John Svazic is the founder of ARM Trading and has been trading the foreign exchange market for over 10 years. During this time, he has worked on trading strategies, finding solid investment advice and combining it all to help grow his own money tree.
Over the course of his life, John has worked as a vacuum cleaner salesman, a vertical plane engineer, a professional software developer, a manager as well as a martial arts instructor. John is also an avid artificial intelligence enthusiast. His passion for technology, love of sharing his knowledge as well as a strong desire to help others has led him to his latest career as a book author.
In his first book, Growing the Money Tree: Financial Freedom One Leaf at a Time, Svazic shows the average person how they can begin to grow their own money tree and find financial independence.
Readers can learn more about Svazic and his book at his website, www.growingthemoneytree.com.
My upbringing was pretty standard. My parents were new immigrants who worked hard all their lives to give my sister and I what we needed. Times were never tough, but they did work an awful lot. I think that work dedication rubbed off on me, but at the same time I saw what constant saving, toiling and other sacrifices were made to reach retirement and I didn’t particularly like it. Seeing them get the short-end of a fair share of investments also led me to look at a better way to manage retirement savings and investing in general, so I would definitely say that they were a good influence on why I traveled down this road myself.
What initially drew you towards the world of artificial intelligence?
I was in university and I was drawn to the AI section of my university’s bookstore. I don’t know why, but it resonated with me pretty well. I started buying up whatever I could get my hands on. I liked the idea of AI and I was familiar with it from movies, but I wanted to learn more. What I found out piqued my interests even more since it was clear that AI was better suited for pattern recognition than for coherent thought, so I took that idea and ran with it.
In AI there are a few different branches. I was a neural network guy for a while, but a few years ago I was working at a large company and I hired a Masters student who was studying a different type of AI known as genetic algorithms. I rekindled my love with AI when I started reading about it and quickly applied it to whatever made sense, and a few things that didn’t.
How did you first become acquainted with the foreign exchange market, and what made it appealing to you?
It’s funny actually. My wife and I were watching a children’s cartoon show called Recess on the Disney channel and there was an episode where one of the characters had mentioned “foreign currency markets” or something similar. I was curious and decided to look into it a bit more. What I found was a market that was trading in the trillions of dollars per day, 24 hours a day for 5 consecutive days. Current stats show that the foreign exchange market hit 5.3 trillion dollars a day in volume in 2013. Impressive by any means! Couple that with a lot of bad information out there about how to make a bunch of money in the Forex market and I was hooked.
What inspired you to document your financial journey in the form of this book?
It was the bad information that was out there that made me want to write Growing The Money Tree. I would speak with friends and family about Forex and different investments, but I wanted to share with more people. Just before my kids were born, I was in a job that was slowly killing me, so I really started digging into investment options and what I could do to make sure my kids didn’t have to endure some of the madness I was going through. Lots of stress, pressure and other madness drove me to look at other ways to make money. That’s when I started seeing that I was going about things the wrong way. A few years later I decided it was time to share what I have learned and write it down for other people to learn.
I also wanted to leave a legacy for my kids to remember me by. I’ve always loved talking with people and sharing information, so I wanted to make sure there was something that I could put out there for my kids to show their children and their children’s children. Another big reason was that I wanted to show people that it is easier than they think to get started. Even if they only get through the first three chapters of Growing The Money Tree, understanding how to build a budget can help people go a long way.
What was your toughest investing failure, and how did you recover and learn from it?
I invested in a company I was working for under the naive notion that a product I was working on was going to make a drastic difference. Little did I know that the company was going to be acquired a few weeks later, nearly tripling my money. I was young, in my early 20s and I had no idea what I was doing. I took my profits and re-invested them into Sun Microsystems, around 1999-2000. When the bubble burst and Sun’s shares started to fall, it was a tough experience. I came out with less than half of the original amount I had originally invested, so it was a tough pill to swallow.
I learned two things from that experience:
1. Never count money you don’t have in hand. Owning stocks is not the same as having money; you have fake money in stocks that you need to get out if you can find someone to buy your shares from you at that price. Forex is a bit different since the money in your account is actually there and can be withdrawn without issue.
2. Stocks are traded on emotion, news and conjecture. Trying to make money on the stock market is a guessing game that can backfire quickly with changes to market price driven purely by emotion and sentiment of the company or their brand. I liked some of the work Sun was doing which is why I invested in them, and I let that emotion control me into keeping my money in a dying brand.
When trading currencies, the prices are driven by other, more reasonable things. War, employment, GDP; these are the tenants that drive the market. Sure there is some emotion in there as well, but it’s less likely for a country to go bankrupt than a company, so the type of emotional drivers that affect a company’s stock price aren’t there when it comes to currency trading.
It took me a while to get back into the stock market, but once I was introduced to dividend stocks, DRIPs and fee-free investing I realized that there is a great opportunity with the stock market even for the new-to-intermediate investor. A lot of lessons had to be learned about the never-ending struggle for further financial gain and coming to the realization that contentment with one’s lifestyle (once you have found it) should be the target and seeking a way to passively finance that target be your ultimate goal. This led me down the path I’m on now.
What is the best piece of advice — investing, writing or otherwise — you’ve received?
Persevere. When our children were three and would get frustrated with something (colouring, putting on shoes, playing a new game, etc.), we would tell them not to give up and to keep trying. We told them that they needed to persevere, and that meant not giving up even when they were frustrated. One day I was struggling with a problem related to my book, and both my kids told me to not get upset and that I should just persevere. There was something so innocent about their advice that it really struck home. They were right, there was no point in getting frustrated, so I took a small break, revisited the problem a few hours later and continued until I found a solution.
What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned since you began investing?
The level of greed that can overtake an individual. There are numerous successful traders that I know who should have retired six times over but continue to toil away at the day-to-day trades, trying to make more and more money. There seems to be a point where money is less important than the desire to be successful, make more money and then use it to break into some other hidden level of wealth that I’m not aware of. I honestly can’t explain it because I neither understand it nor have a desire to reach that level. I want a simple existence, similar to the fisherman in the story of the businessman and the fisherman.
Do you consider yourself to be a lucky person?
Yes and no. I’m very lucky to have an absolutely amazing family. My kids are my life and my wife is my muse. I’ve worked hard for everything I have up to now and I appreciate that. I’ve also learned that luck is something people call success when they aren’t aware of all the other work that goes into getting that success. A friend of mine is incredibly lucky, but he’s also an incredibly hard worker. He makes sure he’s in positions to take advantage of opportunities as they come up, but he’ll work hard to see those opportunities bear fruit, so to speak.
Luck only provides you an opportunity, it takes dedication and perseverance to take those opportunities to their full potential. Still a little effort early on can go a long way later if you’re patient – a lot like growing a tree.
What is your biggest fear?
Good question. It’s not failure as I’ve experienced it enough times that it doesn’t bother me anymore. I like Edison’s famous quote about knowing 10,000 ways *not* to make a light bulb, so I like to follow that philosophy as much as possible. In all honesty I think my biggest fear is not being heard. There are a lot of similar books on the market, be they investing, foreign exchange, personal finance, etc. Some of these are quite good, but the vast majority are either too technical, too confusing or just flat out wrong. I honestly want to help people and I fear that my work may be lost in the sea of other books in the market today.
In your book, you talk about wanting to work at Starbucks because it would be a job you love. What’s your typical Starbucks order?
Grande Passion Tea. I like their coffee, but I’ve been on a kick of grinding my own and brewing a cup at a time. I can’t perfect tea, and I really love their Tazo brand. The Passion flavour is nice since it has a bit of a fruity, flowery scent to it but I find it tasty. It’s a nice mid-afternoon treat.
What are you working on next?
I have plans for a second book in the works that will focus on dividend stock investing. The tentative title is Watering The Money Tree – Nurturing A Passive Income Through DRIPs. Currency trading isn’t for everyone but dividend stock investing is a gentle approach that anyone can get into and I want to explore that one a bit more for my readers.