Friday, February 22, 2019

How to Prepare for a Recess(ion)


Ok. I hear you. Let us call it a slowdown. A milder and more agreeable term for the current state of affairs. Business is slowing down, liquidity is tight, credit is not easily available, and risk appetite is low. In a nutshell, a widespread state of confusion. If some intervention is not taken externally then we may actually slip into a Recession. I hate to use the ‘R’ word because it evokes negative feelings in everyone.

I am not an expert or professional economist, in that I don’t practice making predictions on economy based on data. And it is also not my intent to predict any such dreaded phase.

Of late, I have met many people who are comparing the current situation to a pre- 2008 scenario. Clearly, we have not forgotten 2008-09 crisis. It is fresh in our minds. At least, an average person in the job market has not forgotten it. The jury is still out if those who run the financial system had learnt any lesson from last time.

It is my sole aim to share my ideas on how one can plan and prepare (which means take some actions and not just think) if such an event were to recur.

Recession is defined usually as a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters. It is accompanied by a fall in confidence among capitalists, industrialists and consumers, whether to spend or to invest heavily for future.

Gradually, the energy of growth and positive sentiment from previous few years, starts to “Recede”. Sometimes there are landmark events that accentuate an already fundamentally weak economic condition or there is just a gradual downturn due to over production. In many ways, it is a natural method of course correction.

Slowdown or downturn should be seen as a ‘Recess’ between two periods. A time to pause and reflect. Time to reflect upon what is truly important to you in life. Most of us are just busy in the rat race of acquiring lot of material wealth, and mostly it is at the cost of our relationships, health and losing sight of our real goal in life.

Let us see what we can all do to plan ahead and mentally prepare. Some of the ideas shared below may be useful.
Acceptance:

Let us accept this. It is a reality. Business cycles have to go through periods of highs and lows. It is inherent to humans to think that good times can last forever. Nothing lasts forever (perhaps diamonds do… but the diamond merchants are hit by recession first and hard). Sooner we accept that a slowdown is imminent, our inbuilt defence mechanism gets active. It is our survival instinct. Something, human race has learnt from thousands of years. It is in our DNA. Your inner voice will guide you on what is the right thing to do for you. There is no better guide than your own inner voice. If you simply look to others for advice, it will be second hand. They can never know your complete situation. Your strengths, your weaknesses, your financial state, your fears, your liabilities and many other aspects. Use your ‘Inner voice’ to guide you. Now the question arises as to How to hear the inner voice. It is a path on its own. For Starters, Let us say the fastest way to hear your inner voice is “Solitude”. Spend time alone in an unfamiliar place or just lock yourself in a hotel room without books and TV. Just look out of the window. Be quiet. You will get an insight.

Help Others

The surest way to help yourself come out of a negative frame of mind is by lifting someone else’s spirits. You will be surprised how by making someone else happy, you will also be benefited instantly. Let me share a small example I read recently. We have all heard that sunflowers turn their faces towards the sun. They follow the sun from East to West. In short, they get their dose of Happiness or energy from the Sun.

However, something that you may not have heard is what happens to the flowers when it is overcast and there is no Sunlight available during the day. Take a guess. No. let me share with you, they look at each other. They feed from each other’s positivity. There is a lesson in it for all of us.

Two to Tango

Make Partnerships with your colleagues and co-workers. Share the business results and success together. It is very important that we find our best friend at work. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with another, you are likely to help each other. Collaboration is your best option always.


Cut the flab

If times of slowdown and downturn wish to teach us one thing, it is to cut the flab. Eliminate all expenses that you can do without. Especially if it is an ostentatious one, undertaken to impress others. Those we wish to impress are always people that we do not like in the first place. Why waste one’s money and resources and mind-share for such people. Practice some minimalistic living. As an experiment, you may do it now for a month. You will be amazed with your own results. Care: Do it to yourself first before forcing it down on your loved ones.

Cutting the flab should also be taken literally. Take a look at yourself in the mirror. If those shapes around the belly are not what you intended, it is perhaps a good time to work on your health as well. Exercise will invariably keep your spirits high and keep you positive throughout the day. Only in a positive and alert mind, do great ideas come. Look for cheaper ways to lose flab online, I am not suggesting that you take most expensive Gym membership immediately.

Declutter

Japanese people have this custom of OSOJI. They declutter their wardrobes and closets every year to see what they do not need. It has multiple benefits. One, you realise your wasteful expenditure pattern. Two, you could generate good karma by donating items of use to the needy and destitute. Three, the more decluttered your physical space is, the more your mind will be decluttered as well.

Re-imagine your Business

Times were good and sales were increasing. We could do nothing wrong. But hey, winter is coming. It is time to reimagine your approach and business model again. May be consumer tastes are changing or they need a new alternative as well. Everyone will be impacted by a downturn and most people will find it difficult to stay happy.
Especially a mind that looks for happiness externally, wants to try new things. Because the old ways are too boring. Time for a new launch! Crazy as it may sound, but you have to put your customer in the centre again. You may have lost touch with him/her. Go back to basics. Work on the product again, not just the packaging. Increase service standards. It is imperative to retain customer loyalty. People flip immediately during recessionary times and customer attrition is usually high.

Reimagine yourself

The old you is also boring. If you want to live this life to the fullest, then live many lives in one. Change or transform yourself every 10 years. Following are some of the ideas, you may choose from below or make your own list. I am only going to influence your thought process:

Pick up a hobby: Something you have delayed for many years. It may be learning a musical instrument, or preparing to run marathons or trekking. You will have to make time for it. Cut down on weekend partying or incessant binge on Netflix and social media.

Inculcate a good habit: Yes, I may sound like a school teacher. But we are all taking it too easy. All Good habits have to be inculcated and worked upon. Bad habits are like weed that grows without any effort or nurturing. It is only when you are growing that fine grass in your lawn that you realise it needs some nurturing and care. You may resolve that you will not hurl abuses at any rowdy driver on the roads, or that you will rise early every day or that you will eat your lunch in 30 minutes very slowly and mindfully. Basically, whatever it is that your spouse has been telling you for many years now. Pick up one and surprise her. Yes, this tip is for Men J

It has been a rather long post. But I hope I succeeded in poking you to think and reflect. Recession is at the end of the day a State of mind. It needs to get out of your head first. It takes one guy sometimes to break the chain. Let that person be you. Share this post with others those who may have suffered or are yet to suffer it for the first time. Business cycles are increasingly becoming shorter and shorter. Wonder why? Because history repeats itself for the Unaware. We are not learning lessons and becoming more and more impatient. For another time!

Love and Peace,


Nitin


Disclaimer: The author works as a financial advisor in India. The views expressed here are completely his own and are a collective wisdom of numerous humans that co-exist or existed before the author. The author claims no right of originality of ideas but would like to assert the right to his style of writing. There is no intent to hurt anyone's sentiments with his opinions. It is just an honest expression by the author to help anyone who may be benefited from his writings. And a medium to express his gratitude to all who contributed to bless the author with wisdom.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

From a Man of Reason to a Man of Faith


Over the last couple of years, mid-life crisis hit me hard.  A situation when you begin to feel uselessness of drowning yourselves in sensory pleasures, just to stop the continuous chattering of mind. The pointlessness of going around in circles of everyday life, continues to haunt you. You want to know whose drama we are playing a part in.  Why is there a race everywhere? To what end is all of this competition and competitiveness? How long will I continue to be unreal? A different man in a business suit and completely different in my pyjamas.

I am also a product of modern education that places science on a higher pedestal and money even higher. We are all taught to question everything that's happening around us. We look for a reason and a meaning to everything, everyone, every situation. In short, we start to take life seriously. We place high stakes on our own beliefs, our own intellect and thereby place undue and unfit expectations on ourselves. We start to expect same standards from everyone as well.

Google and wiki has instant answers. Some are from exact science and some abstract (where theories continue to evolve as man uncovers more mystery). Unfortunately, we apply the same scientific principles with human beings as well. He behaves like this so he is so and so. She acts like this so she is so and so. Labelling, stereotyping and constantly judging.

Guess what, it leaves you lonely. Only you remain your best friend eventually. But we hate our own company. We can’t sit quiet and alone for too long. We need someone to talk to. So if not real, we take to the virtual world. You see, before you know it you are back to the same pointlessness again.

I began reading books ranging from self-help to philosophy to autobiographies to spirituality. I gathered more Gyan. There is some more knowledge now but it was too dry. Now I know more than my buddies, is the voice in my head. Ego swelled further. Moreover, it was not my truth, my first-hand experience. I was quoting someone else always. All the knowledge stayed at the surface level, at intellectual level not in the deep recess of the mind. As per Yoga sutras, all learning stayed at Buddhi (intelligence) but did not touch Chitta (consciousness).

All this until finally I decided to meet author of one book that inspired me a lot. I booked an appointment and went to see the MAN, who claimed to have walked the path all the way. Until there was nothing else to know more…amazing… Isn’t it?

However, it is not my intention to write my own memoirs here but to share the changes in my psychological framework after I began my spiritual journey. I was encouraged to explore my Self by sitting in quietude, studying my own thoughts, slowing them down and slowly uncover my biases.

It’s been roughly 2 years on the path. Here is how I describe own transformation from a man of reasoning to a man of faith:

Gotama Buddha's famous words are echoing right now: Beware of too much wisdom.

For a Man of Reason, more intelligence brings rigidity to accept things easily. Mind questions, asks for evidence, constantly pitting against it with logic that agreed with one's intelligence earlier. Fact is that most source of this rigidity comes from secondary information, what someone else has experienced. A logical mind finds it difficult to keep an open perspective.
A Man of Faith, on the other hand, surrenders to the divine will. Faith is a like the warmth of the fireplace in winters, like the comfort felt by a young one in the arms of his mother. It is a knowledge that not all things are in one's control.

A true faith is belief in your skills, purity of intent, genuineness of effort and persistence of action. It’s the calm felt in being patient for fruits of your work.

When faith develops, it makes you fearless, makes you strong willed but leaves you with a softer nature. Your questions reduce each day, since resistance to accept adverse situations goes down. You have more answers as slowly you decrypt the message in every situation that life throws at you. History stops repeating because you are conscious now, not to repeat the same mistake, not to act the same way as last time. You break one cycle at a time. A life which felt like going around in circles, suddenly feels like a spiral which is constantly climbing upwards.

In faith, it is not about you always. You develop a deep sense of Empathy and start to understand why people behave in a certain way. There is always a stimulus to why people say or do things. A baggage that we are all carrying of suppressed emotions.

Reasoning remains, it should. But it is accompanied by contemplation and acceptance. You develop a sense to, sometimes, dance to the tune of life if it is not going your way. In the words of my spiritual master, when we start to adjust to the ways of nature, nature starts to adjust according to you.

Faith does not tell you to resign to circumstances, it teaches you surrender. There is a world of difference between resignation and surrender. One is devoid of action and wishes for favourable outcome, but, the other is completing your action and waiting for its outcome. If it is not favourable now, then it will be; at a right time.

I may be stretching it a bit but a man of logic believes that happiness is an outcome, while a man of faith believes it is a conscious choice to remain happy. One view is of destination and the other is of the journey.

Finally, I have to submit that it is one thing to understand what faith is, in your conscious mind, as a concept. It is a completely different feeling when you experience it at your sub-conscious level. You no longer have to choose to be faithful; it becomes your second nature.

Go back to your roots, travel alone, go trekking, and spend some time with yourself in solitude to discover this faith inside you. Feel the grace of your creator!

Love and Peace,


Nitin


Disclaimer: The author works as a financial advisor in India. The views expressed here are completely his own and are a collective wisdom of numerous humans that co-exist or existed before the author. The author claims no right of originality of ideas but would like to assert the right to his style of writing. There is no intent to hurt anyone's sentiments with his opinions. It is just an honest expression by the author to help anyone who may be benefited from his writings. And a medium to express his gratitude to all who contributed to bless the author with wisdom.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Role of women in Family Office


It was Mel Gibson who first attempted to know “What Women Want” in this award winning Hollywood flick. While it required an electric shock to him to get to appreciate their viewpoint, I assure you that I did not have to undergo such a treatment. It just needed a bit of open mind, lowering a sense of superiority or male ego and a bit of empathy. 

I am also relying on my personal experience of dealing with women with their financial affairs. Most importantly the experience I gained in dealing with women in business families, where they are given a bigger role in managing financial affairs of the family.

Before looking at this aspect whether women are adept at handling financial affairs or not. Or whether women with similar financial education background will tip men at this job. Let us approach it from two aspects: Her financial behavioural framework and her general demeanour. 

Her financial behavioural framework:

Let us understand that perhaps this is the first generation of women who have gone out of homes and competing with men. One generation ago, women worked too but not in domains strictly considered of men’s. So let us say historically, men went out to work and women looked after home and raised children. She made jewellery and always tucked away some money from her savings to save for rainy days.

My own mother used to have 3 or 4 metal boxes, where she would throw some currency. One box denoted one goal and she never opened it till the right time. In other words, she never compromised one goal for another whether it was saving for education, marriage or medical exigencies. She only touched the right box and took out money at the right time. She possibly understood the concept of ‘Non-fungibility’ before Nobel laureate Richard Thaler published his work. It was a mere mental note for her. 

From very Indian outlook and some similar conservative societies, this was a prevalent practice and a common wisdom passed on from all mothers to all daughters. Women always focused on preservation. Whether, it was about the health of her family or their general well-being. 

Women of today also carry the same Phylogenetic signature, if you will. This is evolutionary concept. It is a sub-conscious response of the female brain.

Her general demeanour:

A Woman is generally known to be more creative in whatever she does. She is orderly, well behaved and largely in discipline. Yes, we may see many modern day examples of a spoil girl kid in schools and colleges but it is not her true nature. Many a times she is just playing equal to boys and may be venting out her anger towards her family or some frustration for lack of attention. Such girls too stabilise as they grow older.

She has grown up playing with dolls, spending hours decorating her dolls and later on herself in the mirror. She takes care that things are not messy

Things may be changing nowadays, but I could not spot more than 10% women in a casino. Aggressive risk taking and a mindless bravado is not in her innate nature. No wonder that in traditional Indian households, the so called Tijori ki chaabi or keys to the safe were handed over to the Female head of the family. She was seen as a figure of responsibility and respect. Her views on matters of land and investment were and still are respected. Overall, she lent a Balance and influenced the manner in which men in the family approached financial matters.

I have highlighted some key words above in my chain of thoughts. Let me enumerate them here once again:
1.      Savings mindset
2.      Goal orientation and Non-fungible financial planning
3.      Wealth Preservation mindset (special mention in concluding note on this)
4.      Creative thinking
5.      Orderly and Disciplinarian
6.      Never leaves a mess
7.      Low risk taking
8.      Responsible and accountable

If I were to write a job description of a chief investment officer of a family office, above qualities would be a Gold standard. Throw in the quality of ‘Trustworthy’ especially if the candidate is from within the family then it is a complete package.

Finally, my personal belief has always been that wealth creation always happens in business or trade that any business family is engaged in. For a Family office, wealth preservation is the top priority. And for the Patriarch of a family, preserving the values and cohesiveness of his family is also paramount. The answer lies in your daughter or daughter in law. Groom them to be the Family office in charge.

Love and Peace,

Nitin Patnia



Disclaimer: The author works as a financial advisor in India. The views expressed here are completely his own and are a collective wisdom of  numerous humans that co-exist or existed before the author. The author claims no right of originality of ideas but would like to assert the right to his style of writing. There is no intent to hurt anyone's sentiments with his opinions. It is just an honest expression by the author to help anyone who may be benefited from his writings. And a medium to express his gratitude to all who contributed to bless the author with wisdom.