Monkeys, Mysteries, and Mutual Funds

RANDOM WIKIPEDIA TOPIC(S): Enigma (Vertigo) + List of mutual funds listed on the TSX

If there’s one wild beast that humans will never stop attempting to tame, it’s the stock market: that chaotic transmutable creature, half-bull, half-bear. They do it for the reward, they do it for the thrill, but they also do it to try and bring order to disorder, to become masters of the numbers. If you don’t have the stomach to do it for yourself, you can always buy mutual funds and let some other wizard get their hands dirty with your money.

Mr. Adam Monk of the Chicago Sun-Times manages a small stock portfolio which is scrutinized by the financial world and often compared against high profile investors. In 2008, he chose to invest in 5 companies, including TIme Warner Cable (mistake) and Marvel Entertainment (good choice thanks to Iron Man). By the end of 2008, with the world staring into the giant maw of a global financial crisis, Monk’s portfolio had lost 14% of its value. But he was still beating the market average, as he had for the last four years. In fact, he was doing considerably better than Jim Cramer, the CNBC celebrity fund manager and author of Mad Money. Cramer’s 2008 picks were down 29.8%

But the main difference between the two men is that Mr. Adam Monk is a monkey. Yup. A Brazilian cinnamon-ring tail cebus. So who’s laughing now?

In the ’90s I met with my first financial advisor. She set me up with a 20-pay (a life-insurance tax shelter) and some mutual funds (By the way, I live in Toronto, home of the TSX (Toronto Stock eXchange), and have small investments in a few of the mutual funds listed there. But I have no idea which ones). At the time, I thought the words ‘balanced portfolio’ sounded complicated. I trusted this young woman (who was no older than myself, really) to plan my future— even though she was on commission. One day I asked myself why she wasn’t rich. If she was so good at managing money, why was she still hustling? I decided that if she could do it, I could do it too. I did some research, bought a few books, and began to tackle this financial enigma myself. Many years and many dollars later, I’m doing better now than when someone else was in charge.

In early 2008 I bought a few shares of Marvel Entertainment. I certain wish I had bought more, and bought them earlier. They were my best performing stock: up 81.60% before Disney swooped in and purchased the entire company. The core tenement of value investing, the type of investing done by the likes of Warren Buffett, is to love the company you are buying into. Buy something that you know you’ll want to keep for at least 5 or 10 years. I loved comics as a kid. I owned X-men and Spiderman and the New Mutants. I knew that Marvel still had hundreds of characters in their archives to bring to the silver screen. Marvel was always cooler than DC (Detective Comics): Spiderman (Marvel) had angst, while Superman (DC) was just annoying*. The X-men (Marvel) had to deal with mutant prejudice and unpredictable powers, while Batman (DC), although dark and brooding, didn’t have a mutant cell in his body.

Both Marvel and DC struggled to stay relevant through the 80s, and experimented with smaller, darker offshoots (kinda like Molson and Labatt’s creating their own micro-breweries). One of these was DC’s more adult Vertigo, which became famous for their Sandman series written by Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline and American Gods).

Another of Vertigo’s crazy titles was Enigma, which has been referred to as the first existential superhero miniseries. With an all-powerful, yet aloof anti-hero, and villains who suck brains, teleport people in packages, or re-decorate houses to cause madness, it’s not standard fair. In fact the plot takes some dramatic and unexpected hair-pin turns, dealing with identity, sexuality, and the ultimate existence of the protagonist (and the human race). That’s a lot to ink about in 8 short comics.

One thing I’ve learned about chaos (and this includes investing in comic book companies) is that it’s best to just go with it. Get in the drivers seat of your life and head toward your destination(s). Don’t look at all the problems at the side of the road. If you crash or fail, than at least you’ll be the one at the wheel, even if that wheel isn’t really connected to the steering column. And if worst comes to worst, you can always blame it on the monkey.

*As an aside, I owned a huge box of Justice League of America when I was a kid, which I acquired through a second-hand book store. I read scores of these comics, and without fail every episode involved evil magic, evil psychics, metaphysical spirits, or Kryptonite. This was the only way the writers could deal with the virtually indistructable (and boring) Superman.


[references: http://www.amazon.com/Enigma-Comics-Vertigo-Peter-Milligan/dp/1563891921/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262578184&sr=8-1-spell, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutual_fund, http://www.freeby50.com/2009/04/jim-cramer-versus-monkey-who-wins.html, http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2007/01/17/the-stock-picking-monkey-strikes-again/, http://www.automaticfinances.com/monkey-stock-picking/, http://www.suntimes.com/business/roeder/208997,CST-FIN-curious14.article, http://www.suntimes.com/business/stockmarket/monkeymanager/719439,curiouspicks123007.stng, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bull_and_bear_markets, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Cramer, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_gaiman, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertigo_%28DC_Comics%29, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_league_of_america]

Next random topics: June 10 + Livonia (His Name Is Alive album)

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