Saturday, April 28, 2012

Take stock of risks

This article was originally published in Postnoon on April 20th, 2012

http://postnoon.com/2012/04/20/take-stock-of-risks/44467

Srikanth kept mulling over his conversation with Prof. Nicky the entire week. He reached the conclusion that he falls in the category of people who not only have the appetite to take risk, but also have the ability to do so. Equipped with this self realisation, he walked over to Prof. Nicky, who was looking at a piece of paper very carefully.As Srikanth got closer, Prof. Nicky looked up from the piece of paper and gestured to him to look at the graph on the paper.

Prof. Nicky: Hey come on Srikanth. Look at this!

Srikanth: What is this Professor?

Prof. Nicky: Remember that I was telling you that every asset class has its own risk profile?

Srikanth: Yes I remember!

Prof. Nicky: Ah good! So if somebody has the appetite and the ability to take risks, where does he invest his money?

Srikanth: That’s what I came to ask you. I have realised that I fall in that category.

Prof. Nicky: There are various asset classes like real estate, commodities etc. in which such people can invest. However, one of the most popular classes of risky assets is equities. Equities imply owning a share in the assets, liabilities and profits of a company. When a company grows, more money is required for it to expand. The original promoters may not have that money. Hence they approach the public to buy the shares of the company. That’s where the term “investing in shares” comes from!

Thus equities have the benefit of being very liquid, that is, they can be bought and sold easily on the exchanges like the NSE and the BSE. The other aspect of equities which attracts investors to them is the potential to make huge returns. If you look at the graph, you can see that the benchmark NIFTY index has given close to 13.8% returns on an annual, compounded basis over the last ten years. In other words, if you had invested `1000 in the stocks of Nifty in April 2002, you would have `4,645 now. This is a return of 365% over a 10-year period. This is more than what you would earn if you had invested in fixed deposits or other savings schemes like Kisan Vikas Patra or Post Office Saving schemes!

Srikanth: Really? So why do the equities give a higher return?

Prof. Nicky: They give a higher return because they need to compensate the investors for the higher risks associated with equities. It is like demanding a higher salary if your job is more stressful.

Srikanth: Where is the risk? You just now said that an investor can earn as much as 365% over a 10 year period!

Prof. Nicky: Now that is how a lot of people tend to think and that is why they end up losing money. You would make so much money if you invested in April 2002, and if you remained invested till April 2012. But what if you invested in September 2007 and then had to sell around September 2008?

Srikanth: looking more closely at the graph now, gave a gasp, “Oh My God! I would have lost more than 50% of my money in that case”!

Prof. Nicky: Exactly. And that is the risk. You do not know where the market is going to go tomorrow. The share prices depend upon the performance of the company, the economic, political and technological factors, the future prospects of the company and many more! When there are so many uncertain elements in running the company, it is very difficult to know exactly how much return you will get after a given period.

Historically, the equities have performed better than the other risk free investment tools like Government Bonds or saving schemes and Deposits. For those who can take this risk, it might be worth it! So go ahead boy, invest in equities, choose the companies wisely, and keep your fingers crossed!
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