What do golf, the U.S. State Department, and The Motley Fool have in common? Find out in this week’s episode of Rule Breaker Investing as Foolish superstars Jason Moser and Matt Argersinger share their life and investing stories with David Gardner.
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This video was recorded on April 13, 2021.
David Gardner: Who lives, who dies, who tells your story, runs that poignant lyric from the American hit musical Hamilton. Who tells your story? While storytelling has been at the heart of this podcast for six years and counting, but it hadn’t occurred to me until a few weeks ago to start a new series that will feature some of your favorite Motley Fool personalities telling their story because regardless of who lives, who dies, and the truth is we all do, the unanswered question is, who tells your story? I thought, why not have them do so? Why not have you do so this week, Jason Moser, Matt Argersinger> Where do you come from? If you had to tell your story in just exactly 150 words, about 10 sentences, how would you tell it? What does the stock graph of your life look like? What were the three key moments that made you into the investor that you are today? Telling Their Stories, Volume 2, kicks off this week only on Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. I’m excited about this week’s show. It’s going to be a delight to share my friends Jason Moser and Matt Argersinger and their stories with you. I love your stories. We have so much fun mailbag every month, often hearing your stories from people who are some of our better known analysts, advisors, personalities, people you’ve gotten to know in Motley Fool Live or hosting our podcasts, that is a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to Telling Their Stories, Volume 2, this week. I want to mention that last week, of course, I picked my 29th five-stock sampler, Five Stocks To Teach Rule Breakers. Those stocks are up 1% so far in the first week, only problem, market’s up 1.5%, so we’re just slightly underwater, but you know we’re not playing the one week game here. I do want to mention that, of course, the name of this podcast is Rule Breaker Investing and it keys to the Motley Fool Rule Breakers service, and you should know as a regular listener, you can get 67% off our Rule Breakers service. You can just go to http:// — Do people still say that anymore? I just did — rbioffer.fool.com. I see Rick Engdahl, my producer, shaking his head. No, people do not still say “http://” anymore. [laughs] Old school.
Speaking of five-stock samplers, next week’s show will be a review-a-palooza show. Three past five-stock samplers will be reviewed, Five Stocks For The Coronavirus from one year ago, Five Stocks For The Age Of Miracles from two years ago, and then three years ago, we’ll be closing out Five Stocks I Own That You Should Too. We’ll be discovering together whether you should have owned those stocks over the last three years that I own, and how are these samplers doing? I’ll mention one of them, quite poorly actually; the other two, wow. I look forward to sharing and learning, and sharing the learning with you next week.
Well, without further ado, I want to remind you of the three building blocks of the telling their stories series. The first one is 150 words exactly in your own words, telling the story of your life. That’s building block No. 1. Building block No. 2, hey, we’re all investors, my dear listeners, you are too, and all of us understand the concept of a stock graph, but what if instead of graphing a stock, you’re graphing your life. What are the highs and lows? My talented guests have done that, they will speak to whatever they’d like to in the stock graphs of their lives. Then, of course, the third and final building blocks are the three key moments that have shaped you into the investor that you are. Well, I have two wonderful long time Motley Fool analysts and personalities joining me this week, and the first one is Jason Moser. Jason, welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing.
Moser: Yes, sir. Thank you so much for having me, it is nice to be back.
Gardner: Well, Jason, it’s a pleasure to have you back. I dropped you a few notes over the weekend and said, “Are you ready? Are you really going to read exactly 150 words to capture the Jason Moser story?” I believe you’ve done so, can you confirm?
Moser: I have confirmed and I will confirm yup.
Gardner: Excellent. Well, thank you very much. Before we get into it, could you just briefly remind us how you’re spending your time at the Fool today?
Moser: How I’m spending my time at the Fool? I’m doing a lot of things, thankfully, they keep me busy. But the two primary responsibilities these days, I’m the lead advisor for Augmented Reality & Beyond service, as well as our Next-Gen Supercycle service. The Next-Gen Supercycle service is geared toward 5G technology, so we’re really pursuing that big market opportunity, whereas Augmented Reality is focused on immersive technology and stuff like that. Then I get to spend a lot of time doing some of our great shows. I get to host Industry Focus on Mondays, I do Motley Fool Money on Fridays, and a little bit MarketFoolery in between and every once in a while, a little impromptu showing on something like Rule Breaker Investing.
Gardner: Absolutely. Here you are in Motley Fool Live and really also speaking in the media quite a lot, Jason. The timber of your voice would be recognizable to many at Motley Fool over the years, and thank you for all your contributions that you’ve made. Do remember what your first day was at The Fool?
Moser: I do. As a matter of fact, it was as memorable as they come, because I don’t know if you remember this, it was 11+ years ago. But do you remember when we had the tour of the world via cuisine? When I came into HQ, we had separated all of our areas on the fourth floor, and I believe the fifth floor was involved too. Or maybe actually, we might not have been on the fifth floor at that point, but we had separated everything, added different parts of the world in cuisine that was part of those areas, and so as a newb, all we did, we came in, we were the judges. We just went from place to place, eating food and drinking beverages and judging people, which was the most memorable first day ever.
Gardner: That is so Foolish, I love it. I had forgotten that, Jason. Thank you for that memory.
Moser: Yes, sir.
Gardner: Delightful. Well, let’s wind it up here. Jason Anthony Moser, tell your story.
Moser: 150 words, I’m trusting that my word count in Microsoft Word is guiding me correctly, but here we go. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, on December 26, 1972. I was adopted by a doctor and his wife, and I have two younger siblings. My childhood was an athletic one, but when my father introduced me to golf at the age of five, the lure of the game never let me go and it’s played a big role in much of what has happened in my life since. I graduated from Wofford College in 1995, and worked as a PGA club professional for six years before moving on to bigger things, including marrying my wife Robin in 2001. I’ve lived in Cairo, Egypt, and Austin in Kazakhstan, among other places, and worked at a bank, an insurance company, and the State Department for a time. We have two daughters, both teens now. I’m just a guy with three dogs, one horse, a happy family, and a lot of stocks. Not too shabby.
Gardner: [laughs] Spectacular, Jason. Let’s touch back on a few of those moments. I knew a lot of that, but I never knew all of it and that’s part of why we do what we do. Golf certainly comes to mind. I might have once played maybe half of a round with you. I’m not much of a golfer. I do admire the sport, but I know that as a former club pro, it’s been a big part of your life.
Gardner: Do you play golf continuously today even as a dad with kids and all the rest, or is it harder to do that?
Moser: Well, I do still play, absolutely. It is difficult to find the time, but by the same token, as a father and you know this very well, you understand that that window in your life as a father when your kids are young, that’s a very short window of time. I don’t mind keeping golf on the back burner, just playing whenever I can to make sure that I have the time to really be with my family because ultimately, that’s really what matters most to me. It’s not as frequent as I used to, but I do play and I look forward to being able to play a little bit more when I get older.
Gardner: You bet yeah. Greatest golf moment or best handicap achieved?
Moser: That’s going to be tricky because when you’re a pro, you don’t go by handicap.
Gardner: You don’t know these things, what do you mean?
Moser: Well, because you’re professional you’re basically playing it scratch all the time, you’re playing straight up, no handicaps.
Gardner: What, you don’t get a handicap?
Moser: No, no.
Gardner: I thought everybody playing golf gets a handicap.
Moser: Well, as amateurs we do. Thankfully, I’ve gotten my amateur status back, so I’m able to play to a handicap. But at the top of my game, I was able to break par on a fairly consistent basis which was a lot of fun. Then there have been a lot of great moments and I’ve played in a lot of terrific courses, but for me, I have always enjoyed just playing golf with my dad. We had a seven year stretch here recently over the last decade, where we played seven straight years at a member guest tournament at his club in Albany, Georgia. It was just such a wonderful stretch with seven straight years, never a rain day, it was just the best weather possible. That just stands out to me as a time that just was a lot of fun. Honestly, he’s my favorite golfing partner in the world, so anytime I get a good tee up with my dad is a good time.
Gardner: Jason, I did not know that you were adopted, you mentioned that briefly. Do you remember when you were first told, I’m always curious about that, by your parents, ”Hey, we adopted you, Jason?”
Moser: Yeah, it’s funny. I don’t specifically remember because they told me as soon as I was able to comprehend it. Like I said, I’ve two siblings, they were adopted as well. All three of us are from different families. Just a situation my mom and dad weren’t able to have kids, that’s just one of those things, I guess. They just told me whenever I was able to comprehend it. Some people I guess could have hang-ups or concerns with it. For me, I’ve always looked at it as a blessing. I was adopted by a doctor and his wife, I’ve been on a golf course all my life, like, I literally hit the jackpot. [laughs] For me, this man and this woman who taught me everything I know and got me into golf and investing and certainly helped me, this is just life has worked out very well. For me, it was a real blessing and, hey, listen, I’m very, very grateful that things worked out the way they did.
Gardner: Spectacular. Now, you mentioned Kazakhstan, and I think a lot of us who may not have known anything about Kazakhstan may have learned a little bit more, although I don’t know if it was real in the Borat movie in 2006. [laughs]
Gardner: I believe it was banned and maybe still is in the nation of Kazakhstan and Kosovo. [laughs] It wasn’t necessarily a chamber of commerce winter for the country. But I’m curious, you mentioned the state department. How much time did you spend in Kazakhstan and how the heck did you get out there?
Moser: We were in Kazakhstan for two years. My wife works for the state department. In 2002 or something like that, she had the opportunity to move to Egypt for a post there at the embassy. At the time we didn’t have any kids, we didn’t own a home and it was just the two of us, and we thought, that’s an adventure. We did that, we went to Egypt and we were there for three years. Then we had an ongoing assignment to Kazakhstan for another two from there. That was the impetus behind it. While we were doing that, that’s when I got the job at the state department and I was able to work there during our time at those two embassies. But yeah. If you want to get really mad, David, I mean, this is funny. I’m not sure if Borat was actually banned in Kazakhstan. I absolutely can believe it was. But we actually saw that movie in Kazakhstan. [laughs] Yeah. We had some way to get a DVD sent to us through the embassy. It may have been Netflix actually, but we were able to get DVDs. We actually watched that movie there. I got to say and I loved the laugh. I don’t know if the movie really didn’t suit me, but I can understand why Kazakhs probably want to sweep it under the rug. [laughs]
Gardner: It does say that it was banned on my friend Wikipedia. I’ve sometimes said my best friend Wikipedia tells me it was banned in almost all Arab countries, and the government of Kazakhstan denounced the film, but I believe I misspoke, Jason. I do not believe that it was banned in Kazakhstan. Now, I knew we were going to talk about Kazakhstan, so I did a little bit of homework. I learned a lot. I had no idea it’s the ninth largest country in the world. From West to East, if you picture Portugal, perched right there in the Atlantic Ocean, you spread all the way across through Germany, that’s like the size of Kazakhstan-ish. I also saw it has one lower population densities in the entire world of approximately six humans per square kilometer. For comparison purposes, Canada is even less dense at just four humans, per square kilometer. Mongolia is a similar country in that regard. But most of us are surrounded by a lot more humans than the average Kazakhstani.
Moser: Yes, and Mongolia being right there next to Kazakhstan. You’re right. It is a very vast area, a lot of wide open space. Going back to golf, interestingly enough, they did have a golf course there at the time. It was only nine holes, they were still building it out. There were just nine playable holes. But they even had a golf tournament there that I’ve played in, the president’s cup. I got to shake the hand of president Nazarbayev [laughs] which was pretty cool.
Moser: These are things that, if I say them out loud, it sounds like I’m just making it up, but it actually did happen, I promise. I’ve got the trophy on my mantel to prove it. [laughs]
Gardner: That is spectacular. The name Kazakh by the way comes through the ancient Turkic word “qaz” which means “to wander.” You can picture those nomadic people for centuries. Thousands of years in Central Asia, Kazakhstan, we’ll now move on but Kazakhstan is the largest country in Central Asia, which is the belly of the world in a lot of ways. It’s a fascinating place and I’m glad that it helped shape you. Well, speaking of shaping you, let’s move on now to the stock raft of your life. Jason, you spent some time tracing it out, why don’t you just start talking us through it a little bit.
Moser: Sure thing. As I mentioned being adopted, it was probably highly speculative at the time, David. Maybe I don’t want to say it was a penny stock, but my mom and dad, they didn’t really know what they were getting. [laughs] I was probably a bit more of the spec play, but, things worked out well. It was a steady and slow march up through my childhood. I had a lot of fun as a kid, I had a ton of great experiences that really helped me grow. As I mentioned, I was very athletic, and played all sorts of organized sports, from soccer, and basketball to baseball, and swimming. Cub scouts, boy scouts. I was even able to travel abroad. My life as a child, it was a lot of fun in a steady and slow march up. When I got to high school, I think that trend continued. I continued to play a ton of golf. I did well in school, making South Carolina the All State Golf Team. As I was preparing for college I was excited about all of the possibilities. I would say through those first 18 years or so, it was a nice steady climb. Things were great.
Gardner: I’m curious, Jason. You have always projected, in your 11 years as a fellow Fool, to me and I’m sure to so many who listen to you, as a pretty positive guy. I think we like that about you. I think that’s really constantly with Motley Fool values where optimism plays so importantly into our culture. Would you say that you were raised that way? Are your dad and mom just that way? I’m always curious where that positivity comes from.
Moser: Yeah. I don’t know. It’s funny you say that because I feel maybe that’s something I’ve always tried to work on. It’s very easy for me to get a little glass half empty at times. I try to counter that. I try to fight that honestly. I do feel like my mom and dad have always been positive folks. They’ve always expressed the value in working hard and making your own fate, so to speak, understanding maybe. Because there are key words of advice my father gave me, I’ll never forget, “The world owes you nothing.” That was one of those things. I live by it even to this day really. I feel that’s definitely been a part of upbringing. I think golf really had a lot to do with that, because I think if you are a glass half empty person, constantly then you’re not going to be very good at golf. [laughs] You need some positive frame of mind to be a good golfer.
Gardner: I will say I’m always glass half full. I’m still not very good at golf, but I definitely take your point. I’m curious, Jason, you mentioned what your dad said to you. We learn so much from our parents. What’s something that stands out as something you’ve learned from your mother over the years?
Moser: Oh, wow. Gee, so much. My mom, one of the things I always brag on her about, and it’s even to this day, and this may seem not much, but to me it’s huge. I spent a lot of time as a kid in the kitchen watching my mom cook. I learned a lot about how to cook, about how to handle a home, how to take care of things around the house, and whatnot from her. But really, cooking was something that she gave to me that stuck. Even to this day, my wife would agree, I’m the cook of the family.
Moser: That’s something I am very proud to be able to give my family. It’s a way I can contribute.
Moser: They both have taught me so much. I will say too, my mom, she went through cancer a while back. It’s been probably 15 years, I think now. But that was another stretch of time going back to the power of positive thinking. I watched her go through that and keep her head up and stay strong. It just didn’t get her down. It’s just another one of those examples of you fighting that glass half-empty tendency, if you could just try to look at things with a little bit more of a positive lens and fight.
Gardner: Thank you for that. Yeah, we learned so much from our parents. It’s hard even to pull those things apart, but often it’s not even what they’re saying, although that counts too, it’s what they’re embodying.
Gardner: It’s how they’re living their lives. What a wonderful thing to pick up. I have absolutely no [laughs] skills in my kitchen.
Moser: Oh, man.
Gardner: I don’t want to blame my mom, but she didn’t really spend much time in the [laughs] kitchen.
Moser: Well, that was the beauty. My father is a full-time doctor, and my mom is the full-time homemaker. Now, I don’t mean to say that’s all she did. My father ran the laboratory at the hospital, he’s a pathologist, he ran his own business there in a sense, and she basically ran the books for him, so she was a part-time homemaker, part-time accountant. But even to this day, she and I will swap recipes. Folks, listen, you know I like McCormick a lot, David. There’s a reason why I use the stuff religiously. I’m using something from McCormick every single day in this house.
Gardner: Spectacular, and it has been a wonderful stock for investors, and indeed, it’s a longtime pick of mine in Stock Advisor. October 2014, and it’s been a market-beater. It is a great company. You are truly living the McCormick life well. [laughs] Talking about making our portfolios reflect our best vision for our future. That’s a great one. Well, Jason, you’re getting into your adult years?
Moser: Yeah. Well, college was the first time where things started treading water a little bit. I had a tremendous time in college. I loved the four, great wonderful years, and I’m very grateful for my degree. But I would say it was probably treading water a bit more. It was the first time school ever really challenged me. Then golf became immensely more difficult because school was so challenging and the level of competition was so much stronger. I had a long-distance relationship going on. There were a lot of things that while it was very enjoyable, I don’t know, there was a tremendous amount of growth maybe. It just felt like I was treading water a little bit. It was just a very challenging time from a number of different angles.
Gardner: Your stock’s going sideways there.
Moser: Maybe so, yeah. Ebb and flow. A little ebb and flow there for a few years.
Gardner: But I have to imagine. Were you on the golf team all four years?
Moser: No, I wasn’t. I was in my freshman year. My freshman year, I was, and then it just became clear that I needed to make a choice. I could either focus on school, or I could go off and do my own thing. My mom and dad basically cut me a deal. They said, “Hey, listen. You got four years to make it happen. We’re going to pay for your education. But if you choose to go a different route, that’s up to you, but it’s going to be your responsibility.” Thankfully, I had the wherewithal at the time to say, “You know what? I’m going to go and get this degree and then go do whatever I wanted to go do.”
Gardner: It sounds like the world owes you nothing, Jason Moser.
Moser: [laughs] The world owed me nothing at all, and I was very thankful that my mom and dad were able to foot the bill for those four years because that degree still means a lot today.
Gardner: What year did you graduate at Wofford?
Moser: 1995, major in economics.
Gardner: Play forward then. I think I came online with you around 2010, so what happened 1995-2010? I know there’s Egypt. I’m sure there’s a marriage. There’s definitely going to be some kids in there.
Gardner: What are some highlights in that 15-year period for you?
Moser: I think this was when things started that trend back upward. After school, I focused on golf, and ultimately got a job in Greenville, South Carolina. I think that was when I really started. That’s when I broke out of that sideways pattern, so to speak, and started my trend back up there. It was exciting. It was my first real job. David, I was making $15,500 a year salary. Come on, man. That’s nothing. But at the time, that was everything.
Gardner: Before the zero [laughs] and you got some perks to that job too, I’m assuming.
Moser: Yes. Play all the golf I wanted. I got free meals at the club. I really didn’t have a lot of worry about other than just making it to work every day and doing my job well. I was there for a couple of years. I moved to Maryland after two years in Greenville to further my career with the PGA. I worked at a club up in Severna Park for a handful of years.
Gardner: Jason, I don’t know the life of the club pro for PGA. Are you balancing around because there are better opportunities? Why not just stay with the same club for 20 years? What’s the mentality of a PGA club pro, a younger guy?
Moser: There are different levels. You’re an assistant golf professional, or you’re a head golf professional. The goal of the assistant golf professional is ultimately to become a head golf professional. There are different clubs out there. There are clubs that are corporately owned, and there are clubs that are just private, member-owned clubs. The dream, really, for a younger golf pro was to be at that private, member-owned club because you weren’t beholden to some big corporation where you are more or less just a little statistic, you’re a part of the family. Just that one unique club. That was why I ended up going to Maryland was because that club up in Maryland was just a little private, member-owned club. It was a nice step-up. I think, ultimately, the goal is to get that head pro job. They are few and far between when you find a good one. Those guys and gals typically want to stay in them for a long time. [laughs]
For me, I would say that moving up to Maryland, that job after a couple of more years, that’s when things started to plateau again. I hate to say it, but I think it even started to decline a little bit. I think the main reason is that I was losing interest in the profession. I don’t know specifically what it was, but it started to snowball. I eventually got to the point where I didn’t even want to be on a golf course. When that happened, I knew it was a big problem because I loved to be on the golf course. I’ve been on a golf course all my life. When that happened, that’s when I knew I needed to make a change. At that age, I don’t really have much in the way of money. I have a little bit saved up, but not a lot. But thankfully, the degree, and that was when I made the effort to exit the golf profession, and that’s when I got the job with Bank of America, believe it or not. I would say that was a period of time where there was a little bit of a low point.
Gardner: Jason, what year is that?
Moser: Let me see here. That would’ve been 2002, I think. I think 2002.
Gardner: How does a PGA golf club assistant pro, all of a sudden, land a job at Bank America?
Moser: Well, taking that lesson from my mom; fight, don’t give up. I happened to just see at a Bank of America banking center one time going by that they were holding an open house for folks to come in, learn more, and submit resumes.
Gardner: You just pulled your car over?
Moser: Well, not that day. I took notes of the date and the time when they are going to be doing that. I prepared my resume and then I drove over there, and I met with one of the banking center managers, one of the recruiters. I just think it was the right place at the right time. I don’t know what I did to deserve that shot, but they gave it to me. Ultimately, I ended up working at the banking center there on Washington Street in Alexandria right down the street from Fool HQ.
Gardner: I know that place.
Moser: I was a loan officer there for two years right before we moved to Egypt.
Gardner: You mentioned your wife, Robin. At what point did she enter your life and all of a sudden, whisk you away overseas?
Moser: Well, you heard me earlier say that golf has played a big role in my life in virtually every way. I met Robin at the club where I worked in Greenville. She was working as a part-time receptionist going through college. I was working there full-time as a golf professional. We met. It was a little bit of a courting process, but I finally talked her into going out with me one night. It was funny. We went to dinner, and unfortunately, the restaurant that we went to was owned by a member at the club, and he decided to comp our dinner, and I thought, “Oh, my word, she’s going to think I’m cheap and I planned this,” and I swear to you, [laughs] David, I did not. I didn’t plan it, but it’s what happened. But that was our first date. Thankfully, in 2001, she agreed to become my wife, and we’ve been happily married ever since.
Gardner: Well, congratulations on 20-ish.
Gardner: That’s spectacular. Jason, three-years, Egypt; two-years, Kazakhstan. What got you back to the East Coast of the United States of America, and somewhere circa 2010, I know that you were in or around Alexandria, Virginia once again?
Moser: We were. We got done with our time in Kazakhstan. While we were in Kazakhstan, we bought a home in Newnan, Georgia, which is just a suburb of Atlanta. We had a home base there. We had gone back to Georgia for a short time. Along the way, I had discovered the Motley Fool and that was what ultimately, in 2010, led me to apply for the Analyst Development Program. I would say after our time abroad, which was a wonderful stretch of time, and I feel like I grew a lot just in those five-years, that stock really took off in 2010 because that was when I started working in the Fool. That was an earning spot, David. The stock took off, and I really hadn’t looked back since.[laughs]
Gardner: [laughs] That’s spectacular Jason. Here you are, I’m doing the math. I’m placing you in the mid to late 40s. Is that an accurate representation of Moser today?
Moser: That is correct. I’m 48, I’ll be 49 in December.
Gardner: Wonderful. What a 10 years now, 11 years it’s been Jason and thank you for that. There is a lot of overlap from one section to another within our three building blocks, let’s now move onto the three key moments that have made you the investor that you are. What’s No. 1?
Moser: No. 1 for me, it was one particular stretch of time rides to school during my eighth grade year when my dad and I would talk about stocks and investing, it was just a point in time where my dad was able to take me to school in the morning that wasn’t very often, but I remember it vividly because it was something that didn’t happen very often. For my eighth grade year, he would take me to school in the mornings and that’s when he and I would talk about this stuff. That’s really what put the fire. When I looked back, that was where my interest really peaked.
Gardner: Early days?
Moser: Yeah. Eighth grade. It was just money, I started taking an interest and he was telling me about how the stock market worked. As a physician, he’d found some interesting stocks in the medical arena and he was excited and that excitement was contagious. No pun intended. [laughs]
Gardner: One of those stereotypes, which is probably unfair, sounds like in this particular case it’s quite unfair. One of those stereotypes out there is the doctors don’t know what the heck to do with all that [laughs] money that they’re making and they are often getting fleeced by somebody. Sounds like that wasn’t the doctor that was your dad.
Moser: He’s had some hits and he’s had some misses, no question there.
Gardner: Well, we all have.
Moser: Yeah, we all have and thankfully, he’s a pretty humble guy. But I’d tell you, he really enjoys my job now because we get to talk so much. When I go down to see him, it’s either golf or stocks and it’s just nonstop. It’s a lot of fun.
Gardner: There is a lot of overlap. A lot of people listening right now love both of those things. I think golfers over-indexed toward being stock market investors and vice versa, even though as somebody who’s both, I’m a much better one [laughs] than the other. Well, thank you, that’s a great first moment. That is a key moment, the earlier it happens in life, the better off we are and I know Jason, you’ve done a great job as a dad with your daughters, getting them not just talking stocks, but really actively investing and probably before eighth grade in their case. Not just say you started late at all, but I think you started them early.
Moser: Yeah. We got them started a little bit earlier than I even got started.
Gardner: That’s wonderful. What’s key moment No. 2?
Moser: Sitting in our house in the middle of a freezing cold Kazakh winter, I discovered the Motley Fool for the very first time. I was surfing the Internet and ran across an article on cnn.com that linked me over to a Motley Fool story. I remember clicking over to that story and thinking, “Whoa, I like this, I can relate. I’m picking up what these guys are putting down. I think they’re on to something.” That to me was a massive point in my life. I remember the feeling and the chair that I was sitting in when I discovered it because it is ultimately what got me here. Then a little add-on to that story as it turned out, I met a guy at the embassy who worked at the U.S. embassy there in Kazakhstan as well, and we talked about golf and investing. He said, “Hey, you got to check out The Motley Fool sometime. They have a lot of good stuff,” and I was like, “I just found out about it” and he’s like, “Oh, really well, yeah men.” He’s like, “I have a friend that just got a job there.” You know who that friend was, David?
Moser: That was Mr. Matt Argersinger.
Gardner: That is spectacular, I had no idea my two guest stars are connected. [laughs]
Moser: That was how I met Matt. First, was through our friend at the embassy in Kazakhstan. Then fast forward to when we got done in Kazakhstan, Matt and that friend both met me down in Georgia for a little four-day golf trip. That’s when Matt and I started talking a little bit more about the Motley Fool and Matt really persuaded me to apply for that ADP.
Gardner: That is spectacular. I bet I knew that back in the day. I probably when I first met you knew that Jason, but time passes and my memory is what it is. There’s some kismet then that Jason and Matt get to tell their stories on the very same podcast, I love that. Thank you for sharing that.
Moser: Yeah. It’s fun.
Gardner: Jason, help us close it out here. What’s been key investor moment No. 3 for you?
Moser: Well, you mentioned my daughters early and so for me it was really explaining to our daughters one day at a Panera Bread when they were five and six years old, what I meant when I said we owned a little piece of that restaurant. That really was what spurred the conversation. That was a key moment in helping them get started as investors, understanding that you can be an owner of a business that you like. That was the lesson that really kicked it off. I felt like everything that my dad and my mom had given me, I felt like that cycle was almost complete. I feel like maybe down the road if they ever have kids then maybe they’ll be able to continue those lessons as well. But it was really an important moment for me to be able to do that.
Gardner: Jason, that is outstanding and I’m so grateful, reflecting back on learning more about you today, to think about where you started. We all start in the lower left of that graph of our lives. I’m pretty sure I don’t think anybody starts really high or if they end up upper left or lower right. They’re probably not even at our company, let alone on this podcast, but to think about your life through golf and certainly South Carolina guy all of a sudden ends up at Egypt for a few years, and so what an interesting life that you’ve led and Bank America and then all of a sudden the Motley Fool. Which sounds inevitable when we think about it in reverse, but to go from year one to year 47 or eight or so in the chronological order that we all must progress through, it’s hard to know or to see what’s yet to come and yet what’s yet to come, I suspect will be spectacular in your next, I hope 11+ years of being a Fool. Jason, thank you so much for telling your story this week on Rule Breaker Investing.
Moser: It’s my pleasure, thanks for having me.
Gardner: All right. Next up to tell his story, my longtime friend and co-conspirator, I would say the same of, Jason really had to say the same of Argersinger, there’s a lot of conspiracy at Fool HQ. This is, of course, Matt Argersinger. Matt, great to have you back on Rule Breaker Investing.
Matt Argersinger: Thanks, David. It’s been a while, it’s great to be back.
Gardner: Some will remember that you were really the pioneer of the Market Cap Game Show, and really, we have more listeners today than ever before. We’ve had a lot of people I think who are still listening years later, Matt. I have to start by asking you, what is the market cap of Etsy?
Argersinger: Oh my gosh, you had to start with that. All those times I had tried to guess Etsy for all those years, many years ago, I severely under counted the market cap every time so I’m going to be big this time. I’m going to say it’s got to be $24 billion.
Gardner: Outstanding. You didn’t even look it up ahead of time. You are within the 10% or so range that we initially played the game, and so Matt Argersinger you have nailed it. It is $27 billion. I think it’s great Matt that you underestimated it slightly this time because before as I recall, I thought, didn’t you over guess it each time, and so I was like Matt you should buy Etsy if you think it’s that big and it’s only this small market cap.
Argersinger: Good point. That’s right. I’m finally doing what I should do, which is underestimating the power of Etsy, [laughs] overestimating before.
Gardner: I think that’s amazing to think about that market cap, which has gone up many folds since you first joined me on Rule Breaker Investing for our initial Market Cap Game Show years ago. Forget about the Market Cap Game Show, I’m much more interested, Matt in your story and you’ve taken some time over the weekend to start with 150 words to tell your story. Let’s kick it off. Matthew J. Argersinger, tell your story.
Argersinger: Well, I spent most of my early life moving every few years. My dad was in the army, so I was born in Texas. I lived abroad in Germany for many years. After my dad retired, I ended up graduating high school in Massachusetts, of all places. So from there, I studied Economics and Theatre at Brandeis University. The practical and artistic side of me, I guess. I moved to Washington D.C. after graduation, worked a few years at a place called the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. I met my wife, serendipitously, while we were both cast in Biloxi Blues, the famous Neil Simon play, at the Little Theatre of Alexandria, which is right down the street from Fool HQ. I joined the Motley Fool in January 2008 as an analyst and had the tremendous fortune to work with you, David, on several occasions over the years, and that I think has made all the difference.
Gardner: Well, that is very kind, Matt, and I’m going to share a personal detail myself, in a minute or two, that connects us further. I neglected to ask you, just to remind all of our listeners, a lot of fools will already know this, how you’re spending time today at the Fool because you and I, yes, have worked together on services, Supernova, some Stock Advisors, some Rule Breakers over the years. But, and I know we’re going to get this later, there’s no question that this is running through your life. But the world of real estate and an opportunity to help us open up a whole new part of our company, Millionacres, that’s where you’re spending your time these days. Right, Matt Argersinger, on the Millionacres?
Argersinger: That’s right. That’s right. That’s where I spend my time. Probably 90% of what I’m doing these days at The Motley Fool is real estate investing. Millionacres, it’s our real estate arm of Motley Fool that we started a few years ago and we’ve launched a couple services since. Millionacres.com is a great place to go if you want to learn. Get the free articles about real estate and really learn about all aspects of real estate investing. So I was excited that as a company, we moved into a new asset class, and explored that a little bit for investors.
Gardner: Well, and we were delighted that we had somebody who was so Foolish, so knowledgeable and passionate, and interested in that subject. Certainly real estate investing underplayed at The Motley Fool, our first 20 years or so, in part, because Tom and I aren’t really real estate guys. I mean, we loved the stock market and that’s what we knew. But over the course of time, we kept meeting, getting to rub elbows with smarter and smarter people in other areas of the world, and sure enough, Matt Argersinger is one of them adding value through real estate today. But that 13-year Motley Fool career and counting, one of the happiest things that I’ve been part of the last 13 years at The Motley Fool. Matt, I mentioned a personal detail. So you and I have both been on the stage at the Little Theatre of Alexandria, and I’ll just mention that a year or two before we started The Motley Fool, I had a role in the Musical Big River, which is of course the retelling of Huckleberry Finn, and I was one of Huck’s friends. I had one solo song, Arkansas. The technical name of the role of the person who sings Arkansas and Big River is Young Fool, and it’s always been fun for me to think [laughs] back on that. Then a couple years later, a young fool had actually started a young Fool. But I remember when you first mentioned that you were an econ and theatre major, and I had the same orientation at the University of North Carolina, and then for us both to have been in the Little Theater of Alexandria, is just hilarious to me.
Argersinger: I know you’d shared that you’ve been on the stage there, which I thought was tremendous. I didn’t know that detail about the character though. That’s fantastic.
Gardner: [laughs] It really is funny.
Argersinger: So many connections.
Gardner: That’s true. Now, Matt, sort of an army rat, a guy who traveled a lot, because, of course, his dad’s calling. How did that shape you as a person? I mean, the cliché is that you have to constantly make new friends, and you strike me as more of an extrovert. I would think that you are good at making new friends, but it can also be hard as a kid. What was it like?
Argersinger: It can be hard, but for some reason, I always embraced the change. I always liked the idea of, you go to a place, it’s new and exciting, you spend a couple years, maybe three or four years at most, and then you get to go to a new school, and for me it was always a chance to reinvent myself. Like, I would meet new friends, I would learn new things, and I’d say, ”Okay, well, now I’m in this new place. I’m going to try and see what it’s like here. See what I can learn.” I got joy in that. I think it’s interesting when I think about it. I had a younger brother at the time who didn’t like it as much as I did. But I always liked the chance of reinventing myself in a completely different place where no one knew who I was, and you also are that mystery guy, because oftentimes, especially later in life, I would go to a new school where the students had been together for years and years, all of a sudden, this new kid’s joining out of nowhere from weird places like Germany. It was kind of the international man of mystery at some points during my life.
Gardner: So you mentioned being born in Texas, and obviously you mentioned Germany. I know you speak German, for example, and have added value to Motley Fool Deutschland as well. So lots of contributions from you, Matt. A few other ports of call for you?
Argersinger: Yeah. We spent some time in Arizona, in Kansas, Italy for several months, and Germany twice, and then ended up in Massachusetts. So kind of bounced all around.
Gardner: Now, I know that you’re a sports fan and I’m pretty sure you’re a pretty big New England Patriots fan. I know we haven’t seen each other in the office for a year or so, but it wouldn’t have been unusual for you to be rocking some piece of Patriots paraphernalia, I’m assuming this time of the year, the Red Sox, you have definitely adopted Boston sports.
Argersinger: I have adopted, and part of that is, that’s kind of my dad’s origins from that area. That’s the connection. Actually, we’re living in Arizona when my dad was still in the army and we went to a Patriots game at the old Phoenix Cardinal stadium, and it was the one game that Patriots won that year. They went like one in 15. This was like 1993. I want to say […]. They went one in 15, but I went to that game and I was 12 years old and it was a blast. I think since then, that was the bug, right. I heard my dad yell Boston Sports for most of my childhood, but that was the game where I was like, I’m a patriots fan living in Arizona [laughs]. So wherever I go, and we ended up going to Germany and other places, I was always a Patriots and Red Sox homer.
Gardner: That’s awesome. Hey, Matt, I know we’re going to touch on this as we hit the three key moments making you the investor that you are. But I’m just curious about your associations with money. As a kid or growing up, did you have parents who were talking about the stock market or not?
Argersinger: My parents didn’t really talk a lot about money or the stock market, but I do remember that my dad would always watch the Wall Street Week show with Louis Rukeyser.
Gardner: Friday evenings.
Argersinger: Right. There you go. So from watching that, Louis would always talk a little bit about what happened during the day in the market, or the week in the market, and then he’d have a great cast. For whatever reason, I just enjoyed sitting with my dad and watching that show. Later on as a kid growing up, I had a lawn mowing business for a while, and mowed people’s lawns in the neighborhood. I had a paper out. So, I was fortunate enough to have these jobs as a kid, where money became sort of, I want to save money, and unfortunately, a lot of that money went to video games and comic books at the time. So, I didn’t really save a lot or invest a lot of money.
Gardner: No regrets.
Argersinger: No regrets. It’s like I learned the concept of making money and opening a bank account, for example, pretty early on as a kid.
Gardner: Well, Matt, as I want to do with this series, I’m already probably stealing a little bit ahead of the stock graph of your life. How can we not talk through it? But let’s return there. By the way, Jason mentioned how he first met you. So you have to mention that certain meeting that Jason had with a friend of Matt’s in the American Embassy in Kazakhstan. But start us out, I’m assuming you started in the lower left, that’s most of these stock graph’s work.
Argersinger: Sure. So yeah, if I start in the lower left, I would say stock graph is very volatile early on, because I’m moving around, I’m meeting new people, I’m navigating this topsy-turvy route through life. I think, to me I can never really embrace any style or process, because I was being exposed to so many different things and people. One day, I felt like a small cap growth stock. Another day, I probably was like a lumbering large cap that pays a big dividend. So I didn’t really know where I was going. It was zig-zagging around and no good direction, no great prospects, just sort of figuring out my way through the life of a chart, at least early on.
Gardner: So up and down, maybe even looking a little cyclical, even though there may not have been cycles.
Argersinger: That’s right.
Gardner: It’s just down and up and down. Was there a moment where you started to find the person that you would one day be?
Argersinger: Well, I think I was probably a late bloomer. I’m very up and down, up and down. I go to college. In college, I took a finance class and a couple of economics classes.
Gardner: This is at Brandeis?
Argersinger: This is at Brandeis, right. So as much as I love Brandeis, the experience and the classes I took, one of the things they really impart with you at Brandeis and many other fine institutions, is the efficient market theory and the idea that, individual stock selection doesn’t give you any advantages. You’re better off just buying a market index because that’s just the way the world, all the information is known. Why even speculate in stocks? I feel like my stock graph stagnated big time, probably for several years.
Argersinger: Then something extraordinary happened toward the end of my college, which is, a long ago ex-girlfriend happened to buy, and you’ll love this of course, but she happened to buy the Motley Fool Investment Guide, the first paperback edition. I feel like it was a stocking stuffer for Christmas. The thing is, I didn’t read the book for a long time, it stuck on my shelf. I was going to study abroad in Denmark toward the end of college for a semester, I decided to take several books with me that I hadn’t read. I said, I might as well take some books to read on the plane, and maybe when I’m over there. The Motley Fool Investment Guide was one of the five books that I took with me when I went to study abroad, and as I’m in Denmark and I’m enjoying studying abroad in the city of Copenhagen, which was amazing. One day, it was a rainy day I recall, I just happened to crack open the Motley Fool Investment Guide, and the way that I understand Rule Breaking, it felt so Rule Breaking at the time, because it was just such a departure from what I had thought about markets and how they function in the stock market, and selecting individual stocks. I came back from that trip and I graduated school shortly after, and I said, “I love investing. I have this new love for investing, and of course I’m going to buy individual stocks,” and so that’s what I did. I still don’t know what I was doing really well, but I had a little bit of a guidepost at that point. I feel like my stock chart started to go up into the right a little more after that point.
Gardner: Matt, what year did you graduate Brandeis?
Argersinger: In 2002.
Gardner: In 2002. One thing that I learned from you about Brandeis, I didn’t know that much about it, is it is a university that is non-sectarian, it is coed, but it’s sponsored by the Jewish community. I think about half of the students identify as Jewish. I’m just curious if that shaped you or changed you in any way, shape, or form. Somebody who admittedly had already been through lots of different cultures and is in maybe a new one right there.
Argersinger: It was interesting to be at a school that was majority Jewish. I think when I was there, it was probably at least 60% Jewish. I relished the opportunity to learn about that culture, and I participated in the culture. I made great friends, and learned, and went to spend holidays with them and their families. That was just such a great interesting new perspective for me. No, it wasn’t the reason I went to Brandeis. Certainly it wasn’t anything that I took away other than I made great friends, learned about new cultures. Things like that, I think, really color your life as you go forward, you having those different perspectives and those experiences.
Gardner: You bet. All right, Matt, so you said 2002 to Brandeis, and I know we talked about 2008 at The Motley Fool. Let’s move to this part of your stock wrap, which is a mystery to me, six years. The only thing I know for sure about those years, Matt, is that you had a mutual friend with Jason, some dude hanging out in the American Embassy [laughs] in Kazakhstan. But what was Matt Argersinger doing during those six years?
Argersinger: I got a job shortly after graduation at the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis down in D.C. I’ve been to Washington once as a kid, just to tour it, so it was exciting to get a job in a new city, leaving Boston, coming down to Washington D.C. It was a great first job. I spent most of that time crunching numbers, calculating GDP, trade balances, and things like that. It was an interesting job. At the same time, doing theater, moonlighting as a community stage actor, as we talked about, the Little Theater of Alexandria and other places. Yes, so that story with the Jason Moser connection, a long time high school friend of mine from Germany that we remain in touch and still very close friends to this day, he works for the State Department. Jason’s wife worked for the State Department, and my friend happens to get stationed in Kazakhstan, mid-2000s. We’re always talking about investment ideas and other things, and he said, “I met this great guy at the Kazakhstan Embassy. His name is Jason. He totally loves The Motley Fool by the way. I think he even subscribes to one of those newsletters that you subscribe to,” because I was a subscriber as well. “You guys should talk at some point or hang out,” and I was like, “Sure, fine, no problem.” But [laughs] fast forward a few years later, I will tell the story really quickly, after I started working at The Motley Fool, my friend came home. He had been abroad for several years, came back for a while, and he said, “Hey, I am going down to Georgia to hang out with that Jason guy I knew from the Kazakhstan Embassy. We’re going to play some golf and hang out. If you’re free for a long weekend, you should come with us.” I said, “Sure, why not, of course.” My high school friend and I go down there, and I meet Jason for the first time. I met his daughters, which at the time I think were five years old and two years old, very young at the time [laughs]. But we have a great time, we play golf, and we talk, and he tells, Jason, he probably doesn’t want me to tell it, he admitted it at the time, he was like, “My dream job would be working at The Motley Fool.” [laughs] I remember telling him at the time, “Jason, they have this Analyst Development Program at The Motley Fool. I did it, it was great. When they have another cohort come up, you should totally apply to it.” Sure enough, about six months, nine months later, he applied for that, and all the rest as Jason goes […].
Gardner: He got in. I’m not even sure you pulled any strings for him.
Argersinger: I didn’t have to pull any strings. I think he came in so full of passion and [laughs] he overwhelmed the team, so he was […].
Gardner: That is wonderful. By the way, the capital of Kazakhstan is Nur-Sultan, which is renamed Astana. I like to get our facts right. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Matt, how long were you there? What was the high point?
Argersinger: I was there just over five years ago. I think one of the high points was we had some big methodology changes about how we calculated the U.S. trade balance. That might not sound all exciting, but we got access to all kinds of new data. That was interesting and we thought it made our statistics more accurate, because the BEA, as it’s known, is a very statistical organization. It’s cited by a lot of research reports and banks, when they come out with their reports. It’s also always a matter of trying to make the data more accurate. While I’m doing this work at the BEA, which was good, which was fun, I was spending a lot of time on Motley Fool discussion boards, in addition doing theater at night.
Argersinger: I have a funny story about joining The Motley Fool, because I was on the discussion boards and I was subscribed to Hidden Gems, which was a newsletter we had at the time. I subscribed to Stock Stock Advisor as well. I was writing on the boards, and I got a message one day from, I can’t remember her name, I think her name was Claire, but from The Motley Fool, who said, “Hey, we’re starting this new Analyst Development Program. We like what you’ve been writing on the boards. You should consider applying.” I said, “Okay, that sounds exciting. Never thought about working for The Motley Fool, but I’ll give it a try.” I filled out the application at the time. Thankfully or fortunately, I was invited to do an interview. This is embarrassing, but I remember asking her at the time, “Where is The Motley Fool? Where am I going for the interview?” She said, “Well, you can get on the metro, right?” I said, [laughs] “What do you mean, where is the Motley Fool? It’s in Alexandria, Virginia.” She’s like, “You’re in D.C., right?” I said, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea.” My brain was thinking, it’s either in California or it’s in New York City. I’m going to get on a plane tomorrow or something, I’m expecting to get on a flight, and sure enough, next day I get on the metro. [laughs] A 20-minute metro ride down to Alexandria, Virginia from D.C.
Gardner: It is funny. The reason we started in the area is simply because Tom and I were born in the city, but for a lot of reasons we always could’ve been venture fueled and California-based, and for a lot of reasons we could’ve been New York City, Wall Street all the way. We’ve always enjoyed triangulating and having our own unique position just outside the nation’s capital, which is an important place too. That probably really made it possible for us to work together, Matt. That made it a lot easier, and I am delighted to know that. Well, just closing out with the stock graph, Matt, I don’t want you to feel like you have to say it’s been all up from there [laughs] in a lot of ways. I think for what the value you’ve added to our company, it’s been great all the way through. Any reflections on 13 years of graphing your Motley Fool life?
Argersinger: Well, there’s no doubt, David, and I’m sure everyone on this is going to say that, but it’s been really up into the right with The Motley Fool. For me it was up into the right for a few specific reasons, I think. Joining you on Stock Advisor, joining you on Rule Breakers, and eventually Supernova, those experiences really taught me the value, I think, of buying into great companies, but investing in them again and again and again. As seasoned as I thought I was an investor and everything I learned, that was still an impulse I rejected, which was the idea of, “Okay. Well, I bought the stock at $50. I think it’s a great company, but no way I’m going to add to the stock at $100, or $200, or $500.” Working with you especially, and working at The Motley Fool, really just convinced me that that is the right way to invest. When I got rid of that, my investing hit new extraordinary heights I had never dreamed of. I’m sitting in a house today that I in my wildest dreams never thought I could afford for my family, but it’s there because I was able to buy Amazon half a dozen times, or MercadoLibre, or other great companies over and over again at much higher prices. That was to me the breakthrough, I guess, for my investing career and why it’s really been up to the right.
Gardner: Well, that’s wonderful. I’m so glad to hear that, Matt. I’m never really sure who’s buying what stock among our employees, who owns what or believes what, and I know we’re going to talk about real estate, which is obviously such a passion of yours and a big focus. Now I’m sure that’s at least one of the three key investor moments. But before we go there, I know you’ve got a young family. Anything you want to say just from a family standpoint before we go right to brass hard tax and talk money. [laughs]
Argersinger: Well, I think I’ve actually said this to you, David, but I think when I reflect back on my life and the entire stock graph, as up into the right as its been since I joined The Fool, I think, whatever I did to meet my wife, I happened to go to an audition at a theater on a given day where she happened to be there, I happened to get cast in the show, so did she, and I remember after the audition, I prayed that we both get cast in the show, because I wanted to meet her again. Whatever led me to that moment, mistakes or no mistakes, I point to that as the biggest game changer. We’re talking about investing, which is life. That was the game changer of my life, was meeting her. Then now I do have a two-year-old son named Dutch, that was great. It took us actually many years, I’m a little in an advanced age to have a child, but it took us many years to have Dutch, and so he’s been a gift and a blessing for the family.
Gardner: So happy to hear. That is wonderful. Ever since I first heard the name Dutch, I just thought that’s awesome. [laughs]
Gardner: I love the name, Dutch. I mean, what a home-run name and home-run kids. So good for him and thank you for sharing that, Matt. Let’s go to the three key moments that have made you the investor that you are. What’s No. 1?
Argersinger: I mentioned that stock investing wasn’t too big when I was a kid, but it was around the time I was having my paper out and doing my lawn mowing, I did manage to save some money. I did want to buy my first stock. This was probably when I was 11 or 12 years old. The stock I wanted to buy, I think you’ll appreciate this, David, is a company called Sierra On-Line, [laughs] which was a computer game company. They made great games like King’s Quest and Space Quest. These are the games I was playing when I was in elementary and middle school. I was delighted to learn that they were publicly traded. I saved up cash. I want to say it was $500, which to me seemed like the world, of course, when I was 11 or 12 years old. But my parents convinced me that “You can’t buy stock in a video game company, Matt, you have to buy stock in a Japanese company because the Japanese companies are taking over the world.” Instead of investing my $500 in Sierra On-Line, which I really wanted to do, I invested in a company called Wang Laboratories, which in about a year after I bought it, went to zero [laughs] or almost zero.
Gardner: They were trying to turnaround, I remember at some point.
Argersinger: It might have. But in the early to mid-90s the Japanese market crashed. It wasn’t until many years later, when I look back at Sierra On-Line, that if I bought that stock, I think it went up four or 5X. Then it was eventually bought out by another company that I think eventually turned into Electronic Arts, it gets a little shaky there. Later on in life, many years later after I cleared my head of the efficient market thesis and was at The Fool, it was one of those things that said, I’m only really ever going to buy companies I love and that delight me and then I can understand. That’s why I point back to that moment, it’s a pivotal investing moment for me.
Gardner: Great one, Matt. I was just looking up Wang Lfabs, a Massachusetts company. Assuming you’re in and around Massachusetts at the time, that had to be Wang. They weren’t a Japanese company, it most sounds like it could be a Chinese name. It happened to be an immigrant, An Wang, who started Wang labs, and it was a sensation for some decades. It was listed as part of the Massachusetts miracle, if that’s a phrase that comes to.
Argersinger: Me and my parents were onto something, but that didn’t work out for me.
Gardner: No, I totally understand, it did not end well for Wang labs, but what a great takeaway and learning. Any little kid saving $500, back in our day, Matt, and I am a little bit older than you, so maybe I should say back in your day, you probably weren’t pulling down a lot of dollars per hour, so $500, that’s substantial effort to have that saved. I can appreciate your parents’ point. I see it up to a point. But ultimately, you pulled away the important lesson that helped guide you from there. What was key investor moment No. 2 for you?
Argersinger: This one’s probably not going to be that interesting because I really did mention it. But it really was taking that Motley Fool Investment Guide with me when I studied abroad. In an odd way, I have to thank the ex-girlfriend at the time, who for whatever reason, I don’t know why, I should ask her, I shouldn’t; why did she buy that book for me? Why did she give me that book? Because it was just so out of the field. But the arc of my life that meets investing life made such a difference to me. Just having a chance to read that book while in school.
Gardner: That’s so much fun for me and for Tom to hear. Certainly, whether it was a radio show we were doing back in the AM radio and then NPR or the books that we wrote, we never knew who was listening or who was reading. It wasn’t until we really launched with Stock Advisor, which was a service that was ours. It wasn’t a product of Simon and Schuster, it wasn’t a product of national public radio. It was our subscribers. When they sent their credit card our way, we knew who our customer was and then they would renew from one year to the next. As you well know, Matt, because you came some years after that, Rick Engdahl knows because he was around for even longer. But that shift of business models from a free ad-supported site with other people’s products, other people’s books, Simon Schuster, other people’s shows, NPR, to The Motley Fool subscription starting with Stock Advisors, such a critical moment. We launched it as a newsletter in July of 1993. It took us about nine years to get back to our original business model, which remains, mainly how we bought our brand today. Although Millionacres, among others, has a couple of different business models in play for our company today. Thank you for highlighting that one, Matt, I’m so delighted to know that. Were you inclined to read investment books? I know you were partly an econ major in college. Did you go on to read some other books?
Argersinger: I did. Beyond that, of course, I read several Peter Lynch’s books, the Buffet books, Shelby Davis, I went on a tour of all the big investing reads.
Gardner: You have, I’m not going to say assiduously avoided, because I don’t think you would, but you haven’t really mentioned your life in real estate. We’re getting to key investor moment No. 3. I hope you’re going to wrap in your present calling and where that came from, with this one.
Argersinger: This is it. We all know what happened last, maybe not 15 years ago. But the last great financial crisis with the housing recession that we had there. My wife and I got married. We had a great honeymoon in Kilimanjaro. Then we came back [laughs] and we liked living in Washington D.C. in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. But for many years we’d look around for houses and it was really tough. I mean, you’re just competing with so many other bidders and the prices seemed obscene, and based on what we’re making at the time, all the houses we saw were out of reach. But we came back and we found a house. It had been on the market for some reason for a while. In the older parts of D.C., all the houses, as you know, David and Rick, they often come with an English basement apartment that you can rent out. We said, ”Okay, we could buy this house, rent out the basement apartment, and probably afford the mortgage, or at least almost afford the mortgage.” [laughs] We made an offer, we ended up getting the house. As we’re moving into the house and cleaning it out and getting it ready, my wife happens to read an article in the New York Times, and it’s a story about this up-and-coming company called Air Bed and Breakfast, which we all know today is Airbnb. But it was called Air Bed and Breakfast at the time. It said, ”Hey, if you have an apartment or a room at your house, you can rent it out for short periods of time. It’s very simple, we got a great website, come check it out.” Of course we did.
I have to say, that was a big game changer because we listed, we were in the first houses in Capitol Hill and D.C. at the time, I think there were like two other Airbnb listings to list, and the demand was just, we couldn’t keep up. I mean, we listed it and we kept raising the price, demand never stopped. One of the reasons was the house was right next to Union Station in D.C., so it was really convenient for people who were coming into the city. But the success we had with that really propelled us into real estate, we ended up buying a couple of more houses. We recently bought this house that we live in, but that became a pattern for us. We were looking for opportunities to house hack our way into real estate investing by buying, renting out, renovating, and doing that. Today we have several rental properties throughout the city. I was able then to learn about commercial real estate investing. I’ve done some of that as well over the years. Then that all led to, a few years ago, as several of us here at The Motley Fool launching Millionacres, we thought we finally had a good amount of real estate knowledge to pass around. There were some technology and regulatory changes in the market that really opened up the real estate market for retail investors. Had I not done what we did with my wife, now 11 or 12 years ago, which is buying our first house, I don’t think I’d be here focused on real estate as much as I am today. That was the other key moment.
Gardner: I love that Jean was the one who read the article in the New York times, just like an ex-girlfriend handed you The Motley Fool guide. It is the distaff side of your life that is driving the professional achievements in your life. That’s just a spectacular story. Thanks for sharing that. You also remind me, Matt, I would love to have you back on an episode maybe later in the spring or early summer, just talking some about real estate investing and what you’ve learned with Millionacres and what you’re doing. A lot of people are listening to you right now, about two thirds of whom are in the U.S., but one third of our listeners are international, global, but everybody has a chunk of real estate near them, or an opportunity to drop down an Air Bed in and around the place that they live. Certainly, a lot of people are Airbnb, a recent stock pick for Motley Fool Stock Advisor as well. Matt, we should have you back on and talk real estate investing because it’s been way too long and it’s too interesting and too relevant. Thank you for sharing that.
Argersinger: I would love to do that, David, and I’m sure you’ll ask me about NetSys market cap again. [laughs] I got to make sure I nail it again. [laughs]
Gardner: Matt, this was a delight. Thank you so much for coming on Rule Breaker Investing, and telling your story. I know there’s no way ever to capture it all, and I always find myself with more questions at the end. But time being what it is, we’re going to call it right there. Matt Argersinger, thanks again for joining us on Rule Breaker Investing.
Argersinger: Thank you, David.
Gardner: Again, thank you to my friends, Jason Moser and Matt Argersinger, not my friends, yours too. You got to know them a lot better this week. A reminder, that coming up next week it’s going to be a review-a-palooza episode. We’re looking over Five Stocks For The Coronavirus, Five Stocks For The Age Of Miracles, and Five Stocks I Own That You Should Too. But I think I want to reiterate one thing here at close, if you are an investor, and the truth is we’re all investors, whether we know ourselves by that name or not, we’re all investing our time and our money and things throughout the day, every week, every day. I should say that if you have switched on to that and you recognize that you are an investor, maybe it took a chance meeting in a central Asian embassy to switch you on. You will realize that your story will inevitably be shaped by the investing that you do. That stock stories and our stories become intertwined, weaving their way through our lives. Here’s one more key insight. Boy, if it isn’t also true, that the more investing you do and the more care that you take with it and the better you do, that story of your creation has a better and better chance of being a story with more and more possibilities in life, all the places you’ll go, and a story, I hope, with a very happy ending. To close again with a Hamilton lyric, when you are gone who remembers your name, who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?
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