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Author: Alex Vostrykov

Lesson 004 – EPS. What can be easier?

Lesson 004 – EPS. What can be easier?


This is our investing lesson #4 and the first true fundamental investing lesson.

Many investors should admit: “All what I know about investments I know due to Warren Buffett”. Me too. A lot of things I picked up from Oracle Of Omaha is simple but powerful stuff. Today we are going to talk about probably the most important thing you should know about company’s fundamentals.

Let’s get started!

EPS – The most Fundamental Criterion

If you were allowed to look at just one kind of the company’s statistics and right after that to make a decision whether it is good or bad fundamentally, you should prefer to use the company’s EPS. This is probably the most fundamental one of all the fundamental criteria.

EPS Criterion

EPS should consistently grow with the passage of time.

The idea is very simple: the company is good if its future profits are predictable. Provided, of course, that they are positive and growing. And EPS growth reflects the growth of the profits. Sounds simple? Don’t rush to answer. The following discussion is about the niggles and caveats about it.

Not All Earnings Are Equal

Just an example, a company X has sold one of its businesses. The money they get from this deal will increase profits of the company for this year. This is an example of non-recurring event which boosts net income. But only for one year with a possible negative impact on the future earnings (since the company got rid of the business, the business will not generate profits in future anymore). As opposed to that, a company Y has re-invested retained earnings into the core business, which resulted in 10% growth of profits this year. And highly likely this growth is here to stay in future. You as an investor, which company you would prefer – X or Y?

Detrimental Buybacks

There are some cases when the management wants to mask the fact the business is actually getting worse and worse. They know that investors look at earnings per share. So, even though net profits are lower and lower, smart management starts repurchasing company’s shares. Less shares outstanding – the higher EPS. I.e. if they buy back enough stock, the EPS will still look okay. Beware of smart management!

In one of the following lessons we are going to cover this in more details.

EPS Growth Rate

If a company satisfies the criterion regarding EPS, you can calculate an annual EPS Growth Rate. There are couple of things to know about it:

  1. Its normal average value varies significantly depending on sector and industry;
  2. If you have two companies from the same industry, you should choose the one with higher EPS growth rate, all else being equal;
  3. It is very difficult for any business to maintain annual growth of more than 20%. If you see a higher value, it is recommended to cap it at 20% in your calculations.

And one more thing – as in any standard disclaimer: remember, past performance does not guarantee anything in future.

You need 10 years of statistics

This heading speaks for itself. To make any more or less reliable conclusions regarding any fundamental ratio (EPS in particular), you need a decade of statistics. I would not recommend you to use statistics for less that 7 and more than 10 years – your calculations and conclusions in both cases tend to be inadequate.

A Practical Problem

The problem is very simple: how to practically use this criterion? Yes, of course, anybody can glance at 10 financial statements of a company, skimming just earnings per share values and then apply this criterion, right? But in practice such thing is way harder: if you go to Google Finance, Yahoo Finance, MSN or any other free source, you will find the data for just 4 years. By the way, MSN used to have it, but after they redesigned the UI couple of years ago, it is gone…

As of now, I can recommend just couple of sources of such information – both are paid services – Morningstar and Black Belt Investments.


Above we already spoke about non-recurring (one-time) events. They are not limited to just a sale of assets, they also include accidents, natural disasters, any kind of one-time abnormal situation around business. They tend to generate abnormally low or high value of EPS – outliers. There are different techniques how to cope with them (for example, you can get rid of maximum and minimum values or you can straighten it by spline functions – in further lessons we may touch this). The only important thing here is: you cannot ignore outliers.

Baby Buffett Portfolio

Named after Warren Buffett, it is just a set of his best long-term investments. We will need it, because we will refer to them quite often in our problems. Here is the Baby Buffett Portfolio:

  • Nike Inc
  • ConocoPhillips
  • Costco
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • Procter & Gamble

Problem #5: There was one more company in Baby Buffett Portfolio: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. Please find out what has happened to this company.

Problem #6: Please apply the EPS Criterion to all the companies in the Baby Buffett Portfolio.

Lesson 003 – 3 Rules Each Investor Should Know

Lesson 003 – 3 Rules Each Investor Should Know

This is the third lesson regarding investments. And here we are going to learn something what can be practically used immediately. Plus, 3 rules we are going to talk about – they belong to a “gentlemen set” of any more or less knowledgeable investor.

Rule of 72

I learnt the Rule of 72 many years ago from the books of a prominent German couch, motivational speaker and entrepreneur Bodo Schaefer.

Let’s illustrate this rule at the example below:

Bodo Schaefer

You want to deposit $100 to bank. Interest rate is 6%. How long does it take to double the investment? Assuming, of course, that all interest generated on monthly basis is re-invested (stays in the same deposit account and generates more interest – aka compounding interest).

Rule of 72 will help us to answer this question quite precisely and very quickly. The timespan to double the investment equals 72 divided by the interest rate:

Years to double = 72 / Interest Rate.

In our case it will be 12 years (72 / 6 = 12).

Some more caveats on this rule:

  • It is also know as Formula of 72;
  • It is an important condition to have a monthly compounding. The rule will not work if payments are less frequent;
  • The same formula is applicable if you answering the questions how long will it take for the money to loose half of its value (buying power) if you know the inflation rate.

Problem #1: Use either an excel sheet or your bank savings account statement to see that the Rule of 72 works.

Problem #2: When you open up a savings account, you are told that it will pay 0.5% interest annually. How many generations of you family it will take to notice that your initial deposit doubled? Provided, of course, that you will not add more money later, that this account will not be amended by bank and that one generation is 30 years.

Problem #3: Provided that an inflation rate is 2%, how long it will take to for your money to loose 3/4 of its current buying power?

Rule of 150

Another great rule from the same author – Rule of 150:

In order to cover your monthly expenses you need to invest 150 times your monthly expenses at 8%.

Problem #4: Apply the rule of 150 to your own (or your household’s) expenses.

3-6-3 Rule

This rule is not very official and it refers to a very simplistic model of how banking system works. Later when we are going to cover the banking system, we will discuss what it has “under the hood” in more details. 3-6-3 Rule states:

A banker would borrow money, giving 3% interest on depositors’ accounts, lend the money at 6% interest and then  at 3pm the banker should be playing golf (constants and time may vary, but 3-6-3 is classic).

This means: the only form of business of a bank is lending out money at a higher rate than the rate paid out to its depositors.

Answers to problems will be added later on, so in one of the upcoming articles I will give an update on that.

Braking Badly, or Some Important Lessons of one MotoTrip

Braking Badly, or Some Important Lessons of one MotoTrip

Last week my wife and I returned back from our first long motorcycle trip. We left Toronto, went to Kingston, crossed the border of US, then went through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Main to Portland, then took ferry to Nova Scotia, and from Yarmouth went back to Toronto, visiting Cabot Trail and Prince Edward Island on our way back.

Our route (from our inReach satellite communicator)
Our route (from our inReach satellite communicator)

That was an awesome  ride! But during the trip I had to learn a few lessons and in this post I would like to share those lessons with you.

Mount Washington Lesson

At all of the motorcycle courses they teach you that you should use brakes rather than engine braking (and they are right: you will better indicate that you are braking to the drivers behind you). Mount Washington Auto Road added a niggle to that. There were 3 motorcycles when we climbed the Mount Washington: our Yamaha VSTAR 950 and  2 Harleys. All of us used engine braking, or to be more correct, we all went down at the first gear. And on top of that we all had to use brakes.

I was the first to get a surprise: in on of the turns when I squeezed my front brake, it almost didn’t make any change to my speed. Thanks God, I was able to stop with the rear one. After that me and my wife (who was a passenger) decided to take any stop possible to cool down the brakes and we stopped almost each mile on the remainder of the road.

So, 2 out of 3 riders experienced the same problem – boiling brakes. The lesson was:

Regardless of using low gear when you are riding down steep and long slopes, when you have to use brakes, be very cautious and make frequent stops to cool down the brakes (or at least, to make sure that the brakes are not too hot). It is possible that you will notice your brakes fading too late, when it is almost or completely gone.

To sum up:

  1. Preferably, no passengers
  2. stop as frequently as possible. Plan this route accordingly (allow time for cooling the brakes down).
  3. watch the traffic behind
  4. don’t use both brakes – in case one fails, you will have another one

Ferry Lesson

Alakai - the boat took us to Yarmouth
Alakai – the boat which took us to Yarmouth

I have a quite good balance – I have no problem to put my feet on the pegs right when the bike started moving. I don’t “walk the bike”. Sounds good? Yes, but not at a slippery deck of the ferry. When disembarking, I had to stop right in front of the ferry’s gate, I put my feet on the deck, but the bike just slips and I had to lift it. Thanks God, due to engine guards and big footrests, it didn’t lay flat on the ground. So, it was much easier for me to lift it. The lesson is:

When embarking to or disembarking from the ferry

  • Avoid having a passenger. Ask him or her to walk.
  • Better walk the bike. Don’t put your feet on the footrests until you can guarantee that the surface is not too slippery.

Well, if you know the ferry pretty well, say, you live at PEI and use this ferry quite often, just disregard this.

Big Cities Lesson

If you ride through any urban area surrounding a big city, like GTA, Montreal etc. – plan your trip accordingly. Do not expect high mileage during that day. Constructions and massive traffic will make it significantly slower.

I hope these lessons will help to make your moto-trips more comfortable and safe. Live free, ride safe!


Lesson 002 – Method of Learning

Lesson 002 – Method of Learning


This is the second lesson regarding investments. And though it belongs to the set “Before We Really Start”, it is important, since here we are going to discuss the methodology of learning.

What to expect

First of all, get rid of delusion that I can teach you. The truth is that you can learn, but I can just assist you in this process. Same as many other things, investing can be learned by yourself but not taught by someone else.

Second, do not expect that you will be given everything. The truth is that nobody knows everything on investments. But you will be given enough to start your own way.


Some say knowledge is power. Very true, but with a huge niggle: only with practice. Everything you know theoretically doesn’t count, because it cannot change your life until it is used. Do you know the difference between knowing and understanding? Yes, it’s practice: Knowledge -> Practice -> Understanding. No practice downplays your knowledge.

The best illustration of this I can remember now comes from the movie “Men of Honor”:

“Boyle’s Law describes the behaviour of gases under varying amounts of atmospheric pressure…
Now why is this important to a diver? Forget to exhale on the way up, and your lungs explode.”

And when I say the practice I do not limit its meaning to just problems and quizzes from the lessons. I actually refer to making real investments.

Iterative process

Learning is typically an iterative process. You build some model based upon your current knowledge and then test it. Your result helps you to make conclusions and update your knowledge. This, in turn, makes your next model more successful:

The key here is not to quit and repeat iterations until you’ve built your understanding. Why am I pulling Captain Obvious? Because it suddenly appears that we, who fell gazillion of times before we learned to walk and kept trying until got it done, we love to quit and do not apply the same approach to learning more complicated skills, like investments, business etc.

This applied to investments means that you based on your current knowledge make investment decisions, then make investments and build your portfolio. Then you from time to time review your investments, make appropriate conclusions (lick wounds and correct your portfolio!) and update your knowledge:

A word of caution

Be ready for losses. Investing without losses is a chimera!

Be ready to really learn, i.e. to really change your understanding by making mistakes. This path is a great school where your learn a lot. And at the end instead of diploma or certificate you will get a good investment portfolio and financial freedom!

The previous lesson can be found here.
10 Things To Know About Making Decisions. Part 2

10 Things To Know About Making Decisions. Part 2

Every day we make a gazillion of decisions – what to eat, when to get up, what to buy, how to plan the day, what to answer when being asked etc. Sometimes our decisions affect not only us, but also other people, their present and future.
Our doubts and difficulties in decision making drain our energy and kill our productivity.
After years of having issues with making important decisions, I learnt a lot and came up with ten key points I want to share with you. This is Part 2 of this post. Part 1 can be found here.

  1. Bear in mind that each decision has its price. I talk about the efforts to make this decision. Now I will pull Captain Obvious: your efforts to make a decision should not outweigh the benefits of the decision. A great example: a company has a budget of 2 thousand dollars and don’t have a plan ready on how to spend this amount. They hire consultants to help to make this decision. Cost of their services was… 50,000 dollars! You think it is impossible? It is a true story. I will not name this blue-chip company, but such an anti-record took place more than 10 years ago.
  2. Don’t try to change your decision at the last moment. Don’t change horses in midstream. The best way to jeopardize anything is to make major changes in the activity which has begun. If you made up your mind and already started executing your decision, don’t change until done.
  3. For any decision made by someone else there is a point of no return. I mean if you delegate decision making to someone else, there is always a certain point of time after which you will have very little or no impact on the result.
  4. Intuitive decision. Everybody is aware of how to make logical decisions. There are hundreds of books written on this topic and tons of practical courses offered. But nobody teaches us how to make intuitive ones. Too bad. Because almost everybody can recall at least one case when they followed the intuitive decision even if it seemed logically wrong – and were right. Yes, sometimes we need to follow our intuition. That is why I would like to share a technique how to do that. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the author (I have heard this quite long ago from a person who also wasn’t an author), but I admire his or her wisdom – this technique works!
    You need to choose one of the several options. You concentrate on your feelings in the area of your solar plexus. And now you walk through your options one by one. And watch your solar plexus feelings. You should choose the option giving the most comfortable feeling.
  5. Some decisions must be made quickly (example: you see a girl of your dream and you have doubts to get acquainted right now or wait for a better moment. This is an example of do-it-right-now things, make this decision to approach this girl quick!). Some decisions must be postponed, or, ideally, never made (let’s return back to the girl of your dream. Say, you married her. And today you have a quarrel. She throws plates into you. You are both shouting… Finally one of you comes to a conclusion that a divorce is the only way to resolve the problem. All emotional decisions like this one belong to the kind of decisions you’d better postpone and preferably avoid).
    You should strive to get a level of wisdom that you can distinguish the first (do-it-right-now decisions) from the latter (better-postpone ones).
The main source of laziness

The main source of laziness

The main Source of Laziness

Last week in twitter of a friend-of-my-friends’-friends I found a very good food for thought. The tweet read approximately: Laziness pops up when you want to achieve something but do not understand what for.

We all experienced that – ourselves, our friends or colleagues, business partners etc. are great examples of this truth. In this article I’m going to talk about the mechanism how this happens.

External Moral

Human beings are social creatures, we cannot live outside of society. But this also means that every day we have to face the moral of the society around us. This moral is imposed on us by many means: mass media, social media, ads, networking, work, hobbies etc. This is what I would name an external moral.

Society and External Moral
Society and External Moral

An example: a society around me is crazy about achieving social success, say, in business. So, becoming a successful businessman is an external moral for me.
If this external moral resonates with you, you are okay. Even more, you can harness the environment around you to achieve what you want. But what if not? This case will beget significant problems, including laziness, and it will be the topic for further discussion.

External Moral Which Is Not Truly Mine

Let’s take a virtual Mr. X. And let’s assume that society around him strives success in business or career. But Mr. X himself would prefer to become an artist. This desire, at least partially, contradicts to the external moral. And now Mr. X has 3 main choices:

  1. To go and achieve the success in business or career. Unfortunately, in the end he will find out that it was not his way to success. And many people subconsciously know that. Plus it is very hard, in many cases almost impossible to succeed in such circumstances.
  2. To reject this external moral. A very smart move, probably the best one, but you need to be bold to do that!
  3. To make a compromise.

Since the first two ways are very hard, the majority of people opts for the 3rd one.

Compromise With External Moral

So, our Mr. X proclaims that he strives a success in business or career. But he proclaims that just for the trade-off with the society around him, i.e. without real motivation to achieve what he proclaimed. This is the real source of laziness.

But now Mr. X has a problem: he needs an alibi in order not to feel guilty for not doing enough to achieve the goal which he really doesn’t want to achieve.


A term “alibi” with regards to behavior like this I have heard from a great business coach Vladimir Tarassov. This word in my opinion is the best one to describe the nature of such actions, so, I’m going to use this term further.

From my experience, people typically do one of two: either faking actions or getting rid of any practical possibility to do anything.

Two kinds of alibis
Two kinds of alibis

Coming back to Mr. X’s situation. For Mr. X faking activities mean attending different events, seminars, trainings, social networking etc. – everything what imitates business. The delusion of actions will allow him to not feel any guilt for non-taking real actions to make business.

Another “great” approach for Mr. X is to put himself into the circumstances where he physically cannot do anything. For example, he can immigrate to another country. Now he has to pay rent and to bring food onto his table, so, now he cannot build businesses.

And, of course, you may see any combination of these two approaches.

Price Of Alibi

On a plus side of making such alibis you find a great excuse for not doing anything. And a great deal of psychological comfort (either forever or temporary – it will depend on the level of your awareness).

Unfortunately, the list of minuses is longer:

  • wasted time;
  • lost or diminished energy;
  • a crisis sooner or later (often we can call it a midlife crisis);
  • a reputation of procrastinator or a lazybones;
  • absence of achievements.

Instead of Conclusion

I hope I was able to shed a light on why we can be lazy, why we or some other people sometimes promise or proclaim something and never do real actions on that.

How to avoid such traps? My own recipe is very simple. I just constantly ask questions like:

  • Am I dreaming my own or someone else’s dream right now?
  • Am I pretending or really doing?
  • Am I trying to make an alibi for myself?
10 Things To Know About Making Decisions. Part 1

10 Things To Know About Making Decisions. Part 1

Every day we make a gazillion of decisions – what to eat, when to get up, what to buy, how to plan the day, what to answer when being asked etc. Sometimes our decisions affect not only us, but also other people, their present and future.
After years of having issues with making important decisions, I learnt a lot and came up with ten key points I want to share with you. This is Part 1 of this post.

  1. Often you have to make decisions when you’re lacking some or all the information needed. Be ready to face this. It is normal. This happens very often especially in business and in investments. What can you do? Train your “decision-making muscles”, i.e. make such decisions. Yes, simply make them. You probably will never have all the information you need or want. So work with what you have. Sometimes I recall a good saying: “The moment when the last button is sewed on the jacket of the last soldier will never happen”, meaning exactly what I just mentioned – you will never be ready to everything.
  2. Inability to make decisions quickly. Fight it. For example, I have my own rule: when I collected and analyzed all the information needed (or in most of the cases all the information available to me), I give myself 1 minute to make the decision. It can be hard, but it is just a matter of self-discipline – never waste time. You also should have an algorithm how to choose between approximately equal options – a coin toss or something similar and easily doable.
  3. Decision = Responsibility. By the way, how would you define responsibility? I mean how to re-phrase it without saying words “responsible” or “responsibility”. My version is: responsibility is when you equal your actions and the result, so you proclaim yourself an author of this result if you are an author of action. And you should always do it, no matter if the result is good or bad. Coming back to decisions, every time you made a decision, you took responsibility over what happens next (including the things out of your control).
  4. Sometimes a bad decision can be better than a good one. Sounds weird, but that is true in many cases. A bad decision can be better than a good one provided that a bad one was made in time and a good one was made way too late. Bear in mind the time factor, or a time multiplier. When too late, this multiplier can be zero.
  5. Your main enemy is a fear of failure. And his little sibling – Procrastination (this cool-looking buzzword means waste of time, lingering because a person is afraid of starting something uncomfortable or something which potentially may fail). The most important thing to understand is that you are not a looser just because you failed. Failure is just one step on your road to success. It is important to make next steps. Of course, you should not repeat the mistakes, but I believe you will not. And you should not be afraid of mistakes. Moreover, I would suggest to carefully collect every mistake – it educates you. The only thing you must be scared of is a deliberate burning of time in order to postpone possible mistakes and failures. You will lose much more if you don’t start rather than if you start and fail.

Part 2 can be found here

Lesson 001 – Investment Philosophy

Lesson 001 – Investment Philosophy

Investment Philosophy


This lesson starts the course of lessons related to investing. The lessons here were learnt by me, but of course I cannot pretend that I invented all the theories, techniques, approaches, practices and advices. So, from time to time I will refer to the wisdom of some other people (and, of course, I will name them).

The lessons will contain problems of rather practical nature. I would recommend to go through them. This will be your first step to practicing all this. Later on I will add a page with answers to all those problems (where applicable). And please remember, that only practice turns your knowledge into skills, and skills (not knowledge itself!) will change your life.

There is a lot more I would like to say, but I cannot stick all this into the foreword… Let’s start the lesson.

Philosophy of investing

There are three main roads to social success: the road for smart people is named career, the road for brave people – business, and the road for rich people – investments. But please don’t be disappointed by the fact that you are not rich as of now: first you have to start thinking like a rich person, and then later your fortune will grow accordingly (I promise, that later on in this blog I will delve into this topic deeper, but for now just believe that tweaking your thinking is the fastest way to change your reality).

So, what do you need to start investing? An intention to think like rich people plus some more: time, patience and self-discipline. You don’t have to be extremely smart, but if you don’t have enough of self-discipline, this road is not for you. If you cannot wait and refrain from impulsive actions and frenzies, this road is not for you. If you have a delusion to become rich overnight, this road is not for you.

There are two more secret components which I didn’t named yet. Some bravery  since you will risk your own money and you will have to be fully responsible for your own actions. If you cannot do that, this road is not for you. That was one. And another one is your ability to change your worldview by learning on your mistakes.


To describe the philosophy of investing we need to know what assets are. If you read Robert Kiyosaki, you know that an asset is something “that puts money into your pocket”. I like this definition – simple and to the point.

In investments you buy assets (oppose to business, where you create your assets). This is the nature of investing: by buying assets you make your money to work for you.

Quick money vs Slow money

And a little bit on why you need patience and self-discipline. If your activity to make money quickly turns into the money in your pocket, I call this quick money. As an employee, you make quick money – each our of your work turns into the cash at next paycheck, typically twice a month.

Slow money kicks in significantly slower. If you found a business, your money start coming after this business breaks even – typically it takes at least a year before you see the first dollar of net profit. Same with investments – you first go to work, earn your money, then buy your investments, and only next quarter you will see first dividends (and yes, I know that there are some companies which pay dividends monthly; and also you can make capital gains much quicker etc.)

So why would anybody opt for slow money ? The reason is that “slow” and “quick” refer not only to how fast you get the money but also to the inertness of the cashflow: after you got an asset (bought or built), it will bring you money for decades after that without your significant efforts. Compare this to quick money: 1 hour of your work turned into money quickly, but it’s gone. You are paid once. And if you want more money, please go and work again.

As an investor you should prefer slow money.

Hello, World! Or what this blog is going to be about.

Hello, World! Or what this blog is going to be about.

Dear Reader,

in 2015 I started drastically changing my life: before that I was a seasoned Software Programmer with more than a decade of experience and appropriate status and salary. Right after the change I turned into a total newbie in business and entrepreneurship with no status and almost no income. Nevertheless, these 18 months already gave me invaluable changes in my philosophy and my worldview.

Several things were carried over from my pre-2015 to my post-2015 life: investments (7 years in fundamental investing), experience in building software (my businesses are also in IT realm) and my hobbies, of course.

So, this blog is going to be about the lessons I learned and still continue learning in all those aspects of social success: investments, business and startups, leadership, management, other important professional skills, and miscellaneous matters grouped into general/lifestyle category.

Let’s go and may the Success be with us!