Thank you to everyone who joined virtual meetup #6. As usual, we had some lively discussions. This post is a follow-up to that meeting to answer any questions that I could not answer at the time. So here goes –

Is there any way to store the excess solar power?

Yes, the excess energy can be stored in batteries. Depending on your load you may need a lot of batteries. For example, in my case, two 150 AH batteries can power basic load in my house for about 8 hours. When I say basic load, it does not include any of the 15 amp appliances like water heater or microwave. You would need at least six 150 AH batteries to run the load for a day. At Rs. 15K per battery, you would be spending Rs. 90K just for batteries. So, yeah can be done, but it is expensive.

Is there any way to start on a small solar project first before diving deep into an expensive one?

Certainly! You can start small, and when you are convinced, you can add more. The main problem with solar panel projects is the cost. The larger the design, the more saving you will have. So while starting small is possible, it is not the most cost-effective. Having said that, here is an example of how you can get started.

I will take an example of powering a laptop (less than 80W) with solar energy. For this you will need

  • A 100W inverter (example) - cost Rs. 600
  • A 12V battery (example) - cost Rs. 4500
  • Solar charge controller (example) - Cost Rs. 700
  • Solar panel (example) - cost Rs. 1800

You can find a lot of videos on how to wire them together (example). If your laptop is going to pull more power than 80W, go for higher-rated components. Alternatively, if you want to reduce cost, go for a smaller battery. You can use a spare car or scooter battery too. Let me know if you want me to write a post on it, and I can elaborate more.

Is there a website where I can start investing without using any app?

There are many websites that let you invest without charging any fees. Some examples are Groww, Zerodha, MFU etc. I personally use MFU, but it is very basic and perhaps not the most user friendly. The other two are probably better but I have never used them. You can find more portals by searching for “direct mutual funds investment website” or something on Google.

How to get started on doing some basic DIY stuff like plumbing?

Start small, and don’t be scared of breaking things if they are not expensive. If you break a tap or pipe it is most likely not a big deal, and you can get professional help to fix it. There are videos on YouTube for pretty much every kind of thing. You can start there.

What are your thoughts on IPO?

Like Benjamin Graham said, “IPO is a shorthand for It’s Probably Overpriced, or Imaginary Profits Only, or even Insiders Private Opportunity”; I don’t invest in IPOs because it is beyond my circle of competence. Most of the time, it is the initial investors who make all the money from the public.

What is your opinion on cryptocurrency investment?

Unfortunately, I am very unclear about this topic. Either cryptocurrency will be the best thing or the worst thing. It has a lot of benefits regarding privacy and decentralized control. On the other hand, for the same reasons, they are also used for nefarious purposes. If it becomes a success, then yes, investing in it is a good idea. But as of now I don’t have an opinion, and I don’t even know how to value them to say whether the current market price is too high or too low.

Anyone has an opinion on investing in physical gold?

People in the meeting had different opinions. Some prefer physical gold (not jewelry but coins), while others prefer sovereign gold funds (SGF). I am not interested in either, but if you believe that gold is a good store of value, then you should certainly invest in it. Now whether SGF is better or physical gold is better depends on person to person.

ETF or SGB investments are safe and may not be very liquid (will get lower value if sold before maturity). Physical gold has safety issues and is liquid which I found out in the meeting. Because up until now, I never thought it was easy to sell gold coins because you have to prove the legitimacy of purchase and purity of gold. But I guess if you have the purchase receipt and a Hallmark certificate it is easy. One of the participants was able to sell quite easily. So there, I learned something new.

I have zero investments in gold. However, like someone said in the meeting, a 10% exposure to gold will give you some diversification. Especially if you are worried about the devaluation of the currency.

What are your overall returns? And what is your debt allocation now?

The following image should answer both questions.

How come your returns are so good even though you are debt-heavy?

Most of my returns are because of equity investments up until 2018. That is when I reduced my equity exposure and went debt-heavy because I felt the market is too expensive. For reference see the chart below. I was about 90% into equity starting from 2011 when I first started investing until 2014. Then it lingered at about 50% from 2014 to 2017. When I felt the market was too up-beat, I moved most of my equity to debt. That period was from late 2017 to early 2020 when my equity ended with 10% allocation. Since 2020 I added a little bit of equity to bring it to 25%.


That is pretty much the highlights of the meeting. If you have any other questions that you think I missed, please let me know.