In My First Stock, we talk to Canadians about the first stock they owned and how the experience shaped how they invest today.
Mark Yamada, chief executive officer, PUR Investing Inc.
First stock: Stelco (pre-reorganization), known today as Stelco Holdings Inc.
As a kid growing up in Toronto, I worked summers for my father, a portrait photographer, who kept me in a darkroom full of toxic chemicals for 25 cents an hour. The family decided I would take over the business and that my apprenticeship should start immediately, at age 7. After the first summer, I used my earnings to buy a bicycle.
At school a year later, I noticed a classmate sitting outside after lunch reading Report on Business, which I found intriguing. He taught me to read the stock page – something he did to keep up on his trust fund. (I had no idea what that was at the time.) We talked about owning shares of businesses and exchanged ideas about growth – hilarious for third-graders!
The next summer I decided to buy Stelco stock. My bike was made of steel, and all the kids had them. I also liked cars and figured they needed lots of steel, too. My mother called her broker at A.E. Ames and placed an order at my direction for four shares at $14. It was 1960. Now I would have a stock to watch, just like my friend.
How it felt to own a stock for the first time
I was exhilarated. I worked hard to save that money, so I felt truly invested. When the stock fell to $11 after a few months, I got a little nervous but stuck it out. Then, when the stock rallied to $21 the following year, I sold it. My mother paid the rapacious commissions so I could see a real profit. I later bought and sold Kentucky Fried Chicken and Alcan shares (and used the profits to upgrade my ride to a multi-speed English racing bike). By this point, I figured I was an investing genius! It’s probably what inspired me to get into the investing business.
Lessons learned about investing from the experience
I enjoyed the endorphin rush market participants feel when they experience winning trades. Years later, when managing portfolio managers, this early experience taught me never to suggest changes when managers had an above-average performance. Only if they struggled would their egos allow them to consider new ideas.
Overconfidence afflicts all investors. The best professionals know this. Human nature can trap us into cycles of fear and greed, a curious product of mass psychology we should all be aware of.
Advice for someone buying their first stock today
If investing for entertainment value, stick with companies or industries you are familiar with. A friend of mine was an animator and only traded stocks in the entertainment business. He always felt in control. Selling to upgrade my bicycle, for a down payment on a home or for myriad other life objectives is always a good idea. We realize the ongoing benefit of investing and keep our expectations real.
As told to Brenda Bouw. This interview has been edited and condensed.