Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sampadyam -Malayalam Magazine for Newbie Investors

Sambadyam (a savings and investment magazine in Malayalam)

Type: Magazine
Language: Malayalam
Frequency: Quarterly
Topic: Investment, Insurance and all Personal Finance Topics
Price: Rs.15.00
Published by: Malayala Manorama

Sambadyam is a Malayalam magazine, dealing with money related topics. The tagline of the magazine reads 'nikshepakarude vazhi kaatti' (investors' guide).

Although the magazine claims to be a guide to investors, I think the magazine is good for newbie investors only. It is good for newbie investors, but seasoned investors find it grossly inadequate.

After the odd feeling of reading finance and investment topics in Malayalam is over, I could find the magazine as a guide to insurance policies, mutual fund schemes, stocks and tax planning.

The magazine has stock suggestions, without ticker symbols. The writers pick a few stocks and ask readers to consider them. Though the stocks are good bargains at the prices mentioned in the magazine, they are already trading at double the prices by the time I checked the prices. Buy the stocks at available prices and you are making big speculations. I do not expect anything better from a magazine, which is published once in three months.

Both issues had in the last page, a Tax Corner feature, where tax related doubts by readers are cleared. The questions mailed in by the readers are answered straight, clearly and in simple language.

The magazine has several pluses and a few minuses. The strong points are Tax Corner, insurance advice and mutual fund advice. The write up on systematic investment plan (SIP) offered by different fund houses was an insightful one and would inspire youth to separate a monthly sum towards investments.

The writers could do a better job by introducing better-managed funds. I miss funds by DSP ML, Fidelity and Reliance MF (although it featured Reliance Tax Saver fund).

The column titled 'Portfolio Doctor' is the weakest link. This column generally discusses the asset allocation of an investor and suggests a prescription for weaknesses in portfolio allocation. The writer has to identify some weak points in the asset allocation and suggest a remedy for a selected portfolio followed by an investor. The prescriptions are hurriedly prepared and do not qualify as studied suggestions.

The November issue discussed a portfolio (of Dr. Saji P Soman and Bindhu). The first prescription was to diversify the stocks to different stocks (I approve the suggestion) from current domination of infrastructure stocks. The second suggestion is to entrust a portfolio management to handle the stocks (Nov 2007 issue, p.66). I think a portfolio management service is not necessary for someone who has significant levels of investments in mutual funds and knows what he is doing with his money. Moreover, Warren Buffet has told you to "make your own firewood, it warms you twice".

The investor doesn't go for a PMS, but will reduce risks by diversifying his stocks to pharma, communications, entertainment, tourism and banking sectors.

The asset allocation of the couple revolves around stocks only. That is the weak point of the portfolio. It doesn't involve any real estate and gold. The saddest part is the writer starts the column by praising the absence of real estate and bullion in the portfolio – the writer also encourages average families to copy the investment style (a big mistake).

A good suggestion would be to lock in the profits from stocks, at least three years before a significantly important event and redirecting the investments to assured return funds. This step is important. Even though the good stocks can perform well in the long run, it can go down in short terms. You will lose money, if you are forced to redeem cash during a dip in the stock market. You will insulate yourself against such risks, if you redirect your cash to assured return funds.

There was a review on Benjamin Graham's world renowned book, The Intelligent Investor, which is a necessary read for everyone investing in stocks (or anything). The facing page (p.72, Nov 2007) has day trading tricks, which includes buying a stock if it has breached the 52 week high. Benjamin Graham in his book talks in detail about concepts like 'margin of safety', which is about identifying the real value of a stock and buying it at a price lower than the real value. While day trading is the recipe to burning your shirt (and underwear), 'margin of safety' is something that protects you from the volatilities of markets. I find it a bit odd to print these two concepts in face to face pages.

Who makes the good readership?

Anyone who doesn't have any insurance, mutual funds and stocks, but likes to get started. The Tax Corner is also good for tax payers.

People with some experience in money and investment matters feel this magazine inadequate.