What Markets Do To You, And What You’re Supposed To Do

Facebook advertising can be overwhelming because of how inconsistent it can be. Despite it’s inconsistency, it still is and will continue to be my go to place for marketing. I’ve been busy with the launch of our new store as I mentioned in my last blog yesterday. So I’ll be writing this one in a hurry, so I can head back to work.

Markets. They are a good place for everyone to passively build wealth while you actively work on your business or in a job. But in times like this, markets can get the best of you. Let me tell you a story.

The first time I bought a Bitcoin was for $1000. The first time I sold a Bitcoin was for $200. I think most people are aware that Bitcoin went all the way up to $20,000 and trades today at $6000. I was a newbie in the markets. I continue to be even today, but I wouldn’t make that same mistake again. You shouldn’t either.

If you always wanted to own a certain asset whether it’s Bitcoin or stocks or gold, now and the weeks to come could be the time to do that. 2020 is a better time to buy these assets, as they trade 30% below the price they traded in 2019. 2021 could be an even better time than 2020, but we don’t know that. What we do know is 2020 is a better time to buy than 2019.

As cliche as it may sound, buy when there’s blood in the streets and if you can’t, that’s okay. At the very least though, don’t sell when there’s blood in the streets.

Currency? Store of Value? Uncorrelated? What is Crypto?

During the market meltdown that started about 10 days ago, crypto-assets crashed the most. With Bitcoin going as low as $3500 from the high of $8000 in a single day posting the largest value drop since inception, everyone wondered what is Bitcoin?

People didn’t expect this drop to happen. Here’s Brian, CEO of Coinbase, tweet about this

People wondered if Bitcoin isn’t currency (volatile), or store of value (posting massive losses in value), and it’s also not uncorrelated with stock markets or other assets, then what is it?

Personally, it made me wonder that too. If it can’t even act as an hedge against the other markets, what is it? This drop affected my confidence in this asset-class. However, only a week later, my confidence picked up, at least by a bit.

During the first 3-4 days of the meltdown, I started to see that gold is losing value too. What is often seen as the safe haven during financial turmoil, was losing value too. The oil markets crashed as well, although that likely happened for a different reason, but it did. There was pretty much nothing that didn’t lose value.

What I concluded in the end is that during a financial crisis like that, people sell everything to move to cash. It doesn’t matter what asset class. It doesn’t matter what safe haven. All assets are sold so people can sit on cash and take their time to understand what’s happening before figuring out what to do next.

In the next week, I saw crypto-assets and Bitcoin rebound by a lot. It is trading above $6500 at the time of this writing. It is still below where it dropped from, but has recovered by a lot. Meanwhile, the stock market hasn’t recovered at all. The S&P 500 index for example is still down by 30%. What I’ve concluded from that is while all assets are correlated at the time of turmoil, only 10 days later, I can see crypto-assets moving in a different direction. I feel that in the coming weeks and months this uncorrelation will be very well established.

And that would be the first real world test that this asset-class would pass.

Are Stocks Manipulated?

I wasn’t old enough in 2008 to see, feel or understand what happened to the world, economically. It was only later that I learnt about the financial crisis and recession from the documentaries and movies.

When I started investing a few years ago, I invested in crypto before I invested in stocks. Once I tried to invest in stocks, I was turned off by how far behind the tech was. But I liked stocks for being the real thing. Representing real companies, with real earnings. More substance, and less speculation. Today, however, I’m confused between the two asset classes, and I thought to compare them a bit.

One of my first disappointments with stocks was that the trading hours were restricted to 9-5 / Mon-Fri as opposed to crypto-assets which are traded 24/7.

Another disappointment with stocks was the inability to own and store them the way I can own and store crypto. I had to leave the stocks with the broker account. I couldn’t move my stocks around between brokers and I couldn’t store my stocks in an hardware wallet. This is unthinkable in crypto. Only newbies leave their assets on an exchange or with a broker. Not your keys, not your money.

As for crypto, I hated the fact that markets were manipulated so much. USDT (Tether) faced allegations year after year that they are just printing USDT out of thin air and using them to manipulate crypto and specifically Bitcoin prices. That they don’t have the actual USD in their bank account in the same amounts as the USDT in circulation. Eventually, they were able to prove it time and again that they have the equivalent funds available with them.

What I’m seeing today happen to stocks makes me think that stocks are perhaps manipulated even more than the crypto-assets. For example, how the Fed is cutting interests to put market on steroids. The fact that Fed has injected trillions of dollars created out of thin air to solve what they term as “liquidity crisis”. But the most mind boggling is how these dollars are created, let’s hear that out from the ex-Chairman of Federal Reserve

I want to finish this off with circuit-breakers. What are these circuit breakers? Whenever markets dip more than 7% in a single day, trading is halted for 15 minutes. When markets dip 13%, trading is halted for another 15 minutes and at a 20% dip, trading is halted for the rest of the day.

This is unthinkable in crypto where we’re used to seeing 70% dips in a single day but no circuit-breakers are introduced to manipulate the prices. The amount of effort Fed puts in in keeping the stock prices afloat is nothing short of manipulation as these practices are unthinkable in crypto trading which we see as the free markets.

Why Does the Fed Cut Interest Rates When Stocks Fall?

As you may have seen that worldwide stocks are falling as the COVID-19 fears have completely taken over the markets. The S&P500 index has fallen nearly 20% from it’s ATH. Asian and European stocks are also following suit.

When markets crash like that, Governments step in and offer certain incentives to businesses like tax-cuts and cheap credit / lower interest rates etc. The governments say that cheap credit will enable businesses to fuel growth with lower borrowing costs. However, there’s an interesting theory on why the Fed really offers cheap credit and what the businesses really do with that credit, read below.

TL;DR: Companies use cheap credit (e.g 0.5% interest rate) to buy back their own stocks which post 5-10% profits per year.

Are Software Companies Safe from Present Economic Conditions & COVID-19?

What’s happening right now due to coronavirus is a supply-chain crisis. Businesses have buyers but are running out of goods to sell. Once the business profitability is affected due to decline in sales, they will let go some of their employees. This could affect purchasing power of some of the people creating a demand-side crisis.

The pandemic could also affect demand as more and more people stay at home to avoid the disease, they would be spending lesser money on certain products. In addition, their purchasing power could also be affected by additional health related bills. If COVID-19 lasts long enough, which at the moment it is showing signs of, there will be both supply-side and demand-side disruptions.

To improve the situation, Fed has cut down the interest rates. The goal is to sustain the economy by offering cheaper credit to businesses. But I’m wondering how can a supply-side disruption be fixed with cheaper credit. Moreover, cheaper credit could help larger businesses but small and medium sized businesses are likely to suffer the most.

While it is obvious that trade and e-commerce are largely affected, are software companies safe? Some of them might be but I do not believe that they will not have a cascading affect on them. After all, many software businesses are intended to solve real-world problems.

In my industry for example, many software businesses are Shopify apps or WordPress plugins. Shopify store owners use those apps to improve their selling experience. But if there are no sales, or no revenue, the store owners will obviously stop using those apps until situation changes.

Softwares that have nothing to do with commerce, may be relying on advertising as a source of revenue, or may be assisting industries that depend on advertising revenue. They aren’t safe either. Once the commerce is disrupted, the advertising is meant to be disturbed too. In my own case, my e-commerce stores are affected due to supply-chain crisis, but I’m also not spending on Facebook and Instagram ads to drive sales which means the advertising industry is taking the hit too.

As a publisher, I also have data to support this argument as CPMs are going down across the board. So any software business which is dependent on advertising or support customers who drive revenue from advertising will see disruption too.

All other kind of softwares may be safe from this cascading affect, but will still be dealing with users with lower purchasing power.

While pure software businesses are much better off than other businesses, I wouldn’t say that they will not be affected. However, it is still a better time to be running a software business than any kind of traditional business.

How I Found Success On Airbnb As A Host in Pakistan

I haven’t frequently hosted properties on Airbnb in Pakistan but I listed one property in 2018 that I rented to sublet just for learning purposes and found success with it.

While there could be many tricks and hacks you may use to find success on Airbnb, my personal favorite is simply a pricing hack that I’ll share later in this post.

I think everyone agrees that the core success of any property comes from how good the property is, and what is the value for money. So you certainly cant discount that advice. Your property photography needs to be really good for the whole thing to look good and your pricing needs to be competitive with what others are offering in the neighborhood.

The second most important thing for your Airbnb listing is your landing page. It should be super informative. There’s little need for you to get creative, just look at the highest rated properties, and try to copy everything that they’ve done on their landing pages. Try to provide as much information as other top properties have done. If you don’t find anything extra ordinary in the neighborhood, explore properties in other countries such as US and UK and find the best parts for your sales pitch.

The third thing, that I was able to really make money from, is simply a pricing hack. When you search a property, Airbnb displays the base fare on the front-page. If you have ever booked a property, you may have noticed how your $50/night and 10 nights never add up to become $500. Instead, you’re always paying $750 or something. This happens because when you open the property, the pricing now includes price per number of guests staying, weekend pricing, cleaning fee, airbnb service fee etc.

Since I was only interested in rentals that were at least a week long, I set the minimum length as 7 days, and took advantage of the weekend pricing. I set the base pricing as $50 or about 20% lower than my competition. By doing so, Airbnb not only ranked me higher than my competition but I also looked more interesting and generated a higher clickthrough rate from my audience. My weekend pricing was twice as high ($100) as my base-fare and since the rentals were always week long, there was no way to avoid weekend pricing.

In the end, my pricing structure would sell 5 nights for $50/night, and 2 nights for $100/night cumulatively giving me $450/week or an average nightly rate of $65/night.

After taking the final pricing into account, I costed about the same as my competition, but appeared 20% cheaper, appeared higher in airbnb search ranks, and had a better click-through.

This is just one of the many ways you can take advantage of the Airbnb pricing system to generate higher revenue and occupancy rates than the rest of the neighborhood.

PS: This was only an experiment that I ran a couple of times and not something that I presently do.

Asset Allocation of Your Investments

As you start to build some wealth, you’re presented with a new set of challenges. You’d ideally want your money to work for you and make money in return and you’d at the very least like to preserve your wealth with respect to purchasing power i-e fighting inflation.

Asset allocation is a strange topic for me because I’ve received all sorts of advice here. The advice, however, varied the most depending on the wealth of the person giving the advice.

As a general rule, the richer you are, the more conservative you’re with your allocation. Really wealthy people put a large amount of money at work, for low-risk returns, generating a decent chunk of cash. While up and coming investors and younger folks are aggressive and put a large portion of their wealth to generate high-risk above average returns.

I’m not going to give specific wealth advice, but personally I design my allocation such that 10% of my investments can make up to a maximum of 90% of my returns and 90% of my investments can potentially make 10% of the returns for me.

It is also why I really like crypto class of assets and I think every person should experiment with 5-10% of their wealth for trying to achieve really parabolic results. While the rest of the wealth should be allocated in safer assets such as equities, bonds, real-estate etc.

For equities, I like to build lazy portfolios with 70% sub-allocation for US indexes, 20% for other developed-world indexes, and 10% for the emerging economies.

And like everyone else, a major chunk has to get into real-estate which is not only safe in the most cases, but helps with both capital gains and recurring income.

The Invisible Indexes Everyone Should Be Paying Attention To

A few weeks ago, I spoke of the benefits of building lazy portfolios that you can do so by buying certain indexes. That seems to be a good strategy at least while the over-all market is growing and not going through the bearish sentiment.

There are other types of indexes that we often can’t see. They are hidden in plain-sight and I think we all should be paying attention to them.

Yesterday, Saad RT’d this. And I couldn’t agree more. Both with the original tweet and Saad’s comments.

Stripe is a really great company and despite being a fintech company, it’s really open and inclusive. Fintech companies are driven by mega regulations and can struggle with innovation. And considering that, Stripe’s openness is a surprise for me.

Off to the original tweet, Stripe is not just innovative and inclusive, it’s also an index. It’s an index of all internet commerce companies collectively powered by Stripe. Have a look at how Stripe has grown over time

Shopify could also be an index like that. And as investors we should be paying attention to these indexes.

In the crypto sphere, Coinbase could be an index. However, since only private investors could participate in Coinbase’s growth and the IPO hasn’t happened yet, the retail investors can not buy that index yet. But there’s 1 crypto index, that you could still be buying, at your own risk of course. A few years ago I tweeted about it

$BNB is a native token of Binance which is one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world. And despite what direction crypto markets move in, Binance always makes a profit. And as $BNB holder, you can be party to that.

At the time of my tweet, the total market capitalization of all crypto assets collectively valued at $381 billion dollars. Today the collective market cap is $216 billion dollars which is almost 45% lower.

Combined market-cap of all crypto-assets on 13th March 2018.

BNB’s market cap at the time of my tweet was $814 million dollars. Today the market-cap stands at $2.2 billion dollars. BNB has posted growth of 2.7x despite the over-all performance of the crypto-market.

$BNB’s market-cap on 13th March 2018.

So watching out for these proxy indexes can be a relatively safer way to grow your investments.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. To the maximum extent permitted by law, I disclaim any and all liability in the event any information, commentary, analysis, opinions, advice and/or recommendations prove to be inaccurate, incomplete or unreliable, or result in any investment or other losses.

The Money Trap That Majority Of The World Population Falls For

There is a money trap. Almost everyone I know falls for it. Most people are so deep in this trap, they are in complete denial. They think it’s not a trap but a safety net. This trap apparently gives them stability and peace of mind.

I’m talking about traditional employment. People like traditional employment because it gives them a false sense of security. I say false sense of security because no employer will keep you hired if you’re no longer profitable for him. So in essence, his business risks do not just apply to him, but to you as well. But since it works best in the favor of employers, they love to sell this false sense of security. I think it’s a trap. You think it’s a safety net.

The second reason people resort to traditional employment is because of instant gratification. You get paid really soon. In comparison, if you choose to be self-employed or a consultant or a freelancer or a business owner, your pay-day may vary.

Lets explain this further.

This is because of the principal called time value of money. Money in your hand today is more valuable than promise of money to be given to you tomorrow. You can spend the money in your hand today. You can’t spend the promise of money. So naturally everyone is attracted to the money that you can get now.

However, there is a reward for waiting which is generally much larger than the combined money you’d have made with your instant monthly payments. And most people are so consumed by small, scheduled payments, they are unable to see the bigger picture.

I don’t expect all of you to become entrepreneurs or business owners. You could be self-employed or a freelancer or a consultant. You still get hired, but at your own terms and with a bigger pay-check as long as you’re willing to display some patience.

Three Types of Founders & Financial Planning

I think I can categorize founders into three types when it comes to their financial management with regards to running a business.

The fist type of founders, and I think these are found in most abundance, do not really like to make projections and plan finances. They are extravagant with their expenses and while many times they are really good at generating revenue and achieving growth, they are still often seen in debt, or raising more funds, or struggling in general most months than they are not, despite the high amount of revenue. I’d say it’s a miracle if any of these founders and their companies survive in the long-term. The only reason they may is because their business model is extra ordinarily profitable and can afford a lot of money wastage.

The second type of founders like to make too much projections, and cut cost everywhere. They believe in MVPs and lean-startup models. They don’t spend money on creating features that someone may or may not use. They test everything with a small amount of people using unscalable methods to generate data. Their future scaling decisions are also data driven. They sometimes cut so much costs that they are often seen working long hours. They also struggle with hiring and team building because of their lower cost mentality.

The third type of founders are somewhere in between. They appreciate projections and financial planning. They love MVPs and lean-startup models. But they spend a large amount of money in building team, delegating tasks, and also on R&D which eventually results a lot of times in wasted features and money. But they do it because in the long-term it’s worth it.

In Pakistan, most of the founders I’ve met are the first type while I feel most founders should aspire to become the third type of founders.