Note: While working on a new strategy to maximize profits in today’s market, I came across a piece I wrote back in 2020. I’ve updated it for 2022. I hope you enjoy this reminder of how hard work leads to incredible opportunity. My team and I are putting that into practice as we help you navigate the ups and downs. — Adam O’Dell, Chief Investment Strategist, Money & Markets
I wasn’t born a successful investor. I’ve always known what hard work looks like.
I started working at age 15 at a sporting goods store in my hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. I earned minimum wage. And since it was my first above-the-table job, I learned about Uncle Sam’s cut off the top.
Even before that, I hustled for under-the-table cash mowing lawns for a dozen neighbors. My dad lent me his mower and trimmer but made me pay for the gas I used.
I can’t even count how many hours I spent toiling away at those jobs in my adolescent years. Thousands, I’d say. And that was on top of doing enough homework to earn straight A’s and a spot at the top of my class.
I have fond memories of those years. I enjoyed working hard. Still do.
Hard Work Paves the Way for Successful Investing
And now that I’m a father, I think more critically about how all that hard work paved the way for my successes as an investor.
I’m asking myself questions like: “How can I make sure my son Leo — and his younger brother, who’s due later this month — develop the same work ethic that runs through generations of my family, even though they’ll have it ‘easier’ than I did … which was easier than my dad had it … and so on up our lineage?”
And: “Should I urge them toward a particular career or let them choose?”
And: “How soon should I teach them about investing?”
You see, my parents both went to college, and my dad graduated from law school. But they were the first in their families to go.
One of my grandmothers was a flight attendant, and the other worked for the telephone company.
Both of my grandfathers worked factory jobs, running the same heavy machinery for 50 years or so!
They were all “clock-punchers.”
They might have earned a bit more than minimum wage. But they were by no means able to make a fortune at those jobs.
And I think seeing that is what motivated my own parents to go to school and work hard, to give themselves — and my brothers and me — the “better life” they’d yearned for growing up.
Indeed, my parents have done well for themselves. Their financial advisers consider them “financially stable,” even “high net worth.”
But at times, it dawns on me that even though he’s able to command a high rate for his services as an attorney, my dad is still “trading time for dollars” — much like my grandparents did.
If my dad works for 10 hours on a Monday … he can bill his client for 10 hours of work. But if he takes Monday off … he earns nothing.
The Less You Do … the More You Make?
Of course, all this brings me to my passion for investing and the “hard work” it takes to be a successful investor.
More than once, some have quipped to me: “Investing is the only job where the less you do, the more you make.”
It’s an amusing thought … but only half true.
To the point of that assertion, if you’re the type of investor who’s always fiddling with your portfolio … always itching to log in and do something … I’d venture to guess your account balance isn’t quite as large as investors who value the role that patience and discipline play in earning profits from the market.
Indeed, to an extent, it’s true: The less you do, the more you make.
On the other hand, I can say this: I’ve never worked harder at anything in life, school or work, as I’ve worked at learning and mastering the craft of investing … over the past 16 years.
Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, popularized the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at something before you can be an “expert.”
Well, I’d bet I’ve spent at least 20,000 hours on hyper-focused, purposeful study of financial markets … and the investment strategies best suited to pull consistent profits from them.
Now, that might seem a bit ironic. For sure, my ultimate goal has always been to earn large amounts of passive income from my investments — allowing me to escape that “trading time for dollars” scenario that even my successful dad is stuck in … and that his father was bound to.
But toward that end, I’ve worked like a dog for two decades. And I can’t imagine ever letting up.
I wake up every weekday before the sun’s up to run scans, look at charts and see what the markets have done overnight.
And while I try my best to preserve Saturdays and Sundays for my family … I will slip away for a few hours if I’ve got a new strategy idea I want to test outside the buzz and distractions of my typical work week. (On that front, I’m working on a new strategy for today’s market. I’ll have more information soon.)
I do all this because I have a true passion for investing and for sharing the path toward investment success … with “regular,” hard-working folks like my parents … even “clock-punching” folks like my grandparents.
The thing is, whether it’s true that “the less you do, the more you earn,” … I 100% believe that anyone can learn what it takes to become a successful investor.
You don’t need a high IQ. You don’t need an Ivy League degree. You don’t even need to put in the tens of thousands of hours I have.
Successful investing boils down to understanding a few bits of “wisdom,” employing a small handful of prudent, time-tested strategies … and having enough discipline to be resolved and patient through the inevitable ups and downs along the way.
That’s not a tall order. It’s something I think anyone, from any walk of life, can attain.
And trust me, the reward is worth it!
To me, if you can spend your time as you want, rather than “trading your hours for dollars,” … that’s one of the greatest accomplishments you could ever hope to achieve.
I know it’s of utmost importance to me. And it’s a way of life I’m eager to share with folks like you … and, someday, my sons.
To good profits,
Chief Investment Strategist
P.S. I mentioned I was working on something big for the market in 2022 and beyond.
I’ll have more details soon, but here’s a sneak peek: I’m on a mission to turn the market’s maximum pessimism into maximum profits.
Updated in August 2022.