How I made $60,000 in investment returns

Here’s how Brandon, just 17, grew his parents’ portfolio

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From the April 2015 issue of the magazine.

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(Ronit Novak)

Brandon Fleisher, 17, of Toronto, Ont. (Photograph by Ronit Novak)

Ever since grade school I’ve loved playing pickup ice-hockey—mainly because it doesn’t pigeonhole me into one position. A pick-up game allows me to rotate positions, playing forward or left wing or even defence, once in a while. You see, I believe seeing the ice—and life—from different vantage points is invaluable.

I approach investing in the same manner. In Grade 8 math class, I took part in a stock market game where everyone had to pick one stock. The person with the highest return at the end of the year won. I didn’t win, but that competition sparked my interest in investing and that summer I read One Up on Wall Street, a book by value investing legend Peter Lynch. I was hooked.

Over the next few months I began teaching myself how to read financial statements. Then, three years ago, I started a $100,000 mock portfolio online that used real-time quotes. I invested that money in three companies I had heavily researched but also personally liked: Netflix, which allows you to watch shows and movies for a small fee; Tesla, a company that sells electric cars; and Dell, the computer maker. In six months I was up 30% and if I’d continued with that portfolio until today, I would be up by almost 300%.

At the same time, I started searching the internet for younger people like myself who were interested in investing. That’s when I came across the Leaders Investment Club. It’s made up of teens who like talking about investment ideas online. This group prompted me to create a website, thefinancialbulls.com, that showcases the ideas of young investment bloggers. Right now, there are 40 content contributors (all of them students) from 10 different countries.

My passion for investing didn’t go unnoticed. My mom, a dentist, and my dad, who runs a scrap metal recycling plant, saw the returns on my practice portfolio. Since they have little interest in investing they decided to give me a shot—16 months ago they gave me $50,000 in real money to invest.

The first couple of months were tough—I was afraid of making a big mistake. Fact is, using real money affects your decisions and, as a result, I found myself doing a lot more research. But eventually, good stock picks started jumping out at me. Personally, I like small-cap stocks, because their management is more accessible. I can call up the CEO of each company and several actually called me back. I also like small caps because these companies have much more room to grow.

So how have I done? Well, I’ve invested my parents’ $50,000 in several stocks, including Inuvo Inc. (a targeted internet marketing company) and Marchex (a search and media company). At first, my parents asked for monthly updates but now I do all the trading myself. In less than a year and a half, I’ve grown my parents’ money from $50,000 to $110,000—a gain of $60,000. My parents decided that when I turn 18 in September, I can keep the $60,000 and just give them back their original investment. That $60,000 will be seed money for my own portfolio.

Next year I plan to go to university and study social sciences and economics because I like observing social trends. In fact, I think the key to investment success is the same for everyone: Don’t invest in something you don’t understand and don’t get scared out of an investment if you feel strongly about the research you did. It also helps to think outside of the box. I think that will always serve me well, whatever I go on to do in the future.

As told to Julie Cazzin

12 comments on “How I made $60,000 in investment returns

  1. I don’t know why moneysense post articles like this. This kid gambled his money in “several” stocks and made over 100% in year, good for him. But it is hardly a sound investing strategy and is unproven and risky over the long run. I am scared that some uninformed readers will try to chase over 100% annual return by putting all their money into un-diversified all equity portfolio after reading this article, which could turn out disastrous especially for people nearing their retirement age.

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    • It’s really for the entertainment value I suppose, similar to the article of people with the biggest TFSA. Great stories but somewhat impractical for the average person to replicate. The last few year have been very kind to many invested in the North American markets. And it’s funny how stocks that look great during a bull cycle suddenly show a lot of warts during a bear. But I love his enthusiasm and wish Brandon all the success. He sounds to be on a the fast track to a million+.

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    • Well said.

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  2. I think that Brandon is about to get a nasty lesson in taxation. He can’t just keep the $60k capital gain for himself. With the CRA attribution rules, this should be taxed at his parent(s)’ top marginal tax rate. I estimate this would result in a loss of about 1/4 of this $60k gain to tax.

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    • Wow, congrats! While I share some of the concerns that others have posted, I remain shocked at all of the negative feedback that this article has received, albeit there are only 9 replies. I think there was enough information provided here to be applauding the young man, and then provide the cautionary notes. I think people are far too quick to criticize, if everyone was as negative there would be little progress in the world.
      For instance, let’s look at taxation. Given the amount of research this young man conducted I might expect he is aware of taxes, albeit no reference to taxes was made. That said; depending on who owned the investment, i.e. the parents or the minor child – the Attribution of income could be largely avoided. Where property was gifted or lent to a related minor (as in a child) the Capital Gains tax liability rests with the minor. All other forms of income would be attributable back to the gifting parent. Given that the article suggested most of the stocks were Small Cap, and the time period was a mere 16 months – I would suggest that there would be little in the way of dividends. So the potential to have the majority, if not all of the gains taxed in the child’s hands clearly exists.
      The article does not sound like an all-in story to me. The article stated and I quote, “Well, I’ve invested my parents’ $50,000 in several stocks,” of which only two of the several stocks were named. This by no means implies that the amount in question was his parent’s only investible money. Furthermore, he accurately states why Small Caps are attractive, plus his level of research sounds reasonable, for instance CEO’s of small publicly traded companies are approachable. He actually spoke to CEO’s, this should be applauded not twisted into something negative.
      As far as comments about full market cycles goes and diversification goes, I think those are good points. Perhaps the editors could have and should add a disclaimer at the beginning of the article to stress those points. Nonetheless, the disconnect between Mock Portfolios and real money was mentioned, that and the fact that the first two paragraphs speak volumes, I think the article did a fair job, and was not as deserving of as much ridicule as it received.
      I will step down from my soap box and take the shots that I am sure will follow.

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  3. This is gambling, not investing. One minor market downturn and the parents’ portfolio would get wiped out due to lack of diversification. Why would you even publish such article?? /facepalm

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  4. I hope your readers think it’s that easy. Go all in people. Just pick the small cap name that sounds good to you and put your life savings into it. In fact, use your parents money, your kids college fund, and your rainy day fund. Guaranteed to double your money. After all, if a kid can do it why can’t you?

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  5. It’s impressive that this particular person was able to achieve an excellent investment experience. Please note that to verify a fully cycle stock picking experience takes at least 5 years through a boom and bust cycle. The lack of diversification and 100% equities is speculative and not a sound strategy for most portfolios. If you insist on being this aggressive, place no more than what you are prepared to lose or less than 10% of your investment assets. There are probably 99 out of 100 stories that could be reported of speculation that did not go well.

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  6. And how about the person who bought a lottery ticket for the first time and won $3 million. Or the guy who walked by a slot machine, stuck in a quarter, and won the $10,000 jackpot. Correlation or causation? Ask the day traders how they are doing.

    It would have been hard to have been down in the last 5 years regardless of what you bought.

    I will give the young man credit for courage and ‘doing it’ rather than just thinking about it. That type of attitude will lead to success in the longterm so long as he doesn’t start to think he is ‘gifted’ and has ‘special powers’. Success is a blend of luck and hard work.

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  7. You know… this is just a special interest fun read article, why is everyone so serious. You shouldn’t follow any strategy without thoroughly investigating yourself. I think none of us would be reading Moneysense, if it was a cover and one page saying “Instructions on investing”… Step one. Got to Vanguard. Step two. Buy VCN, VAB +VXC. Every month buy more, re-balance now and then. The End!. Now cancel your subscription! Lighten up people.

    I find the couples who make like $300K between them that are hopelessly in debt the most fun to read of all their articles. Does anyone take those seriously? Give me $300K for 4 years – I’ll be fishing fishing in Fla. in year 5 quite contently and comfortably…

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  8. I’m sorry, but stories like this piss me off. Another case of a spoiled child who will grow up as a selfish brat. His parents “gave” him $50k to “invest?” All he did was gamble and get lucky. He needs a nasty lesson in a bear market, let’s see how elated he gets losing 50% of his portfolio in a week.

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