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Investing Lessons From Cats And Rats

No, he’s definitely alive”. “He can’t still be alive – he must be at least 100 years old by now”. “I can’t believe he is dead. I only saw him on telly last month”.

Dead or Alive?” used to be fun segment fillers on many radio stations. Radio presenters would throw out a quick question to listeners to get them to phone in with their responses as to whether well-known celebrities are still with us or whether they are pushing up the daisies.

It used to spark interesting arguments amongst friends. But that was in the good old days before the internet.

News and opinion

These days, a similar phone-in would probably last for no more than a few seconds. That is roughly the length of time it would take for us to consult the all-knowing Google.

The internet, it has to be said, has changed our lives appreciably. Being able to connect to the World Wide Web has, for many, become almost as important as a regular supply of town gas, running water, uninterrupted electricity and crystal-clear reception on our mobiles.

The internet is now the prime source of information for many people. We rely on it for news, for opinions and even for recommendations.

How many of us, I wonder, will seek out the opinions of strangers on the internet before we try out a new restaurant or a new holiday destination? Lots of us, I suspect.

For some inexplicable reason, we are quite prepared to trust the assessment of someone we wouldn’t know from Adam. We have no idea as to whether they have a vested interest, a stakeholder interest or a financial interest in providing their opinion. But we still take it as gospel.

Fluffy Cat

I remember taking a trip to Bali some time ago. I booked the excursion through a reputable travel agency. The first inkling I had that something could be amiss was when a furry creature scuttled across the dining room floor. Was it a fluffy cat? No, it was a scruffy rat.

But guess what? When I checked on the internet later on, the hotel had a string of glowing recommendations.

It would seem that believing the things we read on the internet has become quite commonplace these days. But it is important for us to differentiate between fact and opinion.

Facts are indisputable. They can be checked and verified. If I said the Straits Times Index (SGX: ^STI) rose from 2,582 points at the turn of the Millennium to 3,276 points 14 years later, those facts can be checked in an instant. And if I said Jardine Matheson (SGX: J36) was the best-performing company within the index during that time – the fact can also be tested.

An opinion, on the other hand, is based on a belief or view. It cannot be substantiated. Nor can it be corroborated. For example, if I said Keppel Corporation (SGX: BN4) is Singapore’s best conglomerate, then that would only be my opinion. There might be good reasons for me to make the assertion. But not everyone might agree with them.

A revelation

I am, it has to be said, an unapologetic income investor. Others within the Motley Fool might share my passion for dividends. But there are many who could prefer other styles of investing such as growth or value. It is the diversity of views that make us “Motley”.

If you are new to investing, it is more than possible that you may not know precisely, or even vaguely, the type of investor you are. That is perfectly understandable. It took me years to find out “Who I really was”. But once I did, it was a revelation. It made me a better investor.

Almost immediately, I was comfortable with the stocks that I selected for my portfolio. I could, quite simply, sleep well at night, knowing that when stock markets fall, I can buy more of what I like at a better price.

That, by the way, is a fact, rather than an opinion. When prices fall, we can buy more of what we like at a better price. As to whether that makes us better investors, I think it does. But that is just my opinion.

This article first appeared in Take Stock Singapore. Click here now to have your FREE subscription to Take Stock -- Singapore, The Motley Fool's free investing newsletter, delivered straight into your mailbox. Written by David Kuo, Take Stock -- Singapore tells you exactly what's happening in today's markets, and shows how you can GROW your wealth in the years ahead.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore Director David Kuo doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.