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Market Envy

Monday, January 15, 2018
By Rajeev Thakkar

Rajeev Thakkar, Chief Investment Officer, PPFAS Mutual Fund

“The Market, unlike the Lord, does not forgive those who don’t know what they do”- Warren Buffett

There were these WhatsApp messages floating around saying that ‘If you invested in Bitcoin worth Rs. 1 Lakh on Jan 1st 2013, it would be worth more than Rs. 8 crore today.’ That’s Great! But if you’ve no idea of what Bitcoin meant on 1st Jan 2013 and you still don’t understand it, does that gain have any meaning? How would a person justify holding onto something that goes up in value everyday and still keep holding it, especially without understanding what’s going on?

A lot of these price movements and what it makes people feel, remind me of the old Onida TV ads - Neighbour’s Envy, Owner’s Pride. It also leads to a lot of heartburn if we haven’t participated in it. In market speak, it leads to FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out. We don’t ask why the neighbour owns it, instead we just focus on what and make ourselves feel miserable.

A lot of times envy is associated with feelings of personal worth compared to someone we consider our peer. To paraphrase a dialog from my favourite film Three Idiots, which captures this feeling very well -“When a friend fails in the exam, you feel bad but when a friend comes first in the same exam, you feel worse.”

The religions have described many sins that a man should stay away from. Envy is the most interesting of all the sins. All the other sins let us enjoy to some extent, no matter how momentarily. Envy is the only sin we don’t enjoy at all while we’re committing it.

Also it is a bit useless to compare situations of people who come from different backgrounds and circumstances. We also allow Luck to distort our view just because someone has more of something we always longed for. That’s a sure way of staying permanently unhappy.

Does it have a cure?

Envy indeed has a cure. We must know where we’re coming from. Luck can always help us achieve a little more than what we normally could have if we were not in that situation. Sometimes showing up and being prepared and willing to accept that it’s all you can do is a good way to keep envy in check.

Another way to avoid envy is to stop constantly comparing ourselves with what others have achieved. Just like we may not feel very sorry for them if they were in a miserable situation, we can also avoid feeling jealous in case they do better than us. Also, people enjoy talking about their victories and hearing stories of underdogs winning in the end. No one really enjoys talking about their losses or personal failures. That’s why a lot of times we remain completely unaware of the mistakes and catastrophic failures some people have made.

Envy, is not a sign of weakness but a sign of empathy in reverse. Market transactions happen due to a difference of opinion about the value of a security. If sometimes these opinions shift substantially to one direction some people who participated in it get enriched and the rest who didn’t participate feel left out. Markets have functioned on this principle since they existed. We don’t have to beat ourselves up just because others acted on something and we didn’t.

To avoid Market Envy, it may be wise to remember this -“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings, instead of our own."

Disclaimer: Views of the author are personal

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