Why Not to be A Nitpicker

(This column was first published on Value Research Online.)

We all have that one friend, the nitpicker. I don’t know about you, but I certainly do. He’s the resident fault-finder of our group of friends. He’s good at heart, I’m sure he is, but he’s also the critic who never got his due. I have no idea why he didn’t become a movie critic, because that’s one career where he would have undoubtedly flourished. He has this uncanny knack of picking out small things to criticise in whatever he comes across. And he was at his annoying best at a Sunday brunch recently.

My friends and I have this monthly ritual of Sunday brunch. It started out as a guys’ night out on Saturdays, and turned into sober Sunday brunch after the first one of us got married. For some reasons, which our wives would be better placed to explained, the tradition continues unabated. On this particular Sunday, brunch was at my place and that put me right in the devil’s arms. My dear nitpicker parked himself in the kitchen while I was helping my wife with the brunch preparations. And expectedly, he had a lot to question and even more to suggest. He wanted to know which ingredients were used in which dish, and why. The whichs were easy to answer, the whys got us really irritated. Once the whys were answered, he had more than a few changes that he wanted us to make. Eventually, we were threatened with a situation where my wife was ready to kick me out of the house for having a nitpicking friend like him. But somehow, I managed to avoid the inevitable.

But this lead me to think about how bad a mutual fund investor my friend would be. The fun of having brunch at a friend’s place is in enjoying the dishes that are prepared without having to bother about how they’re prepared. As long as they taste good enough, why worry about what has gone into making them. Similarly, as long as a mutual fund is doing well, which is delivering better returns than its peers and benchmark, why should an investor bother about which stocks or bonds it is investing in.

The key benefit of investing in a mutual fund is that you’re availing the services of an expert fund manager, whose job is to make sure that the fund’s corpus is invested to generate optimum results. If you don’t have faith in the fund manager, you might as well build a portfolio by yourself. But investing in a fund and then nitpicking its portfolio, questioning why certain securities have what amount of exposure, doesn’t make sense.

Look at it this way, a mutual fund and a Sunday brunch at a friend’s place are the only two places where you can you enjoy the fruits without having to worry about how the seeds have been sown. All you have to decide is which fund you want to invest in or which dish you want to have, let the manager or the cook worry about the details.

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