Tuesday, 6 March 2007

The More You Learn, the Less You Know

One of the pleasures of handling one's own investments and finances is the continual learning and the intellectual challenges that come from really understanding how various products work and especially the background theory, since that is what enables going beyond rote advice or partial, non-integrated solutions. However, it is a big challenge that just seems to grow as I learn more! Long ago, I learned the differences between common and preferred shares, bonds and treasury bills, ETFs and mutual funds. Many years ago, I did an MBA in Finance at the best (at the time, is it still? can you guess which one?) school for finance in Canada, and learned how to derive the CAPM and the Black-Scholes option pricing formula. Later I successfully passed the Canadian Securities Institute course. Yet as I write this blog, it seems the new stuff I need to know, both theoretical and practical, is growing without limit! On top of that, to actually manage my financial affairs, taking in the huge volume of news and data spewing forth each second could occupy every waking hour.

And yet, decisions must be taken and investments made. Tempus fugit. In the words of Scotland's bard Rabbie Burns (not Robbie!! though Robert is acceptable, as I have been reminded numerous times by Scots), "Nae man can tether time or tide". I suspect that's why so many people who have less interest and time to spend on this stuff can get taken in by idiots and crooks. Or, they succumb to the bane of too many DIY investors, shortcut the investigation process, going with their instinct or changing their approach every other day, depending on what they read last. Oh well, isn't the beginning of enlightenment the recognition of one's own ignorance?

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