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How I Became Obsessed with Financial Markets

This journey traces back to when I was about 13, circa 2002, working at my parents’ restaurant and reading newspaper stock reports. During this time, satellite radio was a relatively new concept. I did a little research on it, contemplating how we lose radio signals while driving between cities on family vacations. We were road warriors, often going to Orlando or Miami from Clearwater, having to find new music stations or endure static for an already scary drive through Alligator Alley.

With satellite radio, the connection loss wouldn’t be a significant issue. Though many cars lack the necessary capabilities, I believe that as technology evolves, it will become more widespread. XM Radio became the first publicly traded company I followed. When I asked my parents about investing and how to buy shares, I received no guidance. This wasn’t Their fault; they were regular, middle-class American immigrants without exposure to capital market investing.

At that time, I thought eventually, every car would come equipped with satellite radio, and traditional FM signals would be obsolete. As a 13-year-old, I was about 50% right. Not bad, huh? I spent days reading the stock and business section of the newspaper, building a watchlist in my journal while tracking gains and losses, and essentially engaging in paper money trading. However, my interest quickly faded when the FIFA World Cup started, diverting my focus to typical teenage pursuits.

Fast forward a few years to when I started earning a livable wage and had to manage things such as buying groceries. As a private first class in the army deployed to Afghanistan, I had no “real” bills. Like any good soldier pursuing peak physical condition, my budget allocation revolved around vitamins, diet, protein, and pre-workout supplements.

In 2012, with cash in the bank earning minimal interest and CDs offering little, I contemplated buying property in Brazil, anticipating an increase in GDP and economic stimulation during the years leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Having lived through the 2008 financial crisis in Florida, I was aware of property price fluctuations. I remembered the market recovery and thought it was an excellent opportunity.

However, after researching how to buy property in Brazil, I realized it was impractical with the funds I had. Property prices in Brazil were higher than expected, and lending was impractical. Add on the logistical nightmare it would have been to manage. Exploring alternative options, my research eventually led me to the stock market, where I discovered ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds). Buying a basket of assets invested in the Brazilian economy seemed brilliant.

It was easy to open a USAA or Fidelity investment account and invest in a Brazilian ETF’ focused on real estate and utilities supporting residential middle-class living. My optimism took a negative hit when the FIFA World Cup passed, and Brazil’s leadership faced major investigations, resulting in government officials being jailed for corruption. The government and oil companies were accused of stealing from the people, leading to soaring unemployment and poverty levels.

Consequently, my Brazilian investments dissolved, teaching me a valuable lesson about the necessity of an exit strategy and how geopolitical climate can influence market performance. This experience hooked me into the financial markets. Alongside my Brazil investment thesis, I bought Amazon shares at less than $226 per share. Still a rookie self-learning investor, I was learning to differentiate short-term swing trading strategies versus long-term buy and hold.

Hien’s sight is always 20/20. If I had known then what I know now, precisely, long-term investment strategy following the Warren Buffett approach, I would still be holding Amazon stocks today. After an est. 80% return. I thought it was enough and didn’t want to get greedy, so I sold my stocks, taking profits. I also divested from a few other investments to balance the portfolio. As an aside, I can say I did learn about tax loss harvesting early on!

At this point, I started to share my knowledge and teach my fellow soldiers budgeting, investing, and the importance of contributing to the TSP (Thrift Savings Plan, the government’s 401k equivalent). I hoped they, too, would leverage compounding interest over their military careers. This reignited an old interest, prompting me to return to school to pursue a finance degree. Today, I proudly share that I’ve turned a childhood interest into a company that assists individuals and companies with financial planning, investing, and making sound financial decisions.