I return permanently to India in 2014. Full of NRI determination towards parent seva, I ask my 90-year father if he has a will. He does not. Does mother know where everything is? Of course, she does not. After much pleading, we get down to list all his assets-car, house, bank accounts.
He says, “there are also some stocks, Badri.” Show me, I say and a dusty statement from the Shareholder Corporation of India (SHCIL) emerges. I do a double-take at the size of his portfolio. “I am a finance professor, and you never told me?” You can deal with these after I am gone da, he says, I rarely sell anything except the bonus shares, the dividend keeps coming, besides I only found out when your thatha died. The classic long-term investor, Rip van Winkle even, I tell him and my classes.
As I do, I think of my 85 old neighbour in San Diego. Fancy cars, nice lifestyle, insatiable global traveller. Over a cigar some years ago, he admitted to owning a “few’ shares of Berkshire Hathaway (class A). And that on the 1st of January each year, he went and sold one share to finance his upcoming annual expenses! At that time it was trading at USD 250,000 per share. Looking it up as I write this post, it trades now at $326,000. He did tell me he still owned a few more….