By Bon-Gonna Li
Two Uncommon Investments
Last year was supposed to be a really bad one in the investment world. And with big surprises such as the collapse or near-collapse of certain financial institutions having unfolded already, some are now predicting that the worst is behind us and better times are ahead soon. They seem to know the future with certainty. Can we trust those predictions?
There are good analysts and bad analysts. Then there are the lucky ones, of course. Even a broken clock is lucky enough to be correct twice a day!
The truth is, there is still a lot of uncertainty out there and this is because more interventions, aside from the ones implemented already, will be done by the governments and the financial institutions in the near future – by injecting more liquidity, adjusting interest rates, doing more stimulus projects, etc. These actions have either positive or negative consequences, whether intended or not, depending on how much will be done and how it will be done. To finance the stimulus plans, will they borrow more, raise taxes in certain areas or print money? There is a delicate balance that must be observed and that will be hard to manage. Governments may not do enough or they may get things overdone.
I liken the economy to a process, as in a manufacturing process or a Six Sigma process. A process has several input variables and an output variable. In order to control the output of the process, we must understand and control the input variables, especially the critical ones. The process output cannot be predicted accurately if the input variables kept on being changed. That is what is happening now. Some of the inputs to the economy (liquidity, interest rate, tax rate, money supply, credit, etc.) are still being tinkered at in big economies such as that of the US. A lot of things are still up in the air. The effectiveness of the Obama stimulus plan, which will be backed by $800 billion to $900 billion bill in the US Congress, is still not known as of this writing. It is hard to know yet what the final outcome will be, especially on a longer term basis. Are we going to have a V-shaped (short and shallow), U-shaped, or an L-shaped (long slump) economic recovery? It is probably not a V-shaped one, based on things that continue to unfold.
In my previous column in this magazine, I explained how things worldwide are tightly interwoven, of which the US is one key fabric. With many countries getting burned as a result of this US-led global financial crisis, sensible countries will take the necessary steps to decouple more from the US, economically and financially. But that is not an easy task to do and it will surely take a much longer time. Decoupling is a possibility but as to when is the big question.
If you have money to invest, say in the local stock market, that you can afford to tie up for several years and not worry about the market’s daily gyration, you may go ahead. Prices now are definitely much cheaper and that lessens the risk. But the prices can still go lower. That’s a possibility. If you cannot afford to tie up your money that long, try to stay more liquid. Cash is king during uncertain times except, of course, in a hyper inflation mode where you do not want to be holding too much cash. But we are not in hyper inflation so that is not a concern right now.
Times are hard and uncertain. Corporate earnings continue to suffer. Unemployment rate continues to rise. This is the time when people tend to seek supernatural guidance. People pray more. People go to church more often. With this in mind, let me suggest two uncommon investments you can do anytime, whether we are in a spectacular market boom or in a global recession such as we have now.
One uncommon investment, if you believe in the life hereafter, is investing in the kingdom of God – where the rewards are great and eternal. The investment risk (parting with the money for mission work or even getting insulted for your beliefs, for example) is still worth taking because of the high reward/risk ratio that is better than rule of thumb of 3:1. In fact, it is something like infinity, considering that the rewards are there for eternity while the risks are only for a lifetime. This is probably the best investment return I know of.
So, what is the amount of your heavenly investment? Zilch? Nada? Zero? If so, you have got a lot of catching up to do, my friend. Seek God now. Life is just a mist.
The second uncommon investment, which is the second best investment I know of, is to invest in people relationships.
A great relationship with siblings, children, friends, business partners, or officemates may be your only lifeline during difficult periods. You don’t know how life will deal with you in the future. Your health could fail, your business could fail, you could lose your job, your investments could be wiped out or there could be another Great Depression ahead.
Be a blessing to others. Share your time, talent, and treasure while you are able because you might possibly be on the receiving end later. When life reversal happens you can likely count on some, if not all, of these great relationships to come to your rescue. That is the immediate reward here.
As in any investment, you must lessen the risk. So diversify you relationships. You have to face the reality that there are those who will, unfortunately, turn out to be big disappointments when you need them, in spite of having helped them in the past during their big needs. It happens. At least, you will get to know who your real friends are.
There is power in giving or sharing. It is therefore important for us to produce surplus so we can afford to be generous.
Proverbs 11:24 says, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.”
“One uncommon investment, if you believe in the life hereafter, is investing in the kingdom of God – where the rewards are great and eternal… The second uncommon investment, which is the second best investment I know of, is to invest in people relationships.”
Bon-Gonna Li just finished a book about money, investments, success and happiness and is planning to publish it. He had written on various topics at Income-Tacts (www.income-tacts.com), a financial e-group that has over two thousand members. For feedback about the article and inquiry about the book, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.