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Thursday, October 30, 2014

How Isn’t Investing the Same as Gambling?

Posted by Dave on October 28, 2014

I like to bet on sports, mainly hockey and NFL football, which I also enjoy watching. Before I make a bet (my normal bet being somewhere between $2-$5), I do some basic research on the money I’m about to wager. I look at the piles of information available (for non sports fans, you would be amazed at the tomes of information compiled in support of a 60-minute game) and make my pick, laying money down and hoping that the hypothesis I had about the game was correct.

This past Sunday, I felt that the Indianapolis Colts would win at a margin higher than the posted “line” of 3.5 points. I played for higher odds and bet they would win by 7 points. If you were to look at the score of the game they played in, you would see that I was completely wrong with my bet (not only didn’t they win by 7, they lost by 17). A loss betting is not good, as you lose 100% of the wagered amount, which is the reason why I keep my bets small enough to make watching the game interesting to me, while minimizing the impact of the losses on my available betting money.

For me, Investing works the same – prior to investing – whether it’s in a house, individual stocks or bonds, or Exchange Traded Funds, I research thoroughly (there is actually less information on a lot of investments than there is on sports games). I filter through all of the information and make my investment decision based on what I’ve read. As I invest, similar to when I bet on a football game, I have a story of why I’m making the particular investment I’m making, as well as an expected outcome of the money I have laid down.

To me, the main difference between sports betting and investing is the amount of faith I put into the information available. While there have been cases of falsified information, management and the auditors hired by corporations have much more to lose when they make reports on companies than some guy who makes a living selling pageviews on a sports website. Another difference is the “soft” decline offered by stock investment, compared to a binary win or lose outcome of a football game. Any company I’m investing in at least has assets that can be sold off which I have a chance at receiving some money for if the company fails.

Both sports betting and investing depend on third parties acting out the hypothesis you have in place for them – whether it’s a projected 7 point win for the Indianapolis Colts, or by maintaining the current market share and profitability in the long-term for a company I’m investing in. I’m sure other people may see it differently, but I see both of these activities as somewhat risky, just in different ways. It’s for this reason I’m much more willing to sink thousands of dollars in the stock market and a very tiny fraction of this amount into sports betting.

When you “pull the trigger” on an investment, how do you convince yourself you’ve made the right decision out of the thousands of things you could invest in?

Winter Activities

Posted by Dave on October 21, 2014

As I’ve written previously, my wife and I basically hibernate in the winter – spending most of our time holed up in our house and staying as warm as possible. Last winter, we noticed that we barely socialized at all. Although we’re mostly okay with that, it is nice to see people the odd weekend, so this winter we’re going to make more of an effort to hang out with friends on a more regular basis. In the summer, I have a built-in excuses to hang out with people – either through golfing or by inviting people over for barbecues and to visit on our patio. This winter, we needed new plans.

I really like to cook, so that’s one way to get people to our house – have a Pad Thai night, which most people usually enjoy, and is quick and easy to cook for a few people with most of the prep work done before people show up. Tacos are also lots of fun to do – getting the cast-iron pan glowing in order to make home-made masala flour soft-shells (our favourite).

Another activity that we both enjoy is boardgames. We’ve found a few couples who share this interest, and it’s mostly making the minor effort to set up a “play-date” together on a Friday or Saturday night to get together. Right now, we’ve found that good “couples” games are Settlers of Catan and Cards Against Humanity. I prefer more strategic games, and own the Euro-Games Agricola and Carcassonne. The games I like are significantly less social in nature, and require a lot more planning and long-term strategy than the 2 previous games, but are an excellent way to pass a cold winter afternoon or evening.

I also seem to read much more in the winter – attacking many more of the almost infinite books I’ve placed on my “To Read” list on Goodreads. Additionally, I try to increase my days in the gym from an average of two to three days a week to three to four days, attempting to balance my lack of movement from spending time indoors.

The thing that most of the activities need to have in common for us is that they’re cheap and don’t require us to be outside at all. We don’t like the cold, but are hoping that winter will go more quickly if we share our misery with our friends.

How do you plan to pass the winter?

Using the Information

Posted by Dave on October 14, 2014

I was talking to a couple of guys at work over the past week – they knew that my wife and I had paid off our mortgage earlier this year and had a lot of questions about spending. Both guys seem to be living paycheque to paycheque, and have trouble making it through all of their bills by the end of the month. I explained how my wife and I set up our finances and how we prioritize our spending on a month-to-month and annual basis.

One thing that I told them might help them find “holes” in their finances would be to use an app and track every dollar they spend for a month or two. There are a ton of free apps, and a lot more for under $5 that have easy tracking of expenses along with weekly and monthly reports and comparisons. From the standpoint of someone “not knowing where the money is going”, this kind of thing would be really helpful.

Personally, I’ve never used budgeting software – almost every cent I spend in a month is on my credit card, so I can easily look at a statement and see where my paycheques have been spent. What I have used in the past is diet tracking apps on my phone. I’m 6 feet tall and weigh somewhere between 175 and 180 lbs at about 15% bodyfat (based on the handheld tool I own). I have this goal of getting my bodyfat percentage down under 10% to demonstrate that I have abdominal muscles.

I used the calorie tracking app consistently for a few weeks – tracking each and every thing I was eating….until I didn’t feel like doing that anymore. There was a weekend where I knew I wasn’t going to hit the caloric goals that I was supposed to, in order to achieve the lofty goal I had set for myself. So, I didn’t count calories that weekend, and then went back to tracking during the week when my diet is much healthier and stable.

What makes this kind of tracking stuff work, is actually using it. If I had a day where I was supposed to eat 2,000 calories and basically ate a whole pig instead, tracking anything isn’t really all that beneficial. Similarly, tracking expenses doesn’t really do anything if you aren’t willing to give up spending on things that you find are causing you to run out of money at the end of the month. The tracking doesn’t really work if you don’t use it.

Do you track anything on a daily basis? How do you stick with the tools?