The value of a dollar.

Imagine I write a contract which will give you exactly 1 dollar on 1st  January of each year forever.  Now I put up this contract for sale. What is the value of this contract?

A 100$, a 1000$, a million dollars?

It turns out there is a rational answer to this question. But first lets dive into the concept  of time value of money.  What it means is that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow due its growth potential when invested, risk and inflation.

For example a investing 100$ today at 5% annual interest would yield 105$ one year from now. Therefore 105$ a year from now is same as 100$ today at a 5% interest rate.

We can verify this with.

FV = PV x (1 + r) ^n

where FV = Future value

PV = Present value

r  = rate of interest

n = no of  periods

Coming back to our problem:

Compute the value of a contract that gives 1$ on the 1st of January of each year forever.

Assume a discount rate of 5%. [the return that could be earned per unit of time on an investment with similar risk]

To compute the value of a our contract we need to discount each payout to its present value and sum them up.

PV = FV/(1+r)^n

Present value of 1$ 1 year from now = 1/(1.05) = .95$

Present value of 1$ 2 years from now = 1/(1.05)^2 = .90$

Present value of 1$ 3 years from now = 1/(1.05)^3 = .86$


Present value of 1$ 10 years from now =1/(1.05)^10 = .61$


Present value of 1$ 100 years from now = 1/(1.05)^100 = $.007




Note that as the no of years increase the present value of a future 1$ tends to 0.


Using the  NPV (net present value) formula found in excel or summing all  individual present values that were computed gives us an approximate valuation of 19.85$. Note that changing the discount rate would change the valuation.

To conclude given a discount rate of 5% the value of a eternal contract paying out 1$ every year is only 19.85$ today !






The Snowball

I read “The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life” recently.  The Snowball is about the power of compounding. How Warren Buffet has applied it to his money, his business and his relationships.

I couldn’t have though of an more apt name. Now this is a person who does not use email or computers.  Rather serendipitously I also saw “Becoming Warren Buffet” the documentary on his life.  I am blown away by his simplicity.

Here is a person who doesn’t work for money and has been tap dancing to work for over 50 years. Surely We can learn something from him.

Health – We have one body and one mind. Take care of it. Warren Buffet doesn’t drink alcohol and exercises every day. What did you do today to take care of your health?

Reading – Warren Buffet is a reading machine, reading 500 pages every day. Transforming information into knowledge. Reading is one of the best investments we can make. What have you read recently?

Leverage  – Warren  Buffet transformed Berkshire Hathaway from a struggling textile company to Global conglomerate with the power of  Leverage. He was the first to use insurance premiums to buy public companies rather than invest it in bonds.  The premiums effectively were other people’s money (OPM) . Premiums collected for years before any payouts were made. How can we find ourself in a situation of leverage? I can think of automation, effective teams and unique knowledge.

Moats – Warren Buffet is a master of investing. He is an expert identifying companies with moats that are hard to breach. A moat can be thought of as an unfair competitive advantage. Berkshire is a company with a huge moat. Each time an iPhone is bought, a Coke is consumed, a Geico insurance policy is purchased and much more Berkshire gets a part of the profit. What Moat are we creating with our skills?

Time- He gives his investments time. Think Decades. What was the last time you thought about something in a decade timeframe? When we think and act in the long term the power of compounding can take effect. This applies to money as well as knowledge.

By being 1% better each day we can have an outsize impact over our lifetime. Good luck on this journey!

“Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill. ” – Warren Buffet



What I learned in 2017?

Happy new year to you on this first day of 2018.  Here is what I learned.

  1. The most important thing is to cherish time with loved ones. Death is final. You and I both move towards it each moment even as  we pretend it will never happen. I lost my grandfather early in 2017  and was deeply anguished by his loss. He had led a full life, so there wasn’t much to mourn but I was surprised by my own reaction.  I read a beautiful quote by Osho “We mourn not for the person who died but for ourselves, we mourn for the lost opportunity.” That has led me to meditate more and be in the present. Make death a guide to take the important decisions in life.
  2. Persuasion is a skill every software engineer should learn. To execute ideas you care about, you will need to persuade managers, program managers,  executives and even your peers about its value. Every product you see has an enormous amount of persuasion baked in by the creator.  A good place to start is
  3. To become a better public speaker and communicator, I completed the Dale Carnegie course. This I did on the recommendation of Warren Buffet and Scott Adams. Try it out, it will transform you. I went from being a nervous public speaker to enjoying it. One nugget I got out of this is that adults are as starved for appreciation as children. Sincere appreciation shown to people will energize them. You being here and reading this post tells me that you are a seeker of knowledge and a constant learner. I wish you a very fulfilling 2018!