About Me

Note: You can follow JohnOnStocks on twitter.com to hear about new posts. I last updated the top section here back in 2012, and I decided to leave it as it really shows my thinking when I started this blog. I’ve added a 2020 update at the bottom.

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I hope someday to enter the finance world professionally, and possibly start my own portfolio management firm. I’ve developed a rough idea for a trading strategy that could balance market timing with the low fees of an index fund by mechanically diversifying between stocks and investment-grade bonds based on trailing market multiples and economic leading indicators. What remains is for me to take the past data from the fama french website, develop simulations for past performance, and nail down the details of this trading strategy. I will post these simulated results on the blog once this is done, and then open a yahoo finance account simulated dollars to begin trading the strategy. I am also planning on starting a virtual S&P 500 tracking index fund soon and posting results, which will provide excellent experience in running a fund.

I have been trading stocks since 2003, after reading a Motley Fool book on stock investing. I subscribed to Hidden Gems and then Global Gains since late 2003, and I’ve been an active Ameritrade investor and active member of the discussion boards. Recently I stopped renewing my membership because I’m focusing back on school and don’t have incoming cash to invest, but I’m still fascinated with the markets and determined to find an outlet.

My biggest sources right now are the Wall Street Journal, which I read on my iPhone, and the Dave Rosenberg newsletters which you can get free at www.gluskinsheff.com . I’ll also be getting the Economist again soon – a great magazine, especially if you can buy it with airline miles. The big advantage of the Economist is that, as a weekly, they can go into so much more depth than a daily paper.

A couple of updates: I stopped reading Rosenberg when he started charging ~1000 $CAD 2 years ago. Since then I’ve read a number of books including “This Time is Different,” “The Black Swan,” “Endgame,” & “The Age of Deleveraging.” Endgame got me into reading John Mauldin’s weekly newsletter (still free) and then that of Grant Williams who worked with JM but writes his own now. I’m hoping to earn enough money to build my own fund (much like Kiyosaki in “Rich dad poor dad”), but I know the industry is essentially closed to new entrants after a massive banking consolidation following Dodd Frank. I’m still more interested in completing my CFA than my PE though, but my engineering career may have to come first here.

Educational background:

BS Mechinical Engineering, UC San Diego, June 2002

MBA focus in Finance, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, graduated December 2010

CFA progress: After passing the first exam on June 6, 2010, I realized that path was a dead end. Competition in the collapsing finance industry was fierce, and companies only seemed to want experienced employees that would require little training. I went back to focusing on engineering and construction jobs which looked a lot more promising.

My work experience includes 2.5 years in the US Navy (2003-5), followed by 1.5 years working with FEMA in Mississippi for the Hurricane Katrina disaster (2005-7), followed by 2 years working as an HVAC project engineer in commercial construction (ACCO Engineered Systems 2007-9) in Orange County and Los Angeles, CA. After graduating from USC, I took a position as an Automation project engineer with Sachs Electric Co.

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7/18/2020 update:

I just noticed I haven’t updated this page in 10 years. I’m not changing the top section, because it shows my original motivations for starting this blog. Here’s roughly how things panned out though:

The job with Sachs electric was a contract that lasted a bit over a year. I spent 1 month preparing in St Louis, MO followed by 14 months working through the refinery project in Whiting, IN. The project ended and I went home. I had mixed feelings about it because I really wanted to live near friends and family back in CA, but I was nervous about the job market. I was definitely glad that I had asked for the two weeks off in March to go with a friend on a trip through India – that was an opportunity you don’t have very often.

After I returned home in May 2013, I met up with an old friend who had recently started his own company in LED lighting called Sheen LED. I joined the company, focusing on the back end side of things while Robert focused on Sales. I did the accounting and taxes through Quickbooks, searches out suppliers through Alibaba and got samples to test, and did all of the rebate paperwork with all the various electrical utilities. We walked a lot of projects and wrote a lot of proposals, but it was tough to get a start. I was living with my parents and working from home, while financing company operations the only way I could – off personal credit cards. I learned a lot, but it’s hard to make money when you’re working capital is at a 15% credit card interest rate while your customers take their sweet time paying for your install. I folded later, handing the company completely back to Rob in September 2014 while I went through bankruptcy and looked for work. Robert landed another job in LED sales before then, and was able to finance the company on the side from that for a while. I wished him the best and we went our separate ways.

After working through a temp agency for a few months, my penchant for travel paid off. Shortly after getting back from Indiana, a USC buddy of mine – Kirk – invited me to his wedding at a resort in Cancun. I went of course and had a great time with everyone. A few months into my temp job, I called him on a long commute home from work and he had some interesting news … his wife had a friend with a tile company in Van Nuys and they desperately needed a tile estimator. I joined City Tile back in Jan 2015 and I’ve been working there ever since.

City Tile turned out to be a good fit for me. They not only allow me to take time off to satisfy my penchant for travel – the actively encourage it. Since starting at City Tile I’ve gone on at least 2 major trips a year to places like Greece, London, Costa Rica, Peru, Spain, Ireland, Portugal… the list goes on. Most employers I had would look on that as a total waste of time, as if I had nothing better to do with my life than work 60 hours a week.

Today I count myself very lucky to have a steady job that allows me to telecommute most days, while so many have their lives upended with this pandemic. Luckier still, I was spending the weekdays in cheap hotels during the week before the pandemic hit, which made the transition to living 100% back at my mother’s house really easy.

My blog has gone through some iterations over the years, as has my trading style. In the go-go 2000’s I was working a lot, using newsletters, investing in recommended story stocks with a buy-and-hold penchant. I was nervous about a crash in 2007 and got completely out of the stock market, but got back in too early. With all the crazy QE that followed 2009, I went from favoring gold to being stubbornly long gold after the fall, to not really investing much at all because I just didn’t have much income. I kept my blog up over the years, sometimes with a few months between posts, and for a while trying to explore topics outside investing. Investing gets boring after all when you have no money to invest. When I joined City Tile I finally started getting real income again – at first saving what I could in physical gold and silver while creatively trying to squeeze rent down below 40% of my take-home pay, then just sticking everything into an array of gold miner stocks. As these went up in 2018 and 2019, I got a renewed interest in trading, this time focusing on technical analysis.

After reading some books on Tecnical analysis, realization hit that my previous views on investing were all wrong, and that cash flows – often driven by central banks – have a much bigger impact on pricing than earnings fundamentals ever will. You can balance the two somewhat, but you really have to let the technical side lead as it allows you to develop strategies for entry, exit, and risk management that you would otherwise miss entirely. Right now, like many 40 year old wanderers through life, I see the need to take significant risk if I ever want a chance at real financial security. The dream that I could someday find my own destiny and do something creative with my life looms large.

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