Thursday, 9 July 2020

Invest in Thai Farm land or Keep Things Simple with Olam/Wilmar?

My wife and I have been thinking about buying land in rural Thailand and growing palm as a cash crop. Thus, we made a few inquiries and make a trip to the depths of Phang Nga province in Southern Thailand to investigate.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Geography of Thailand, Phang Nga province is about a 90 minute drive from Phuket, nestled deep in lush hilly jungles of the south.

Sarasin Bridge in Phuket
Sarasin Bridge
Here's a map for your info. You can see Phuket at the extreme south of the map which links to Phang Nha via a bridge (see pic below)

Phang Nga Province - Wikipedia

By the way, as most foreigners making this trip are coming from Phuket, I'll let you into some local knowledge. While crossing Sarasin Bridge from the Phuket into Phang Nha, make a you turn as soon as you get off off the bridge and make your way to the water front. Here you'll stumble upon Rimpan Restaurant which serves amazing, authentic southern Thai cuisine. I've been stopping here for years, and it never disappoints. I hope you like spicy food as this part of Thailand has the best spicy food in the world!

The Sarasin Bridge

Anyway, don't get me sidetracked with gastronomy, especially of the Thai nature. This is an investing blog post remember?

After feeding and watering we drove north on the upgraded road. Years ago, this drive was for the intrepid adventurer with a near-death experience every few 100 meters, but now it's a smooth drive all the way to Khao Lak.

We stayed for a night in Khao Lak.  If you never been here before, it has an old-school charm when compared to Phuket and feels like you have just exited a time machine twenty five years ago. Yes, it's set up for tourists, but it's is still oozing with southern Thai charm.

The beaches are world class, and with international airports still closed at the time of writing, I had the place all to myself. I joke you not... My wife and I were the only people in our hotel and on the sand.

Khao Lak Beaches - Discover Khao Lak and Phang Nga Province Beaches

After some phone calls we drove to the north east of Phang Nha provice to Kapong district to view land. Our contact was a retired policeman who was more than happy to show us various plots of land and share some of the local gossip at the same time.

Kapong feels like the end of the earth with its verdant hills and scantly clad residents. A feeling of calm washed over me as we drove off-road down bumpy tracks surrounded by the music of the jungle. Families huddled close together inside metal huts to our left as we ventured deeper into the dense greenery. A  young boy dressed in his boxers smiled the biggest, toothiest smile I have ever seen when he saw me through the window. This place is unseen Thailand, real Thailand, a place steeped in centuries old tradition and superstition.

My wife and my interest in all this lies in cultivating palm which, if done right can generate a tidy profit. We looked at three pots and it's still cheap here.

The first plot was 12 rai (about 5 acres) of flat, mature palm plantation with a family of workers already living on the land. It was priced at 2 million THB or about $89,000 Singaporean. After  a few quick calculations, I worked our that you could make about 15,000THB per month ($700 Singaporean)

Here's a pic of plot 1:

The second plot was was thick jungle and had a lovely view, but I passed on this one immediately because of the Sisyphean task of clearing and planting etc.

Here's a pic of the second plot:

The third plot was sloped and commanded a wonderful view from the top of it 35 rai (about 14 acres)

Here's some pics of the third plot:

What beautiful countryside, don't you agree? 

Imagine yourself spending a few days their a week breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds all around. Perfect eh?

This plot was price at about 4 million THB or $170,000 Singaporean. The land was cultivated the year before and contained about 500 new palm trees. The fruit from these will be ready to sell in another 12 months time and the land could potentially yield about 35,000THB or 40,000THB per month ($17000 Singaporean)

I'm sure you'll agree the returns look great on paper, don't they. But they don't come without considerable risk.

Risk 1: Fake documents

All the plots of land are in the middle of nowhere and if the land deeds are fake, then what are you going to do? After all, your agent is a retired local policemen, so whose door are you going to knock if the deal is a bluff? Good luck!

Risk 2: Bad workers

You will need a family of workers you can trust, and locals informed me that the going rate is 60/40 on profit in favor of the landowner. This is easy to consider in an idea world with squeaky clean mindsets, but you're not in Singapore now. Real poverty exists in every direction and many could try to take advantage of an absentee landlord before they disappear into the jungle.  This is a tricky problem to solve and some mutually-beneficial relationship building is required .

Risk 3: The price of palm

Palm is not going to make you rich over night, but can provide a decent side income if done right.
That said, the price does fluctuate - as the locals will tell you immediately. So, this is a real worry.

Risk 4: Theft

Remember your plot is in the middle of the jungle without mains electricity or water supply. It'll be dark at night and don't expect your workers to brandish arms and fight any intruders. The best you could expect is a phone call the following morning once you land has been stripped of palm. The risk of losing a few kgs is high, but losing to lot is low. It might be an idea to employ an armed guard for a fixed monthly rate, but tell him not to be to trigger happy to avoid a war with the locals.

So there you have it. These are the main risks I see after examining the land.

After surveying the three plots, we made our way make to Khao Lak and had some beers on the beach to mull the trip over.

When thinking about this investment the big question is the following? Is it worth the risk and effort when you could invest in a company that does something similar but on a larger scale such as Olam or Wilmar?

The more my wife and I though about this the more we start gravitating towards the latter.

Olam has a proven track record internationally, is Temasek backed and has a juicy yield of almost 6% at the time of writing. Its drawbacks are its burdened by a heavy debt.

Wilmar, we already own a healthy chunk of. It's a well run company with decent growth potential both for capital gains and dividend.

Final thoughts...

My wife and I drove back to Phuket convinced that we could make the land work, but unsure if we would be any better of in the long run when we could invest in stocks instead. Yes, of course, the land would diversify our portfolio further, but at what cost to our passive income? Also, the land is so deep in the jungle that it's unlike to go up in value anytime soon, and would be difficult to sell.

Thus, as we stood watching the sunset from Sarasin Bridge once again, we clinked or beers with our minds' made up.

The land can wait for another time. Wilmar or Olam it will be.


Saturday, 4 April 2020

How are you reacting to the craziness?

Lane Dean, Jr., felt sun on one arm as he pictured in his mind an image of himself on a train, waving mechanically to something that got smaller and smaller as the train pulled away. 

This quote comes from David Foster Wallace's short story entitles 'Good People' which I've had the pleasure of discovering this week.

Let's come back to this wonderful quote in a bit as it made me think about the current Corona situation.

Stay with me.

Good People by David Foster Wallace is a re-working of Hemmingway's 1927 classic Hills Like White Elephants, a story in which two young adults discuss getting an abortion. Wallace's story shares many elements; namely a young couple and lots of talk about abortion.

What makes Good People different though is the majority of the story consists of internal dialogue in Lake Dean's head, whereas in Hemingway's story the drama unfolds via external dialogue only. Lake wrestles with his own conscience and perception of his girlfriend, Sheri, who is pregnant and confused. As they sit on a picnic bench contemplating aborting their unborn child, Sheri sighs. 

These are Lake's thoughts:

The whole thing felt balanced on a knife or wire; if he moved to put his arm up or touch her the whole thing could tip over. 

Sheri sits meditatively seemingly lost in the moment while Lake's head is torn apart with ambiguous thought running this way and that. He feels 'frozen' torn between what he perceives to be the right thing to do and what his racing mind is urging him to do, namely force Sheri to abort their child. 

He pretended it had no name. He pretended that not saying aloud what he knew to be right and true was... 

Lake's mind flitted from how life would be if they got married and have the kid, to how life would be if Sheri has the abortion.

Selfishly, Lake feels that his life will be less impacted should Sheri go ahead and have the operation, letting him off the hook. Once again, he would be a free man, a player, able to party and experience more of life. He doesn't want to be a father at his age. Fatherhood's for old people, people who are ready, and he is most definitely not ready.

This has to be one of most difficult decisions anyone has to make in their life, and especially if you are in your early twenties or late teens and not yet emotionally mature. One wrong move and you could spend the rest of your life thinking 'what if...?'

This leads me back to our initial quote:

Lane Dean, Jr., felt sun on one arm as he pictured in his mind an image of himself on a train, waving mechanically to something that got smaller and smaller as the train pulled away. 

The image Lake presents here is powerful: standing on the platform and waving goodbye to your biggest fear and glowing with excitement as it slowly disappears into the distance. What a feeling that would be especially if you were an young man not yet mature enough to rationalize the impact of your decision on not only your own head but that of Sheri's. 

This image made me think of the current situation the world finds itself in. Life is now very different than two months ago. It's like everything we trusted and knew to be true has been turned upside down and shaken violently - like Lake's world. Old patterns of thought and movement, ones that we valued and cherished and held close for so long, have evaporated in front of our faces. One minute life was good, the next minute we're staring down the barrel of a existential crisis. 

How do you feel? Do you feel like Lake watching your career, your plans, your friends, your portfolio gradually get further and further from your reach? How much long can this go on until we lose sight of all the things that made our life what it once was?

Most people, presently, feel just like Lake, torn between confusing, paralysing and dejecting thoughts. Round and round they go like a machine in a laundromat, endlessly and tirelessly spinning, spinning, spinning. 

It's a tricky one, isn't it? A Depression era decade of poverty, uncertainty, unemployment, anxiety and despair lies just ahead for many people, and there's little most can do about it. 

That said, I think we all, like Lake, have options. 

Lake could either persuade his girl to go through with the abortion, or he could take responsibility and raise his child. Likewise, we can either sit at home and allow of head to fry in our skull or we can balance ourselves and think.

If we do think, what are our options? 

What I'm doing is trying to take back some head space through meditation and not watching the news. This I have been doing now for the past two weeks, and it words for me. 

I refuse to watch images of bodies being loaded into cold storage units and armed security personal lining the streets. These are images I can do without and add no value to my life, and in fact increase my fear and anxiety. 

So, while trying to breathe, be calm and upbeat I'm trying to come up with new online revenue steams. There's money to be made online if you have the right ideas and execute properly. Of course, it's not going to be easy with millions of people trying the same gig, but who knows? Getting creative and giving your all is better than sitting watching Netflix all day don't know think? This a shit time for all, but why not use it to explore new avenues and try to get income from another source? We all have a skill so why mot try and monetize it when we need it most.

So, I refuse to let my head pickle like Lake in the story. I refuse to procrastinate and try and block out the obvious mess glaring up at me. This is not a time to fester in self-pity reminiscing about the good times. Shit happens and the times have changed. It's time to stay focused, calm and see where creativity and hard work can take you.


Saturday, 21 March 2020

Navigating the Pandemic Craziness - What to do?

Well well...

Can you feel the tension? Can you feel the fear? Jesus... 

How can we sum this all up, eh? 

I'm a massive fan of Hunter S Thompson, and he used the phrase 'atavistic freak-out' in his writings to refer to the frantic, anxious, perplexing, uncivilized and boozed up culture of The 1970 Kentucky Derby. 

'Atavistic' means "relating to or characterized by reversion to something ancient or ancestral' (Google Dictionary) 

I think the term might be applicable in this fucked up times we find ourselves in. It's like some elemental force is forcing people to catastrophize and lose the power of rational thought. People are swarming together with their tribe, battening down the hatches and peeping out through a crack in the door at the world outside. Everyone outside their tribe is a suspect; everyone outside their tribe is a threat. 

And you know what? 

I don't blame anyone. Based on the situation and the fear ratcheted up my the media, how can people think differently. If all your neighbours are panic buying rice, then what you going to do? 

24 hours news channels show nothing else than bodies on stretchers being tended to my doctors in Fukushima suits; Social media is saturated with news of the stock market plunge and imminent financial meltdown. So what else can people react when this is pumped into their brain from dusk till dawn? I don't know about you, but I'm rationing my news intake to once a day now. As it's enough to send a man over the edge. Where does it all end?

Last night in the super market, queues snaked back from the cash registers with masked people looking twitchy. Families huddled together in silence with multiple shopping carts beside them. Mini-skyscrapers of food - eggs, rice, breakfast cereal etc. towered upward. One man stood with his back to his cart and swayed defensively from one foot to the other, his arms folded and head pivoting rapidly from right to left. It was as if he was on guard, alert and ready to punch anyone who got too close. I looked around the packed meat section and saw at least 100 people skittering around avoiding each other. It was like the scene from a movie in which some sick weirdo released a leper into a supermarket and announced it over the intercom. Frenetic movement; no eye contact; go, go go! Let's stock up and fuck off! Surgical masks everywhere. When people wear a surgical mask, you try to suss them out by their eyes, poker-style. The eyes I saw yesterday looked different. For those who dared look up from their device (an all too rare event these days) their eyes told me a story. I saw cold, dilated pupils and either frenetic eye movement or long stares into the distance. 

So what is this story? Why are people so afraid? Should they be? Is this pandemic really an existential crisis? Is this global tsunami of anxiety warranted or have people lost their marbles? Is what is going on worth destroying the global economy?

Undoubtedly, it's a shit situation. Countries around the world have had, and continue to have deaths caused by the virus, with China and Italy leading the pack. But, the question is - where will be next? 

Lock-downs, self-isolation, social distancing are the now the norm in many places around the world. Citizens are staying indoors and scratching their heads. 

What has just happened? Where the fuck did this come from? 

Here we were a month ago patting ourselves on the back with 10 plus years of a bull market under our belts and then... WHAM! SMACK! BOOM! Before anyone had the chance to look up the Earth shook beneath us and a black, toxic mist enveloped the globe. This mist has descended and now covers communities like a suffocating, wet blanket. 

One minute there wasn't a bargain to be had in the stock market and now there are so many it's overwhelming. What's a man to do? One the one hand, this could be the buying opportunity of a lifetime, but I worry more about the future, economic ramifications all this will cause. Seismic shock waves are being sent out throughout our interconnected world, and the extent of the destruction they will cause in the near to medium term is too frighting to behold. 

Could we be on track for a 1930s style depression with families in rags wandering the roads looking for work? Who knows? 

Some nations are in a better position to deal with the economic fallout than others that's for sure. Look at other countries in SE Asia, Thailand for instance. A large percentage of its population operates within the middle income trap doing basic office/factory/restaurant/bar/massage work that pays (under normal circumstances) a wage barely above subsistence. With most of Thailand now shut down, or in the process of doing so, millions of people find themselves out of work with few saving and high levels of household debt. 

What are these folk going to do? Get help from the government? Forget about it. They will have to fend for themselves. What they will do is anyone's guess, but as each lockdown days passes, peoples' options get narrower and narrower.

This pandemic needs to be taken seriously, but it's important not to get too caught up in the craziness. We all need to maintain composure and the power of rational thought. Meditation is an invaluable tool at this time, for it gives us the opportunity to breathe, gather our thoughts and come back to the centre. 

My thought are fizzing about in a million directions at the best of times, and the current situation had multiplied this 100 fold. Thus, we all need to take deep breaths and calm the fuck down. If we don't we run the risk of destroying the our mental health and that of those around us. 

So, during these challenging times please try to do the following:

1. Limit your time on news websites and social media
2. Practice mindful breathing throughout the day
3. Get your fear and anxiety to yourself
4. Remember that this isn't forever (although it may seem that way)
5. Be positive 
6. Use humor

Anyway, who am I to give advise? I'm just a blogger jacked up on caffeine and in need of an outlet for my own anxiety before I have my own 'atavistic freak out'.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Corona Musings

Well, well, well...

I always get up early on Saturday to work a half day and then go run in the mountains. And today is no different. What can be better than sitting in a quiet kitchen sipping hot coffee and catching up on current affairs? Well usually this is the case, but after reading a few articles on the BBC site and scrolling through Facebook, I don't feel so well.

Fear, Corona, crash, recession, depression, sell off, panic, shut down, 1929, pandemic, lies, lock down, decimated. 

These are just a few of the words jumping out at me as the birds are tweeting outside my window oblivious to how weird the world has got over the past few weeks.

Not long ago people marched the streets, chests puffed out, dreaming about what they would do in their retirement. Minds drifted away to a velvety, warm place, a cruise ship perhaps; an all inclusive package. Yes, a lovely 33 night cruise from Singapore to Europe, stopping off in Phuket, Yangon, Mumbai and then on to Athens, sipping a Pina Colada on the upper desk. How does this little fantasy feel on the 14th of March 2020? Are you still getting those tingles of excitement down your spine?

I think not.

So, anyway, here we are. The Singapore market has bombed and many have either sold the lot or are sitting nervously in the dark wondering what happen to their paper gains. What both these groups have in common is they haven't got a clue what to do next. The options are as follows as I see it and I will divide them into two groups:

Group 1: Government will get Corona under control and then the global economy will start to recover.

1. If you sold out, try to buy in on a V shaped recovery once governments get Corona under control.

2. If you didn't sell out, wait for the V shaped recovery once once governments get Corona under control.

3. If you have cash and you didn't sell out, pump it in once once governments get Corona under control.

4. If you have cash because you sold out, pump it in once once governments get Corona under control.

Group 2: Governments eventually get Corona under control (albeit much later than previously thought) and their is a massive global recession.

1. If you sold out, you'll want to wait and see what the global recession looks like before you buy. Things should go even lower.

2. If you didn't sell out, you better get yourself strapped in for a bumpy ride, or even better, lose the password to your investment account and stop reading the news for 5 years.

3. If you have cash and didn't sell out, things could be worse. There'll be bargains to be had.

Which group do you belong to? I'm in group 2 no.3. I have cash to play with and I sold nothing in the sell off. I plan to stay invested for at least another 20 years, so I selling and paying tons of fees doesn't appeal to me right now. 

What about you?

Saturday, 2 November 2019

FIRE and my Discontents (part 1)

Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I was told the way life should be lived by my parents: go to school, get a good education; find a job and then get a job and work your way up. For the vast majority of folk this makes sense. That said, over the past decade bloggers (mostly from the US) have been mapping out alternative ways to live life, ones in which good old Victorian ideas of thrift combined with savvy investing, have culminated in people retiring in their 30s and 40s. This post looks at some of the ideas and if they are all they're cracked up to be.

Something I notice when reading random FIRE blogs is how easy it appears to be to achieve financial independence. All you have to do is save, tighten your belt and dump your money into index funds. Done. Life for me hasn't been so clear cut. How many of you reading this have had times when your bank balance took and unexpected battering: there could have been a health emergency, a family issue that required a lot of travel, redundancy, a car accident, bad investments etc. etc. The list goes on. As I rapidly approach forty years of age, I know never to underestimate the unpredictability of life. Shit happens when you least expect it - as a wise man once said - and these are words to live by.

Many FIRE bloggers that I've read seem to be content with getting by on a thousand dollars or so a month of passive income, but life is a slippery fish to hold on to and I wouldn't be so confident that this cash is enough (4% Rule or not) You never know what's round the corner. I suppose it's fine when you are in your twenties, glowing with confidence and health, but as the decades roll past, fate may have an expensive surprise lying in wait. And, when it rears it ugly head, you better be ready to delve deep into your savings.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that FIRE fails to prepare for future emergencies, but I do think as the sands of time continue to fall, a person's idea of what constitutes the good life changes too.

In your twenties and thirties, investing in bog standard healthcare probably seems like a good idea. You know, you eat well, you exercise, you feel great, so why shell out a fortune on fully comp insurance. All this extra money saved should be invested in your value dividend portfolio after all. But as a person begins to approach forty years of age, life no longer feels like a endless game.

How quickly does a decade slip past with with barely a care? Fast eh? For sure, and a man approaching this age begins to look towards the horizon and think 'In another decade I'll be fifty, and then again 60 and...then what.'

When I was a kid, my family used to drive to my cousins' house in a town an hour and a half from our hometown. About halfway through the journey we passed a large clock tower which has an inscription in large black letters just below the clock. It said 'Time is Short'. I'll never forgot that tower and the impact those words had on me. Time is indeed short and for the unlucky among us shorter still. Thus, faced with life's uncertainties is it a good idea to live so close to the poverty line as some of FIRE exponents appear to do? Of course, the counter argument to this point is why take life so seriously when it is so short? If we're here one minute and gone the next, surely we should leave the job we dislike and live a little.

I understand this point 100% but how many FIRE proponents live the dream lifestyle they like to display on Instagram? I'm sure there are quite a number of them who live on the breadline with drastically reduced options as a result of their tightly pulled purse strings. Again, I'm not saying all members of the FIRE community as this way, but when so much idealism and optimism froths up around an idea, I start to get cynical. It's one thing painting a beautiful picture of life on social media, with pool side snapshots and vlogs on the way to the gym, and then coping with the financial reality of a terminal illness or tragic accident. Life isn't all sweetness and light, but after reading various bloggers work you might be left wondering why all the good stuff is happening to them and not you.

Comparing yourself with other people and their idealised lives on social media is a wider problem, and we have seen depression rates among teens (especially girls) sky rocket over the past decade as they compare their body with app enhanced photos of their friends. I feel the same way about some bloggers within the FIRE movement as they propagate online the version of themselves most gratifying to their fevered egos.

I'm sure you'll agree this type of shameless ego massaging is not only undignified but also corrosive to the mental well being of all involved. Having enough passive income to live on is one thing, but gratuitous displays of what other people don't have (time, happiness etc) are bilious to say the least.

If your a FIRE blogger and you've achieved your goal of financial independence (which is about as nebulous a phrase as you can get) then fair play to you. Well done. But I'd leave matters there and get on with life rather than writing about it and making others feel inadequate with plastic smiles and self-congratulatory posts about the good life.

I want to add a caveat at this point in case some people feel I'm anti-FIRE, I'm not. If a person can earn enough money passively and live well, that's amazing. Some even use their new found free time to do more charitable work etc. and this I admire. But what's shitty is when this is broadcast to the world as if the heavens have opened and divine gifts have fallen into their lap. This in turn causes many people to feel even worse in their jobs and lives that inevitably last the same spark. 

FIRE is amazing for many, for sure, but how many of its proponents are bluffing themselves about its infallibility?

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Singapore Dividends for Financial Freedom - Portfolio Over $1,000,000 with the help of Trusts and REITS

From Yahoo Finance

The market has been kind to the Trusts and REITs in my portfolio this year with all of them doing nicely. Here's a breakdown:

AIMS APAC = up 8%
Ascendas = up 24%
Ascendas H Trust = up 27%
Ascott = up 20%
Cap Com = up 26%
Cap Mall = up 33%
Fraser Com = up 16%
Keppel DC = up 98%

Here are the Trusts and REITs in my portfolio not doing do well...

Accordia Golf Trust = down 18%
First REIT = down 6%

Overall, the portfolio now stands at $ with the help of the above counters.

Other counters are doing OK too. Here are some notable mentions:

SATS = up 43%
SGX = up 26%
Sheng Shong = up 24%
Thaibev = up 10%
Wilmar = up 15%

And here are the counters not doing so well...

Keppel - down 30%
Global Investments = down 6%
Kingsman = down 20%
Singpost = down 34%
Singtel = down 20%
Starhub = down 63%!!!!

So as you can see, the portfolio is a mixed bad really. Overall, though as an income investor I'm happy enough. Should be generating close to $40,000 in dividends in 2019.

With the long awaiting crash not a million miles away, I'm going to sit tight and keep reinventing my dividends and let compounding do its thing.

All for now. Have a good day.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Singapore Dividends for Financial Freedom - Can Meditation Make us Better Investors?

Photo from

Can meditation help us invest better? Many including titans like Ray Dalio say it can.

So what are we all to do, just drop the financial pages and adopt the full lotus position? How many of you have thought the following words?:

"Look, I simply don't have the time to sit and do nothing"

"I feel guilty when I try - I could be doing something else!"

"I know many people say it's good for the head, but I could be exercising instead."

Have you ever uttered any of the above when asked about meditation? It's weird isn't it? Most of us have time for some form of exercise, but when it comes to mental health care, we drown ourselves in excuses. Why is this I wonder? 

The Buddha said, "We become our thoughts; we become what we think."

Swami Vivekananda said, "We are what our thoughts have made us: so take care about what you think."

These are wise words. So why do we neglect our minds in favor of work, social media, chit chat and the millions of other deflection techniques that prevent us looking inwardly? 

This is a question that has been on my mind of late; in fact, it's been one that has been bothering me sporadically since I was in my early 20s. Let's jump into a time machine for a minute and travel back to the heady days of the early 2000s.

When I look back at myself, I barely recognize what I see. My behavior was reactive and wild. I lived to read, drink and dance to strange grooves. Travel and mind altering substances excited me as did pushing the boundaries of what was socially acceptable. I had no time for tradition, rules or custom and convention (I still don't actually) I saw myself as a rebel, an outlier, someone who had something to say both politically and socially, and after a few beers I would tell you my theories (and my goodness they were nonsense) I would sit with friends discussing political theory and philosophy until the blue light of a new day pierced the tightly drawn curtains of the living room. Nothing was of bounds: Marxism vs Capitalism, Anarcho-syndicalism, Temporary-Autonomous Zones, the Stoics, the pre-Socratics, Schopenhauer, Hegal, Wichenstein and this list went on and on... My God, flashbacks of 4am conversations flash thorough in my mind, conversations so full of inconsistency and plastic intellectualism it makes me glow with embarrassment now.

But, hey, isn't this what life is all about? Don't we all look back on our behaviors in the decades past with an uncomfortable smile? Sure we all do, for there are few of us who have found our true voice by the time we're in our 20s. Life is about discovery, uncovering new aspects of ourselves that are shaped as the sands of time run their course.

How many of us would say we are the same person as we were a decade ago? Think about when you get an email from an old school friend saying he'll be in town in a few weeks and would love to meet for chat. Of course, initially, waves of positive emotions flood your system:

"This is going to be amazing! I haven't seen this guy in 15 years.'

Then, when the day comes, you're on the way to meet him and ripples of anxiety start lapping against the core of your being.

"Should I bother? What if we have nothing in common, for it was a long time ago. I wonder if if people still call him 'Haze' or if he calls himself Richard now... or Rick or Rich...I wouldn't like to piss him off! Maybe this is a bad idea after all; I might just text him and tell him I'm Ill."

This indeterminable chatter, this continuous, monotonous interior dialogue - and how to counter it - is the true purpose of this post. We all suffer from it, and, it makes us behave frantically, irrationally, reactionary, and, above all, it makes us miserable. The weird thing is that most don't ever realize this internal mumbling shapes how we live our lives. These conditioned ways of thinking, picked up largely in childhood, added to in our teenage years and compounded in adulthood, form the basis of how we identify with ourselves.

"Sorry, for shouting. I've a bad temper. It's what I do when I'm stressed.'

"I always get anxious at this time of year."

"I'm conservative at heart; I don't like to take risks."

We all fall into the trap of identifying who we are with the thought we have, don't we? Well, what makes meditation so dam interesting, and important for that matter, is that quickly you begin to notice that that thoughts are transitory, they come and go like the smell of coffee as you walk past a coffee shop. One moment they are here and the next...gone. Nothing persists except the noise in our heads. Nothing is permanent including happiness, wealth, relationships, fitness etc etc no matter how much we fret and struggle to make them so.

As an investor, it's easy to get caught up in the madness. The advent of the internet has given us  endless amounts of information about the companies in our portfolios (and those on our watch-list) Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms spit out a continuous flow of investor data from rumors to updates from conferences to financial report analysis to whatever. The list goes on and on, a never ending deluge of data, some useful some not. As humans we crave this data and try to make sense of it into an digestible narrative. It's these narratives that inform our investment decisions. This constant flow of information is simultaneously liberating and imprisoning.

You don't believe me? Look a Twitter for example. Let's say you follow all the companies in your portfolio as well as some of their CEOs etc., this amounts to tsunami of data popping up in your account everyday. Now, of course, you don't have to read every article and watch every video recommended to you via the feed, but it's difficult not to. What if you miss something important? What if not reading the latest projection or bit of gossip could result in your financial downfall? The temptation is always there, isn't it?

Never before have humans been so addicted to the intravenous drip drip drip of dopamine, the naturally occurring brain chemical so manipulated online these days. We know the second we sit down on the train or stand in a queue, there'll be information of interest just a click away. Thus, our brains are flooded with dopamine and we click and let the good times roll. The question is, as investors, how does all this flicking and scanning do to our heads? It is helping us become better investors or is it blurring the line between knowledge acquisition and procrastination? From what I witness daily I would lean more towards the latter. Yes, people have more access to more quality information than any point in our species history, but is it more than we can handle? Also, are we processing this information in a deep and meaningful way, leading to enhanced analysis and evaluation, or does this frenetic need to scan (as opposed to read) as many articles per day muddy our overworked minds? Again, I gravitate towards the latter, and this is what got me thinking recently about meditation and investing.

In order to pull the investment trigger (as the Yanks say) we need to be thinking rationally. The more we are driven by fear or excitement, the greater danger there is of making a decision we'll regret later. This, of course, doesn't mean we have to be cold as steel, emotionless investing robots, void of spontaneity and humor. Far from it. But we do need to be able to pause before we invest and re-consider if we are indeed doing the right thing. This, in my opinion, is were mediation plays a role for the investor.

The problem with social media news feeds for the investor is that is clutters our mind and means we never get a break from investing news. Of course, it's important to read about the companies we are invested in, but many people become obsessive. I'm sure you all know people like this, or perhaps you are one of them yourself. Can you go without reading financial news for one train journey? Do you read financial news on the toilet? What I'm saying is that we need to take a step back and reassess our relationships with our devices - especially us investors. What's the worst that could happen if we didn't read the news while eating dinner with our friends? I believe it's high time for us all to ask these questions and take back control of out time and the information we digest.

I'm a big fan of the 10% Happier Podcast presented my Dan Harris. For those of you unacquainted with the show it's about meditation, self-help and generally becoming a better person. Dan Harris is an NBC news anchor in the US and comes from a background a far cry from the usual soft voiced, bead-wearing mediator. For me, this is one of the show's big appeals. As a listener, you get candid advice from a man who has - on the surface - no business in the hippy-dippy world of meditation. Anyway, Dan Harris states that "if we all do a few minutes of meditation almost every day" the world would become a better place. This may to some sound ludicrous, but those within this camp are usually people with little to no meditation experience.

I've been practicing a few minutes almost every day now for quite some time, and I feel the benefits: I'm less likely to fly off the handle at people; I think more before I act; I breathe more deliberately and try to stay in the moment more; I sleep better... and the list goes on. And I feel these positives help me as an investor, too. What investor wants to fly off the handle with clients? What investor wants to think less before they act? What investor wants to breathe without thinking and be riddled with anxiety? What investor wants to sleep less? None is the answer to all the above.

Thus, to wrap up this post before it morphs into a mini-novel what I'm trying to say is that mediation's benefits can help us all as investors. It only takes a couple of minutes per day, time that we probably spend scrolling down out Facebook feed and clicking thumbs up for reasons we can't explain. So why not give it a go folks and see what it can do for you?

By the way, I recommend a free app called Insight Timer  to get started.

If you have any comments of questions, please leave them in the comment box below, and I'll be happy to further the conversation.