What are you weighing?

The World of Investment Banking: Trading, Investing or Managing?

For new and experienced investors alike, the best place to start with managing your money and investing it wisely is by asking investment bankers, who are specifically trained and experienced in the investment world. The insight, experience and technical knowledge they can provide will help turn your investment into a profitable one.

What is Investment Banking?

Experience investment bankers will have expertise in a broad range of areas, including investments, stocks, mutual funds, money bonds, hedge funds. They will also be informed about recent macro-trends, changes in the economy and industry developments. You can also expect many investment bankers to be specialized in one area.

Leading financial experts like John Studzinski Weforum will tell you that one of the biggest determinants in how well your stocks will perform is knowing as much about them as possible. This means researching potential start-up companies and corporations before investing, and keeping a close eye on them to monitor growth patterns and change. By keeping up with what’s happening with investments, you will be able to react sooner if you need to sell a stock, or purchase more of it.

Different types of Investment Banking

Investment banking is usually made up of three components: sales and trading, asset management, and the obvious one, investment banking. The services these three components provide as follows:

Investment Banking: this usually refers to corporate and commercial finance, and offers advice and assistance with investment transactions, including using capital to acquire or merge a business, or to sell or divest part or all of a business.

Sales and Trading: if you want to sell a stock, buy a stock, or trade a stock? This area of expertise at your investment bank is where you’ll go for any type of stock management, or simply to check on the happenings in the stock market.

Asset Management: manage existing assets, such as private or commercial property, here. Seek capital for your assets or acquire additional assets here as well.

Tips & Advice on Dealings

When doing business with investment banks, there are some things to keep in mind.

First, know that there are large and small investment banks, with many smaller investment banks making actual investments themselves. But regardless of their size or whether or not they manage stocks, all types of investment banks can assist you with managing your stocks and shares.

Depending on your investment needs, you’ll either work with an analyst or an associate. An analyst will take care of helping you determine what to invest and where, and for businesses, analysts can assist with putting together pitches and models. An associate is a level higher than an analyst, and will help you out with more complex financial transactions, such as business mergers or acquisitions.

All investment banks have vice presidents, a senior vice president, and a managing director, but unless you are an extremely valuable client, you will rarely have interaction with these "higher ups".

Lastly, make sure that you understand the terms & conditions BEFORE you sign a deal. And if they are too complex, too wrapped up in legalese, you will need help to determine the veracity of the contracts. Don’t be afraid of doing this, after all you should…

Trust But Verify

After the financial crisis of 2007-8, you may have read that investment banks may have engaged in trading against their clients, that investment banks sold inappropriate products, or otherwise acted against their clients’ best interests.

The only suggestion that I can make is that you should keep up to date with your investments and not be afraid of querying, checking, double-checking and otherwise managing the investment managers to make sure they are doing their job. While it might be difficult to avoid second guessing the professionals, and you don’t want to micromanage them (that’s not what you’re paying for), you must still be in charge of your money. After all, whose money is it? It’s not theirs.

Investment banking is something you’ll want to look into if you’re concerned about being able to support yourself after retirement, about managing your estate & wealth, or developing your business investing.