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About Me

Hello, I’m Ryan! Ten years ago, I graduated with a Master of Science in Computational Finance from Carnegie Mellon University. I had earned a M.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Mathematics just before that. And for the last ten years since, I have been working in the financial services industry, first as a Portfolio Strategist at the asset management arm of a large bank and now at one of the largest bank holding companies in the world. I have an extreme passion for investing.

It took me a little less than ten years to cross into the millionaire category in March 2019 after first graduating with $75,000 in student loan debt. I became a millionaire the “old-fashioned way” by getting a bunch of degrees, getting a good job, being frugal, saving and investing. I have never inherited any money and likely won’t in the future either.

I spent the majority of my twenties in college developing the ‘degree collection’ and didn’t start working in my career until I was in my late twenties. I was a serious student and spent the majority of my spring breaks studying for the next exam. Life basically sucked. I did this because it was the only way that I thought was a sure path to success. Neither of my parents went to college and so they thought the college route was the only way to go as well. I don’t think this path is for everyone. Read more about this backstory here.

My passion for investing started young. I bought my first mutual fund when I was 14 and opened my first brokerage account to buy stocks when I was 17. I made money on the mutual fund after a number of years, but lost all the money I had placed into my stock brokerage account within a year or two after buying all the high-flying, popular stocks at the time like everyone else was doing. It felt like a devastating loss back then because it had taken me my whole life to accumulate what I had up to that point. I started thinking about if I had only spent the money on a car or something tangible instead of gambling it away. But luckily, I didn’t turn away from the markets and that early loss was an education that ultimately sent me down a path to becoming a successful investor and career in finance.

What is my other passion?

Travel. 41 countries and counting since 2012.

Ryan at the Great Wall
Remote sections of the Great Wall give you wonderful photo opportunities. Nov 2019

Why did I create this site?

Most FIRE bloggers aren’t practitioners of finance and only rehash the same generic advice given basically everywhere else.

Most FIRE blogs generally fall into two categories:

  1. A personal account of getting out of debt and/or their personal journey to the FIRE path.
  2. Rehashing weak advice that you’ve probably read on financial websites 50 times already.

They read like a Suze Orman book who tells you are going to become a millionaire if all you do is skip drinking coffee every morning. No you won’t, because the assumptions are ridiculously improbable with the time frame and the returns required. Heck, you might as well stop eating out! Hey, take the bus to work! I know, live like a hermit without spending any money on life’s pleasures or conveniences at all and you’ll die a multi-millionaire! Fun!

Suggestions like these are really thinking small. Seriously, a $3 coffee is only $1095 a year. You could instead buy a cheaper car for $17,000 instead of a $30,000 one and save $13,000. And if a coffee gives you a small amount of enjoyment out of life, why not indulge a little bit? The focus should be on increasing your income and saving multiples more on big purchase items.

The other category of blog shares with you a very personal account with unique circumstances that won’t help you very much. I remember reading one personal account who claims that he made a million buying real estate in San Francisco with his grandfather’s down payment funds. He tried to sell it some years later in 2012 and couldn’t get any buyers so decided to rent it out for the next few years. Coincidentally 2012 is right when the market started to ascend and SF market prices really started getting out of control, so as a result the property doubled in value. That sounds more like good fortune than foresight and perseverance to me. What’s the advice going to be: a) have a rich grandpa and 2) go back in time and buy SF real estate?

On the same blog he talks about how he bought a tech stock in 1999 for a few thousand and it turned into over a hundred thousand dollars within a few months. Great, let me fire up my time machine.

These stories don’t help you because there is nothing actionable in it.  

Are they even real people?

Most don’t even have a single picture of themselves for “privacy.” Maybe one guy is ghost writing 30 of these blogs and cornering the personal finance blog market, who knows?

Where are the Japanese and European FIRE bloggers?

More on the luck topic, much of the net worth of today’s FIRE bloggers is a result of good luck from starting careers at the beginning of the 2009-2020 Bull Run and investing in the USA markets (the well documented home bias). From March 4 2009 to Jan 22, 2020, the total return of the S&P500 is up 477%. That’s a compounded return of 17.5%. International and Emerging markets have returned less than half as much. All they had to do was invest in S&P500 index funds and look like stock market geniuses. Statistically, the next ten years will be less generous.

My topics will go beyond index fund investing.

Index fund investing is no longer a secret. I don’t think there is much else to write about that hasn’t been written before, but people keep rehashing the same articles time after time as if it is a new and exciting concept.

Don’t get me wrong, I invest a portion of my funds in index funds too. But index funds now create a crowding danger where the largest companies get larger for no reason other than being already large enough to be in the index. The top 5 companies now represent 17% of the index and all of them are tech companies. I see many problems in the future because of this crowding.

My style of investing is predominantly cash flow investing.

I’m looking for passive income that I can retire off of. I’m interested in businesses that generate a lot of cash flow and return a decent amount of it to shareholders. I don’t want to rely on P/E expansion in the S&P 500 to fund my retirement and requires me to pick times to sell to finance my future lifestyle. P/E’s can expand and they can deflate just as easily from the whims of the animal spirits. When you’ve been paid a dividend, it’s yours forever and if you bought it for a good value, there won’t be much P/E deflation.

I intend to share with you actionable ideas.

I spend a significant amount of time researching stocks and running analysis on investing ideas. I’m already doing this for myself, so it is little extra effort to share it with my readers. Why do this? Because it will attract criticism and criticism is good for investing. If someone can point out something I didn’t think of or a detail that I missed that really changes the thesis, then the discussion makes it worthwhile.

I will share book recommendations that go beyond the “become a millionaire from lattes” crowd.

You can see a collection of ones I like on the sidebar at the lower right.

 


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