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My Start In Investing & Where You Can Start

I started investing in the midst of the market turmoil in 2008 and 2009 while I was in my last year of college. I was fairly ignorant to finance and investing at the time and actually studying biology. I became enthralled by the volatile markets and attracted to the vicissitudes of investing. I became particularly attracted to the teachings and musings of one of the greatest investors of all time – Warren Buffett. It seemed that in the midst of all the panic and turmoil, one person was staying cool, calm, and collected – buying up stocks and companies as if they were on sale. As it turns out, they were.

My first brokerage account was with a company called Zecco, which has since been bought by TradeKing. (Today, I use OptionsHouse, which has also undergone change by merging with tradeMONSTER.) Zecco had some of the lowest rates per stock trade at the time, $4.95 per trade if I remember correctly, so I opened up an account and transferred in a couple hundred bucks to begin trading. I remember I bought some Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as they were trading for pennies on the dollar even though they were trading at multiples of $10, $20, and higher only a couple months before. I didn’t really make much money in my early days. I just bought stocks that had dropped in price precipitously, and my research was superficial. It was not until 2010 and 2011, while I was studying for my economics degree that I delved deep into the theories and strategies of investing.

You have to put the time and work in necessary to become a successful investor.

I began reading Peter Lynch’s books, Benjamin Graham’s (The Intelligent Investor and Security Analysis), Joel Greenblatt’s You Can Be A Stock Market Genius, and various other books and reports including the Buffettology series by Mary Buffett and David Clark.  The title, You Can Be A Stock Market Genius, reads like it’s the title for an “investing for dummies” book, but it is actually one of the most respected and renowned books on investing ever written. It spawned a multitude of hedge funds employing the strategies within the book. And although it may seem like a book for “dummies” at first glance, it’s actually not for the novice investor and a relatively advanced knowledge of finance is needed to employ the strategies expounded within it.

I like to think that Benjamin Graham’s and Peter Lynch’s books were strategy, while Joel Greenblatt’s was tactics. In short, these books have served me well – molding me into an astute investor and directing me to where the best opportunities in the markets can be found. If you want to be a better investor, then those aforementioned books are where you can start. The Buffettology books are especially good for those just starting out.

Turning back to Buffett, his snatching up of stocks during the Financial Crisis and ensuing recession amazed me and was one of the reasons I had to learn more – about him and why he could do what most others were running away from. As the markets turn more volatile, keep a look-out for companies going on sale. Some investors will panic and sell some of the best companies at depressed prices. Paraphrasing Warren Buffett – be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy. This musing would be included in an “Art of Investing” book as The Art of War tells us to prepare for war in times of peace and to prepare for peace in times of war. These musings should help you out not only in investing but in life.

- Andrew Sebastian

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