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