My name is Zachary Knight and I am a forensic accountant in my twenties. When I turned 18, on my birthday, I opened up my first brokerage account. I immediately bought stock in my favorite company, Apple (AAPL). Not a bad call in 2010. I researched and bought into some other stocks that I read good things on including Ulta Salon (ULTA). Back then I bought into companies I liked, that I read good articles on, and that seemed to have a growing stock price – that was it. And using that strategy back then, I made 30%+/year returns. Now mind you, I only owned probably less than 6 stocks at the time and the bull market was roaring. In other words, I now attribute my early success to beginner’s luck.

After those great first years, the bull market started to quiet down. Things became more volatile. I realized I was just lucky in my stock choices up to that point. I needed to develop a strategy. So I tried out a few. I tried looking at technical trends in stocks; no luck. I tried only buying stocks with consistently increasing earnings; still no luck. I am not saying there was no merit to my thought process, but I wasn’t beating the market. After buying enough stocks that I thought were great and losing a lot of money on them, I decided I needed to start valuing stocks. That’s right, actually using a calculation to find out what the stock was worth. This would tell me when I found a deal and when I should sell the stock. It’s also a more conservative method. If you buy a stock you find that is very overvalued and it misses earnings, you’ll be in for a hurting. If you buy a stock that is undervalued and it misses earnings, your losses will be more moderate. And no, just using the P/E ratio isn’t going to tell you if a stock is correctly valued. In addition to valuing a stock, you need to actually spend time learning about a stock, its management, its outlook, its industry – before you know whether it matches up with your own stock criteria.

Now beyond my stock choices, and more importantly, were my personal finance choices. I managed my money very well. I lowered my expenses as much as I could and didn’t spend money on frivolous shopping or overpriced experiences. It also helped that I didn’t graduate college with debt and that I was able to get into a good career right out of college. Monitoring my personal finances, maintaining an emergency fund, and controlling my expenses – this is the heart of how I started a road toward building wealth. Investing money, while necessary to achieving your financial goals, is ultimately auxiliary to being able to make good choices with your primary income.

I have been approached by several friends who have asked me to give them personal finance advice and I have been happy to do so. I also, for myself, regularly research, value, and re-evaluate stocks. So it just made sense to me that I should start sharing my experiences and knowledge with the internet. After all, I am already doing the work and if I can help anyone build wealth and be on their way toward financial independence, that is worth it to me.

That all said, I want to stress that I am not an accredited financial adviser. Anything on this blog does not constitute official advice because frankly I am not qualified to give it. I am merely sharing my story and my opinions of the best financial tactics that have worked for me. Do not make any decision solely on what you read here. Do your own research because it is your money and any action you take is at your own peril! Also, I may have an interest in stocks I talk about or recommend. In the future this blog may compensated via advertisements, affiliate marketing, or other methods.