The Rich Life Part II: Confessions of a sixth-grade stock picker

When your name is Nilus Lawrence Mattive III, people automatically expect you to have a silver spoon in your mouth.

But I never did. Nobody in my family ever started a company, patented an invention, or wrote a movie script.

My odd first name was the ONLY thing handed down from generation to generation in my family. No inheritances or trust funds to speak of here.

As I explained in Part I, I was just a lower-middle-class sixth grader living in northeastern Pennsylvania.

My dad was the first person to go to college on either side of the family. He worked in the human resources department at a state mental health facility. He also had a second gig at the YMCA. And my mom? After spending a few years taking care of me, she got a part-time job at a small credit union.

My parents’ investments were limited to passbook savings accounts and maybe a CD or two.

That’s why they were so surprised when I said I wanted to start investing in stocks on my own.

Sure, I had always been interested in money – coin collecting, piling up cash in my dresser drawer, even looking at stock market quotes in our local newspaper.

But this was a whole new deal!

Luckily, my parents encouraged me. They allowed me to take several hundred dollars from my savings and put it into the market.

I searched under “stock broker” in the yellow pages, and made a few phone calls. When I found one who took me seriously, my dad helped me set up an account.

That was around 1987. The movie Wall Street had just come out. I was watching shows like “Family Ties,” where the young Alex Keaton character was carrying his briefcase to school and talking about investing in blue chips. Meanwhile, I picked up a personal computer from my local Sears, an antique by today’s standards.

I knew what I wanted to do…

I decided to buy five shares of IBM.

I didn’t make a killing but it was great experience. I also ended up with some Disney stock that performed nicely.

Later, in high school, I started putting more money into the market.

And that’s when I learned my first real lesson.

Up to that point, my broker had merely followed the instructions I gave him.

But then he told me he had a great investment I should consider – a small mining company his research department said was ready to soar.

As I quickly discovered, it’s possible to have a high IQ and still be a complete idiot…

That trade was a disaster. I lost my shirt.

I also learned that “boring” stocks like IBM and Disney could outperform smaller, more exciting plays.

Of course, that didn’t prevent me from some spectacular wins as the ensuing tech bubble formed.

But the losses pretty much cancelled out my gains. I felt like I was on a roller coaster.

I knew there had to be a better way to handle my money.

So I fired my broker and moved all my money into a growing electronic discount brokerage firm called E-Trade. 

Talk about a revolutionary concept!

I paid way less in fees and could enter my own trades in a matter of minutes.

Sure, online platforms are the norm now. But the bigger ideas of lowering costs and watching over your own investments have never been more important.

By this point, I was off in college.

While I was investing in the Internet boom, I was on academic scholarship earning a triple major in philosophy, theology, and English.

You can imagine how many people told me I would end up jobless, that I might as well be getting a degree in sociology.

Fortunately, Wall Street employers valued my ability to think critically and communicate effectively. I didn’t need a generic business degree or Ph.D. in math.

My first year out of school, I already had a full-time job writing original investment research in Manhattan’s financial district.

I was there as the tech wreck wreaked havoc on the markets. I was also there for a different type of havoc…

I was in the basement of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. You can probably imagine what that was like.

I was later working at Standard & Poor’s just as the housing bubble and subprime lending fiasco were gaining momentum.

Needless to say, I gained an awful lot of experience in a relatively short period of time.

But by 2006, I’d had enough of dressing up, working late hours, and sending my best ideas through a maze of corporate bureaucracy.

So I moved out of Manhattan, my new wife at my side. We settled in sunny, laid back California.

We had our daughter shortly thereafter.

I began publishing my own investment research through independent channels. That’s been my primary occupation for more than a decade now.

It’s the best move I’ve ever made.

It’s great because it aligns my interest with yours. I have no corporate filters to deal with. No secret agendas. No IR departments to please or investment banking relationships to worry about.

I’m free to share my best ideas with you. And you can use them as you see fit.

I’ve already helped hundreds of thousands of readers attain their retirement goals. And I’m excited to help you realize yours.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

The Daily Reckoning