About Ryan

About Ryan

I’ve been performing investment research for over 22 years in various public and private capacities. I’m one of the few financial writers that has actually had a professional financial services career with a direct role in asset management and strategy research. Additionally, my educational background consists of an M.S. in Computational Finance, an M.A. in Economics, and a B.S. in Mathematics. Unlike many career paths, finance was not something “I fell into,” it was something I specifically studied for and chose.

On WantFI (pronounced “want-fye”), I write about topics that span personal finance and investing ideas.

Back Story

It took me less than ten years post-education to become a millionaire after originally 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 don’t expect to 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.

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.

That was the first time I started thinking about if I had only spent the money on a dream car or something fun 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.

Why did I create this personal finance site?

Most finance writers aren’t practitioners of finance and only rehash the same generic advice given basically everywhere else and their sole purpose is to push affiliate sales. They have basically three types of categories:

  • A personal account of getting out of debt and/or their personal journey to the FI path.
  • Rehashing weak advice that you’ve probably read on financial websites 50 times already.
  • Affiliate advertisements masked as reviews.

Sadly, many people have created finance websites to solely push affiliate sales. They read the the book “5 Hour Workweek” about how its easy money to just repackage information, so making money for themselves is their only goal. They do not provide any original analysis or criticism of the subject. They write fake reviews on “investing in art,” “investing in wine,” opening brokerage accounts on Coinbase or Robinhood and the common theme is that they get paid when you buy through them. Most of my reviews of alternative investment platforms have been criticisms informing you why you should avoid them.

Most of their very general material reads 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 lease or 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.

Another 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 dollars 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 real estate market started to take off and SF market prices doubled over the next few years. 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 them.  

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Where are the Japanese and European FI bloggers?

More on the luck topic, much of the net worth of today’s financial independence writers 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 been basically flat over the same time period. All they had to do was invest in S&P500 index funds and then write about what investing geniuses they are. Statistically, the next ten years will be less generous.

What value can you add?

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% 22% of the index and all of them are tech companies. I see many problems in the future because of this crowding.

There is a whole world of investing strategies out there to diversify or generate income.

Furthermore there is a new world of potential investments or speculation in the cryptocurrency space which most finance bloggers don’t even touch on. Unfortunately the cryptocurrency world is rife with scams and Ponzis so most of the things are not worth allocating money towards, but a tiny amount of speculation in coins that aren’t blatant Ponzis might add some upside diversification to your overall portfolio. Bitcoin is the most well known, of course, but its so much deeper than that now.

What is your style of investing?

My style of investing is predominantly cash flow and passive income investing.

I’m looking for passive income that I can early retire off of. I’m interested in businesses that generate a lot of cash flow today and return a decent amount of it to shareholders. Investors today only seem to be concerned about capital appreciation, and businesses that might earn a lot of money far out in the future. I feel it is a more speculative way to invest that depends on bringing in more stock market buyers in a Ponzi-like fashion.

Relying on P/E expansion is riskier because it can ebb and flow over time with interest rates. 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 also speculate for some asymmetric upside bets with some small cap stocks and cryptocurrency.

Will you share actionable ideas?

Yes, what is the point of having a finance blog if you just write about index funds and how you paid off another debt? That does nothing for the reader.

I spend a significant amount of time researching stocks and running analysis on investing ideas. I’m already doing this for myself, but it does take some extra effort to write up the investment case, so I don’t write about everything I am investing in.

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.

What is my other passion?

Travel. 41 countries and counting since 2012.

I love interacting with locals, eating local foods and walking my way through cities and towns.

Ryan at the Great Wall
Not many visitors in a remote section of the Great Wall

Ryan Recommends

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