Lessons in managing money from Test cricket as we get into the 2020s

In the last decade or so, the Twenty-20 (T20) format has overtaken the traditional formats of cricket, due to its shorter match-time, fast-paced and glitzy game, adapted rules to make it more interesting as well as in-studio add-ons. While purists may not appreciate these “dilutions”, they have definitely democratized cricket, taking it to newer audiences both in existing countries where cricket is played, as well as to more countries across continents, moving the game up several notches in the global rankings of universal popularity as well as revenues.


Interestingly, we have also recently entered the 2020s decade. With the dawn of 2020, another decade just passed on! Already 2 decades of the new millennium are gone and it has been a full 2 years since the 21st century turned an adult! With attention spans shortening and the pace of life and changes to it both getting quicker, it sometimes seems that even time is playing a T20 version of its game on us.

While this fast-paced “T20 version” of life can get addictive, its effects can be quite corrosive! It has never been easier to acquire “look-rich” symbols of wealth, with literally everything, including luxury cars, now available at the click of a button on “easy” EMIs. There has been a dramatic change in the way people have managed their cashflows (Income vs Expenses) in the last few years, and this is also reflected in the household savings rate (as a % of GDP), which is down to 17.2% in 2017-18 from 23.6% in 2011-12 (data source – Forbes India, 2nd Jan, 2020).


The newer generation of investors also think quite differently as compared to their previous generation, placing far more emphasis on the present and the here-and-now while being not-as-concerned with what the future holds. Apart from re-defining their needs, this thinking also stems partly from a much higher level of self-belief and confidence in one’s own abilities, as compared to what the earlier generation had at this age.


That being the case, in these changing times, does managing one’s money also evolve a-la cricket and have its own “T20” version of the rules? In my view some things will not change, especially lessons on managing one’s money. They remain universal and relevant, just like Test matches in today’s T20 age, and if anything may become more relevant in the coming uncertain and high-speed decades. So, what are some of those lessons that you can take from Test cricket, to manage your money in today’s T20 times? Here are 7 simple ones.



  1. BE PATIENT – Test cricket can be boring, and needs to be played session by session


Test cricket can at times put you to sleep, and definitely test your patience, with its long-drawn out game, and sometimes non-result-oriented approach. Similarly, managing your money well can also be, rather, needs to be boring, and is a long-term repetitive process, year on year, with regular reviews and course corrections.


The great Warren Buffett says “The stock market is designed to transfer money from the impatient to the patient.”



  1. MAKE FEWER MISTAKES – The winner is the team which loses fewer wickets than the other


This is one the biggest differences between Test cricket and the other formats, since victory goes to the more resilient team, one that loses fewer wickets than the opponent. Similarly, a very productive approach in investing is to make as few mistakes as possible, and definitely, lesser than the broader market.


Charlie Munger once said, “It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”



  1. PROTECT YOUR CAPITAL – Defense is the best form of offence


The “test” in Test cricket possibly stands for a “test of a team’s defenses”, since the team needs to stay at the crease, ball after ball, over after over, without losing an unnecessary wicket. Similarly, being prudent with your money is about preserving your capital as well as possible for as long as one can, rather, it’s about maximizing returns with as minimum risk as possible.


In Anthony Robbin’s words, “Don’t think in terms of taking huge risks to get huge rewards, think about the least amount of risk for the greatest reward and be disciplined about that.”



  1. LOOK FOR CONSISTENCY – Boundaries are not as important as exploiting the field and running between the wickets is


A team that keeps the scoreboard ticking over after over, without unnecessary flashiness or risks serves its chances better. Similarly, a prudent investment strategy should make your money needs to grow consistently, with lower volatility, giving you much peace of mind.


Paul Samuelson’s advice – “Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas”.



  1. ACTIVELY MANAGE ASSET ALLOCATION – Test cricket doesn’t have slog overs or power plays, instead, conditions determine how the game needs to be played


Test cricket doesn’t have pre-set match templates, needing one to score more in the early or late overs. Right from the decision post the toss, its about watching conditions and adapting your game accordingly. Similarly, when it comes to investing, there is no absolute good or bad asset class. Managing Asset Allocation on an ongoing basis is key to a stable and successful investment portfolio.


David I. Lampe reminds us what our parents also used to say “Asset Allocation is not that different from what mom told us growing up: don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”



  1. ADEQUATELY DIVERSIFY – Test cricket requires a full complement of quality players, each of whom is a specialist. In the shorter form, you can make do with pinch-hitters and all-rounders.


While in a shorter format, teams can get away in games with a few multi-talented players, in test cricket, even one weak link gets shown up over the course of the match. Every player is important and needs to bring to the ground specialist skills that will help the team prevail over the other. Similarly, a good investment portfolio is adequately-diversified to take care of risk (while not being over-diversified to dilute quality), and does not depend only on a few concentrated bets to deliver, while the rest of the portfolio underperforms.


Chris Lutz says “The purpose of diversification is so that when one investment goes down or is not doing well, you are insulated from the result because of the others you have in place.”



  1. STAY THE COURSE – Lastly, Test cricket is about winning the series. There can be comebacks, though difficult. Unlike in the shorter form, where one bad day can send you out of the World Cup.


Lastly, Test cricket is unique in that, it gives you a second chance. A bad day at work (or in the market) doesn’t send you home (or wipe you out). Similarly, Investing is about having a well-planned and adaptable strategy, not making catastrophic mistakes while learning from the smaller ones (not just yours) and staying the course even when things look bad.


Let me end with Peter Lynch’s wise words on staying the course “You get recessions, you have stock market declines. If you don’t understand that’s going to happen, then you are not ready, you won’t do well in the markets.”



Finwise is a personal finance solutions firm that helps both NRI and resident individuals and families plan for their financial goals, follow their passions and achieve financial independence.

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Image credits: Rahul Dravid – Photo Division, Ministry of I&B, Govt. of India, through Google (labelled for reuse); MS Dhoni – Wikipedia, through Google (labelled for reuse)

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