Baby steps into the investment universe - Analytical; Part 2 of 3

Fundamentals 04-2: Step by step guide as well as selected URL of free resources to start you off in learning to be a successful value investor.   Revision date: 12 August 2020

I actually learned to invest by reading online materials, listening to podcasts and watching videos, all available free online. I seldom buy books although I have read many that I have downloaded.

That was more than 15 years ago.  Today there are vastly more resources available online so that it should be easier to learn from online resources.

Is this correct?  Not really because unless you learn to focus, you are likely to be overwhelmed. 

Let me guide you on how to successfully learn to invest from freely available online resources. 

There are several dimensions to investing
  • Technical vs fundamental 
  • Stock picking/active vs passive
  • Quant or purely quantitative vs traditional
  • Stocks vs other assets
This post is about traditional stock-picking using fundamentals.

You are here to learn how to be a value investor, to be able to decide for yourself what to buy, how much to buy and when to sell.

To do this well, you need to develop  two skillsets 
  • Analytical - how to analyze companies and value them
  • Behavioural - how to minimize human errors  

Part 2 of 3 here which covers the analytical component provides the learning steps and a selected URL to get you started.

Part 3 of 3 that was published on 26 Jul 2020, covers the riks and behavioral aspects as well as lists the rest of the selected URL. 

Part 1 of 3 (a prequel) is a more beginners view of  investing was published on 6 Sept 2020


Contents

  • How to learn
  • Learn in stages
  • Learning objectives
  • What to learn
  • Pulling it all together
  • Foundation and Intermediate levels URLs

Baby step into the investing universe - Part 2 of 3


Case Notes

I first published this post on 12 July 2020 under "Is there a way to learn (online, free) to invest (Part 1 of 2) ?" as a guide for those who want to be a better investor.   I subsequently realized that for many, the post is a second step as they first have to get some basic knowledge about investing.  I encountered a "Star Wars" moment. I needed a prequel.  So this post cannot be the first of the series and I have re-titled and renumbered it accordingly. 



How to learn

How did I learn?
  1. Gain some knowledge
  2. Practice to gain experience
  3. Repeat steps (1) and (2)
  4. Only move on to the next level after you have mastered a particular level 
  5. Repeat (1) to (4)
  6. Start to Invest when you reach level 3  
According to a study by technology giant Microsoft, the attention span of people has fallen from 12 seconds to 8 seconds — thanks to the mobile revolution and an increasingly digitized lifestyle.

In order to learn successfully, it must be done in small chunks - bite-sized learning. This is the practice of delivering training in smaller, more focused chunks or bites that can be easily learned without committing large amounts of time.

The best analogy I can give is infographics – yes this is bite-sized learning.

Anyway, the point I am making is that you read one or two articles to gain some background knowledge, then explore one or two case studies and repeat the learning cycle until you have completed everything at a particular level. 

I will provide the links to the necessary free online resources so that you can gain the background knowledge for each level.

To gain experience you have to learn from case studies and try to answer all the questions that I posed in my case studies

There are 4 levels to go through.
  • Level 1 – Foundation
  • Level 2 – Intermediate
  • Level 3 – Advanced
  • Level 4 – Expert
I am assuming that you start at the Foundation level and will provide some pointers on when you can move from one level to the next. 

If you have been following my case studies posts eg Asia File you ought to be able to create a similar analysis and valuation by the time you finish the Advanced level. 

How long will it take?

Realistically and assuming that you can spend at best an hour a day, I would think that you would need to spend about 4 to 6 months at the Foundation level and another 4 to 6 months at the Intermediate level. 

I think it will take another 12 to 18 months at the Advanced level before you are ready to go to the Expert level.

A long time?  Remember that you are learning how to invest for a lifetime.

The difference between self-learning online compared to a classroom setting where there is a teacher is that with self-learning you need the self-discipline to go through all the materials and to do the worked examples and case studies.

The biggest challenge will be the “practice” part as you are not able to discuss with other students or a lecturer/teacher.  

My advice if you are stuck - pose the questions online.  What I did was to skip the part and then come back after you have learned a bit more. It has worked most of the time. 

Secondly, when you read the case studies online,  they generally present the situation and analysis together.  Effectively you get the "solution" as you read the case.  

This is not as good as a case study in a classroom setting where the case study has been prepared in such a manner that the solution is not provided.  You first read the case and then discuss the issues and solutions in class.

Unfortunately, you don't have this "discovery" dimension when covering case studies on your own.  

One way to get around this predicament is to try to do the analysis yourself and then compare it with the one presented.  Of course, to do this, the "solution" has to be presented separately.

You ought to be able to use the case studies in my blog in this manner.

I always give advance notice of the company I am going to feature so that the reader can do his own analysis ahead of time and then compare his analysis with what is presented.

If you have the discipline to take this step, it will accelerate your learning.



Baby step into the investment universe : learn how to invest


Learn in stages


I think there are several levels to go through in order to reach a stage where you can confidently analyze and value companies
  • Foundation level where you focus on concepts
  • Intermediate level where you can start valuing companies using multiples
  • Advanced level where you seriously start number crunching and pick companies
  • Expert level
Once you pass the Advanced level, I am sure you will know what to look for to progress further.

For each of the first 3 levels, I will provide you with a list of the online resources for 3 medium - reading materials, podcasts and videos.

The reality is that each site may have lots of other articles so I will point to the key articles to cover for each of the listed sites.
  
What I suggest is that you initially focus on what I have recommended.
  
Once you have gone through all of them, by all means, go back to the various sites and go through all the other materials. 

By then hopefully, you would have learned to identify whether the article is directly relevant or something nice to know only. 

BTW I stop listing the resources after the Advanced level since as an Expert you would have your own niche and know where to go and what to look for. 

Analytical Skillset


If you accept the premise that in investing you are not buying pieces of paper, but rather a part share of a business, then not only must you learn about valuation, but you also need some working knowledge of how businesses work. 

Warren Buffett has famously said

“I am a better investor because I am a businessman, and a better businessman because I am no investor”

Some of you may not have the business experience so I have tried to compensate this by also listing resources on business topics including case studies and simulation. 

Remember that there are 2 basic skills you need to acquire
  • How to analyze the business
  • How to value the business
To develop the skills for each of them, you need to go through a repeated process of acquiring knowledge and then having some “practice”.

Accordingly, the list of online resources will cover both the skills as well as follow the learning steps.


Learning objectives

The learning objectives for the various levels are as follows

Foundation level learning goals


Foundation level: mostly conceptual
  • Intro to investing
  • Intro to business analysis
  • Understanding financial statements
You can move to the Intermediate level when you are able to go through Annual Reports and understand the financial statements and see whether the Chairman Statements and/or Management, Discussions and Analysis is a public relations exercise or they actually provide information for you to analyze the company's performance. 


Intermediate Level learning goals


Intermediate level: a bit of quantitative analysis
  • Intro to value investing
  • How to analyze business
  • Intro to valuation
You are ready to move to the Advanced level when you can identify undervalued companies using multiples as well as assess whether the company is able to sustain its performance over the next couple of years. 


Advance level learning goals



Advanced level:  – number crunching, more emphasis on case studies
  • How to value companies
  • Business strategies
  • Value investing spectrum
You can move to the Expert level when you can perform the analysis and valuation as presented in my case studies with equivalent details and depth.  When you reach this stage, you can be assured that you have successfully learned to invest. 

Expert level learning goals

Expert level: 
  • CAPM and Modern Portfolio Theory
  • Options
  • Other investment approaches – Technical, Smart Beta


What to learn

There are tons of material on the web.  It is like going to school.  There are lots of textbooks on the same subject for a particular school level. This gets worst the higher up the education level you go.

But the schools don’t make you buy all of them.  There is a booklist that specifies what you ought to read. 

Along the same lines, I have narrowed down the resource list for each level to the extent that for some sites I list specific articles, podcasts or videos.

The analogy is that you don’t read all the books in the library.

For each level, I have attempted to narrow the choices to the top 5 for each of the media so that you can be focussed on getting the appropriate background knowledge. 

I would expect you to go through all the recommended material in the top 5 lists. 

Of course, not all at once.  Maybe one or two articles, podcasts or videos a day.

I would suggest that for each medium, you start from the top of the respective list.  However, you should cover the reading material, podcasts and videos for each level concurrently as they can help to reinforce the learning. 

How did I select my list?

Firstly, I am recommending those that I have read, listened or watched over the past 15 years.  

Then if there are not sufficient sites to fill up the respective resource list, I do a Google search. 
  • For each search criteria, I run through what Google has identified
  • I don’t select them based on Google page ranking.  Rather I try to identify those that complement my historical lists. 
For transparency, there are annotations in the resource list on whether these were materials I used or found through Google search. 


Pulling it all together

  • This is not a how-to get rich quickly site. 
  • There is also no secret investing formula.
  • The learning process and skillsets to be developed are based on my experience in learning how to invest, in running companies at C-suite levels as well as being the Director of Studies for a renowned MBA programme.

    • There is selected a resource list for you to successfully teach yourself how to invest.
    • I have arranged the resources into 3 levels – Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced and hope that you become proficient at each level before advancing to the next.
    • BTW, if you have come to the part of the post and have yet to read my posts Fundamentals 01 "An Introduction To Investing In Listed Companies" and Fundamentals 02, "The Basics Of Valuing A Company" shame on you. 

    Resources

    URL

    Foundation

    No

    Site

     

    Guide and comments

    Reading materials

     

    1

    Morningstar Investing Classroom

     

    ·        You have to sign up (free) and go to Learn

    ·        Read all articles under Investing Basics

    ·        Read all article under Stock under Investing Classroom

    ·        I found this site after a year of trying to learn about investing and with hindsight I should have started with this site.

     

    2

    Motley Fool

    ·       Read all articles under Investing 101 and Stock Market Basics, both under Investing Basics

    ·       There are also podcasts under the above two topics and you should listen to them.

    ·       I go to the Motley Fool whenever I want to start learning about a new topic as I find it simple to digest. But the real value is their case studies.

     

    3

    The Balance

    ·       Go to Investing for Beginners and read all the articles under Value Investing and Stocks

    ·       If you don’t have an accounting or finance background, you should read all articles under Income Statement and Balance Sheets under Investing for Beginners

    ·       To be transparent I did not use the material here when I was learning.  But on looking thru them, I think there are useful for beginners.

     

    4

    Yahoo Finance

    ·       Go to Personal Finance, look under Articles and Tutorials read all articles under Stocks and Explainers under Investing.

    ·       By the time I found Yahoo Finance, I was already into Level 2 so I actually skimped through many of the material that I am recommending

     

    5

    The Street  

     

     

    ·       This is a site with many sections so you should go the specific URL as provided to get to the recommended reading list.  Alternatively, is to Google search under “The Street How to Invest in Stocks” etc

    ·        Read all articles under the following 2 URL

    o   How to Invest in StocksStock Investing 101, A Beginners Guide to Stock Investing.  

    o   How to Invest Your Money and read Stock Market Basics - Stock 101 and Investing Basics - Investing 101

    ·       I watch Cramer more for entertainment and was surprised that his site actually had some good educational material

     

    Podcasts

     

    6

    Investing for Beginners

    Go to Investing Podcast and search for

    ·       Investing Basics or Back to Basics and listen to all those relating to investing

    ·   Value Investing - there are blogs and podcasts you should read/listen

    ·        Investing for Dummies – listen to this

    ·     You should also download the free pdf “A Great Value Investing PDF for All You Freeloaders”

    ·    When I started, there were really not many investment podcasts so my learning was more from reading materials.  But I think podcasts can help as a refresher.

     

    7

    Stock Stories

    ·       This is a podcast of case studies of companies

    ·        I would start with the episode 100 Stock Investing Lessons

    ·       Listen to as many case studies as you can

    ·       I listen to them to get ideas on where to look for new investments

     

    8

    Financial Statement Story

    ·       For those without finance or accounting background, this is a good podcast about understanding financial statements

    ·       Start with Episode 1 and go through all of them as you will need to be able to read the financial statements

    ·       I did not go through any finance/accounting material as I was already familiar with them when I started to learn to invest

     

    9

    Popcorn Finance

    ·     Go to Episode, under Podcast series, select Investing 101 and listen to all the podcast here

    ·        This is a site I found through Google search.

     

    10

    Investors Field Guide – Invest Like the Best

    ·       I would start with Episode 51 on Buying Companies With Economic Moats, Pat Dorsey

    ·      This podcast is applicable to all the 3 levels of study

    ·       One of the podcasts I currently listen to on a regular basis

     

    Videos

    11

    Smart Investing Trends

     

    ·     They have 2 videos under the Investing 101 title. Watch both

    ·         I found this through Google search

     

    12

    Business explained

    ·        This more like an audiobook that a video

    ·        Watch/listen to Business management 101

    ·        An important aspect of an investment is assessing management.  This gives an overview of what management does.

    ·        When I started to learn to invest, I was already familiar with management issues

     

    13

    selfLearn-en

    ·        This is another audiobook.

    ·        Watch/listen Business 101

    ·        This is for those without any business background.

    ·        I found this through Google search and I thought it gave a good intro for those without any business background

     

    14

    Cooper Academy

    ·       There are a couple of videos but focus on Warren Buffett: How to Invest for Beginners and Stock Market for Beginners 2020

    ·       I found this through Google search

     

    15

    Ivy Business School

    ·         Ben Graham Centre for Value Investing

    ·         This a series of value investing presentations by industry players.

    ·         Watch all of them

    ·         I still watch this series

     




    Intermediate


    No

    Site

     

    Guide and comments

    Reading materials

     

    1

    Dummies


    ·        This is a good intro into business strategies

    ·        I suggest that you read all the articles under Business Strategy.

    ·        There are two interpretations of “Business analysis”. In my context, I refer to understanding the business for investment purposes.  The other interpretation is in software system development where you are determining the business needs in terms of the processes.  Skip all the articles relating to this latter definition.

    ·        I have read several “Dummies” books over the years and found them to be a good way to start to learn about a new topic

     

    2

    Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies

    ·        This contains a list of websites for learning all aspects of the business.

    ·        I am recommending that you go to the various business and investing simulation sites and play those games as part of the case learning experience eg BricksorClicks, Energee Incorporated, How the market works.

    ·        I used to be the Director of Studies of a renowned MBA programme and I understand the value of business games and simulation

     

    3

    Value Spreadsheet

    ·        This is a blog with articles, podcasts and videos about value investing

    ·        It is a good intro to value investing and I would recommend that you actually go through all the material (blogs, podcasts and videos) that is available for free

    ·        I found this through Google search and I think it is very comprehensive.

     

    4

    Fundamental Finance Playbook

    ·        The site has articles about investing basics and some case studies, investors' histories.  

    ·        You should go through all of them

    ·        I found this on Google search.  I have read lots of investing books and I thought this website give a good intro.

     

    5

    Merger and Inquisitions

    ·       This is a site with articles and videos

    ·        Focus on valuation and modeling videos

    ·        At some stage, you will have to start building your financial models.  This site gives you the background info and practice in model building

    ·         I am a numerical person so working with modeling using spreadsheets was not something unusual. 

     

    Podcasts

     

    6

    Giovanni Rigters

    ·        This is actually an audiobook on Stock Market Investing for Beginners & Dummies

    ·        I found this through Google search

     

    7

    Value Investing in your Car

    ·       This has a series of short podcasts on value investing topics

    ·       Start with this episode on 6 Skills You MUST Know Or Learn To Make Money

    ·        Listen to as much as possible

    ·        I found this on Google search and would have loved to have had this when I started to learn about investing.

     

    8

    Inside the Strategy Room

    ·       This is a series of talks by McKinsey partners and executives on strategies

    ·       This will give you insights when analyzing a business

    ·        Start with the episode on What sets the world’s best CEOs apart as assessing management is an important aspect of your analysis

    ·        Listen to as much as possible.  You want to understand strategy from the investor’s perspective

    ·       I have a consulting background so I did not have to learn this skill

     

    9

    Motley Fool  – Industry Focus

    ·        Motley Fool analysis of specific industries

    ·        You will need an understanding of the industry in which a company operate as part of the business analysis

    ·        I suggest that you listen to this as general knowledge and when you analyze a company go and look for the specific industry to listen to

    ·       One of my favorite site for industry knowledge

     

    10

    Strategy Skills

     

    ·       This podcast is about the skills and analysis required by McKinsey and BCG consultants

    ·        I think it would help you analyze companies

    ·        There are 2 categories in the podcast – case studies and consulting skills.  Focus on the case studies

    ·        But start with episode 91 on corporate strategy

    ·        I was lucky to be working at the C suite level when I started to learn about investing so I focussed my time on the valuation aspects.

     

    Videos

    11

    Big Think

    ·        Everything You Need to Know About Finance and Investing in Under an Hour by William Ackman.

    ·        A good intro for those without any finance or investing background.

    ·        I found this years’ after I have passed Level 2.  I would have loved to have started with this

     

    12

    Valuation by Damodaran

     

    ·        These are an intro series without the quantitative aspect of valuation and you should watch all of them

    ·        I only found these videos after I have read his book. The best is to watch the videos first

     

    13

    Kase Learning, Empire Financial Research

    ·        Kase Learning is created by value investor Whitney Tilson and you should watch the Introduction to Value Investing episode. 

    ·        For those without finance or accounting background, you should also watch Understanding Financial Statements episode

    ·        I first saw Whitney in one of the value investment seminar’s videos and have been following him since

    ·        I have also listed Kase Learning for the Advanced Level as I think it is worth following him for everything on his site

     

    14

    Texas Lutheran University

    ·         The University has a series of investment talks. 

    ·         You should track and watch all of them. Start by watching the Pat Dorsey - Investment Strategies

    ·         I still follow these talks.

     

    15

    Tutor2U 

    ·        Business Models and Theories

    ·        This site has short (generally < 15 minutes) videos on various business concepts. 

    ·         For those without any business background, you should watch all of them. 

    ·        I found this through Google search and think that it gives a good summary of business concepts

     




    End of Part of 2 of 3


    Part 3 was published on Sun 26 July 2020

    Part 1 (prequel) was published on 6 Sep 2020



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    I am not an investment adviser, security analyst or stockbroker.  The contents are meant for educational purposes and should not be taken as any recommendation to purchase or dispose of shares in the featured companies.   Investments or strategies mentioned in this website may not be suitable to you and you should have your own independent decision regarding them. 

    The opinions expressed here are based on information I consider reliable but I do not warrant its completeness or accuracy and should not be relied on as such. 

    I may have equity interests in some of the companies featured.

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