Your Day In The Sun
Adversity, Opportunity, and Managing Family Money
I came to investing shortly after I turned 18. My cousin had graduated college a few years prior and guided me through the process of opening and funding my first brokerage account. Working extra shifts during the summer enabled me to buy my first shares of Apple during the fall of my freshman year in college. After checking the daily quotes, reading every piece of news, and badgering him about the price not moving he would remind me, “Just be patient and keep buying. This is a long game.”
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Over time our styles have differed a little. He enjoys dollar-cost averaging and I have found my own way resembling more of a lump sum style after reading too many Buffett books. We don’t try to convince each other but rather we talk about stocks and companies often. Prices don’t come up in our talks but we get lost thinking about big picture things and what the companies would look like 3-5 years out.
I ended up at the Doorstep of Buffett and Munger after a year and a half of terrible day trading. It blew me away that they shunned all the activities I was partaking in, I thought this was how everyone made money in the stock market. There were no movies about sitting around and not doing much while letting compound interest work. But it did work for this guy who was worth almost $100 Billion and that example was good enough for me. So I swapped out the hours in front of the trading screen for a copy of The Intelligent Investor and 10-Ks.
This is when the rubber began to meet the road.
After getting my hands on everything about Berkshire, Buffett, and Munger, investing was where I wanted to make a career. When it came time to think about the next move after school the idea of working on Wall St didn’t appeal to me and working in an office didn’t either. It weighed on me to tell my parents I wanted to focus on investments and stay away from a “normal job”.
I called my Dad about 5 months before graduation, asked for his blessing, and thankfully he gave me the go-ahead to plow my own path in this world. It doesn’t pass by without feeling intense gratitude for the foundational upbringing I was given and the unwavering support from my parents. I wish I was a fly on the wall for the conversation that followed after we hung up the phone. He probably looked at my Mom and laughed. Following the common path has never been my thing so it couldn’t have been that much of a surprise.
The goal became work enough to pay for living expenses and save as much as I could but give my full mental attention to becoming a better investor.
After graduation I moved back home and made a full-time gig out of the summer restaurant I worked at during school, I got to sit hand in hand with the owner, and learned more about business than 10-Ks ever taught me. Managing the place for two summers was an eye-opening experience and taught me two business degrees don’t help much when the cook quits before the dinner rush and now you’re behind the grill with 20 tickets on the line.
When the first summer came to a close I worked for a timber company through the winter driving a skidder and chopping trees. This was another lesson in hard work. I didn’t question myself much but there was a moment when the owner asked me to go work for his Dad on the farm for a few days and when the manure spreader broke I had to shovel out the 3 feet of 🐮 💩 by hand. I remember standing knee-deep in the spreader, getting a good laugh about where I was and how I got there.
When the second summer ended I went to work with a Mason who rented a room from my cousin (same cousin). I said yes because there were few other options and he needed help. So why not, the plan was to come back to the restaurant in the spring anyway.
Well, this gap job turned into a full-time thing, I said goodbye to the restaurant, and have been with the company for two years. I never thought restoring old houses was where I would end up making my money but it has been a blessing in disguise and the people I work with have turned into life long friends. Earning a paycheck has never been more enjoyable for me.
Against the backdrop of all this, making a career in investing stayed in focus and it got more serious when I took and passed the Series 65 last fall. After years of study, I was going to take the leap and open my own investment shop. But less than a week after passing I learned the state I lived in didn’t allow someone to start an RIA without 3 years of experience working under someone else. There are only two other states that have this clause and it was a kick in the teeth.
This hurdle made me pause and think about this specific direction a little more.
The new set of information meant I was going to have to uproot everything in my life and make a major change. Which for a life goal, wouldn’t be an issue. The only problem was working was so much fun and it was giving me plenty of capital to manage on my own. When put on balance the opportunity cost of walking away from the good thing I had going was too big to make the change.
There is no better way to determine conviction in an idea than to face some adversity and I can say that when the adversity appeared my conviction was not much. It was hard for me to face the truth that the life I thought I wanted more than anything else might not be the path I wished to take. Well, at least in this specific form.
I made the decision to stay at my current job and forgo the journey of seeking out a firm to work under. The focus became to grow my capital base until it reached a point where I could have the freedom to choose to do with my time as I pleased. This might take longer anyway but I was okay with it. I am young, with no dependents, so what’s the rush? But life has a funny way of working out.
Shortly after accepting my new fate, my Mom approached me and asked if I could sit down with her and go over her retirement account. We talked on the phone and she told me she was thinking about giving it to someone at the local bank to manage but wanted to know what I thought.
“Well, Mom, I can do what they can do for free and I would have the most skin in the game here because if I screw this up I am going to have to take care of you.”
One hell of a pitch huh?
She laughed but agreed there was a serious alignment of interest and after talking with my Dad she gave me the keys to the account with full trust. After hearing about this, my Aunt approached me with the same idea and I agreed to do the same for her.
In a matter of a few weeks, I went from not knowing if an investment career would be for me to becoming a steward of family capital. It is something I don’t take lightly and want more than anything to make them proud. I made a promise that I would do everything I could to protect their hard earned money and make sure it is in the best shape when we need it down the road.
The clock started at the end of February and the market since then has provided me with enough opportunities to fill the portfolio with great companies that have strong runways ahead of them. I am tracking the performance and plan to write them a letter every 6 months to update them on the progress. When the first letter comes out in June I’ll be sure to share it with you.
This is my first foray into managing money and lucky for me the structure couldn’t be any easier. It was a lump sum and all the gains will have to come from investment growth. After enough time has passed, I am thinking 5 years, I can look back and see with clarity if I have the ability to do what I have been training for since I turned 18.
During my High School football days my Coach would always say to the kids who got a chance to play in the varsity games due to an odd circumstance like an injury or something,
“When you get your day in the sun, you better make sure you shine”
I can hear his voice saying this to me now.
I plan to share plenty of thoughts and things here about this journey. Let’s hope I do alright because nothing scares me more than telling my future wife her mother-in-law is coming to live with us because of my doing.
Peace and Love,
Here is the Podcast that goes along with this piece:
Please be advised, Wall St Gunslinger is not an investment advisor and does not give personal investment advice. All content is for educational and entertainment purposes only and should not be interpreted as anything other than such. Investing entails a lot of risks and should be managed appropriately. Please do your own research and consult with an investment professional before making any investing decisions. Thank you.