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6 Vital Lessons for Business and Life From a 14-Year-Old Investor

Josh Wolonick
Tue May 06, 2014 11:47 EST

A few weeks ago, a young man named Warren Cassell, Jr. reached out to Minyanville via Twitter, sharing a story that was written about him by The Jamaica Observer. Intrigued, I did some research: Warren is a 14-year-old entrepreneur, investor, and published writer from the Caribbean island Montserrat. His two books, The Farm of Wisdom and Swim or Drown, are about taking business lessons from nature. Both impressed and humbled, I called Warren to find out how someone nearly half my age has managed to become so successful as an investor and businessman. What I came away with, besides a strong admiration for this young man, are six tips for young entrepreneurs and investors looking to make their way into the industry. These lessons, of course, are universal.

Read a Lot, Do Your Research, and Be Patient

Warren is young, but he understands that good things come with time, patience, and a lot of work. I asked him what advice he would give someone starting out in investing
, and here's what he had to say:
"The first thing about the market is that it's pretty risky, so you have to do a lot of research. Try to get a lot of books, and try to be knowledgeable about what's going on in the world. So watch a lot of news, stay updated with what's happening. Then, when you're finished with that, actually do the macro research and see how the market works, and what your risk tolerance is. For me, I'm a really conservative investor. You need to find out what your tolerance is. Lastly, I'd say you need to stick to being very patient; if things aren't going your way, don't come out of the market so fast."
His favorite book on business is The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz, and when it comes to personal growth, he favors The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. However, Warren's reading is not entirely dominated by business and self-improvement titles: He also considers The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks a favorite.

Know Your Risk Tolerance and Investment Philosophy

As Warren said above, an investor's philosophy, at least in part, is informed by his or her tolerance for risk. As he is a more conservative investor, he favors a style similar to the value
investing of Warren Buffett and Michael Lee-Chin, a Jamaican-born, Canadian business magnate. This is how Warren described his investment philosophy to me:
"I look to get yields from my investments; I don't invest in securities that don't pay dividends because yield for me is really important. I'm not so concerned about the capital appreciation side of it. Once I'm getting regular dividends, I'm happy. First of all, I look for companies that have a yield. Second of all, I look for the companies that are domiciled in strong, long-term growth industries that will be around in my lifetime. I don't invest in technology companies. Thirdly, I don't diversify that much. If you look at my portfolio, there are three companies in it right now, two of which are not publicly traded, one of which is a bank."
Elaborating on tech companies, he said, "I prefer companies that have a very high chance of being existent over the next 50 years and to be honest, technology companies tend to not survive that long. Yes, there are some exceptions, but overall technology investments are just something I do not feel safe investing in. Added to that, their stock prices are much more volatile."

Currently, Warren's portfolio consists of positions in two financial services companies that he sees growing in the next 10 to 15 years as the Caribbean continues to develop: Sagicor Financial Corporation and Bank of Montserrat Limited. They each have a reasonable amount of yield and low volatility, he further explains. He also holds shares in Running Palmz, a company started by some of his classmates who want to decrease the amount of unsold fruits that go to waste by making jams and jellies out of them. "They were raising capital so I wanted to help out," Warren says.

Learn How to Prioritize, Budget Your Time, and Start Early

In addition to his investing work, Warren is the founder and president of ZapSocial, an inspirational publisher. Through ZapSocial, Warren published both The Farm of Wisdom and Swim or Drown.

So how exactly does he so successfully live the life of an investor, high school student, teenager, and published author, simultaneously? He's disciplined, and he started early:

"I think because I started business when I was 8, I know how to balance my school work with my business, with my investing. Over the years, I developed a strategy of how to deal with it: I wake up really early, I go to sleep relatively early compared to my other classmates, and during my lunchtime, if I can, I will sneak in business, like writing and stuff like that. If I'm in class, like information technology, I finish my work, the teacher allows me to hop on the computer and I do what I can do. I found something that fits my working style, and it doesn't really affect my school work; I'm an A student, I placed second in my class in my most recent class evaluation."
In his spare time, he practices Tae Kwan Do (he's a black belt), hangs out with friends, and maintains his online social networks, making new connections daily via LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and Twitter. 

Get Organized With a Group of Ambitious Peers

Warren is a member of the Leaders Investment Club, a group whose mission is "to create a community of investors, traders, and entrepreneurs with a strong spirit to collaborate and invest together to advance the world we live in today." The group consists of very bright, very young traders and investors scattered around the world. "Business Insider did a feature on 20 of the guys in the club," Warren explains. "I reached out to some of them on Facebook and said, 'I'd be a great addition to the team,' and I got involved with the club." Just like that.

And what exactly does this group of future leaders do?

"Every day we have a discussion. We have a special group on Facebook, and also Skype. Every day, we'll be discussing different stuff, like markets, investment opportunities, and Bitcoin. Some people were arguing it's really a currency, or saying it's actually an investment opportunity. Also, we invite people to speak."
About the cryptocurrency, he adds, "I've never been a fan of Bitcoin; I don't feel it's a currency, and because it doesn't pay dividends, I won't put my money into it." Simple enough.

Take Advantage of the Internet and Reach Out

Warren lives in Montserrat, a small piece of Caribbean paradise just east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. He is very far from New York, London, or any other major business hub, and yet he makes his investment and business aspirations work. A high-speed Internet connection has certainly helped make that possible:
"The Internet has allowed me to connect with different people, different media companies to promote myself and my business, and different tools to use for business. For example, next week I'll be speaking to Ivanka Trump. I sent her an email a few weeks ago and she responded, saying she'd love to connect with me and give some advice. I've been doing stuff like this with different successful people for years. I think, without the Internet, I wouldn't be able to have the wisdom or the knowledge that I have now; I wouldn't have been able to connect with such high people."
By this point, I had begun to notice one of Warren's most valuable personality traits: He is not afraid to reach out and ask for help and advice. In fact, it was his boldness that eventually led to this story.

On how exactly he got in touch with Ivanka Trump, he said, "I sent an email saying that I enjoyed her book, The Trump Card. I told her that I really enjoyed it, and if she had any advice, please share. Her assistant responded a few days after, saying that she'd love to talk to me and we'll be talking next week." (Since then, Warren has had his conversation with Trump: She expressed to him the importance of having mentors, and agreed to let him stay in touch on a quarterly basis.)

"What I've found is that people who have achieved some kind of success are willing to help people, are willing to share their time and advice. So yeah, reaching out and cold-calling works for me," he said.

This is something Warren does all the time: When he published his first book, The Farm of Wisdom, he reached out to Mike Michalowicz, the author The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (mentioned above as one of Warren's favorite books), asking him to write a blurb for the book. Michalowicz agreed, and wrote about the book, "An intriguing and humorous read filled with valuable lessons that sow seeds of wisdom in you."

Be Optimistic About the World and Passionate About Your Work

I asked Warren if he is hopeful for the future, and he didn't hesitate to answer: 

"Yes, yes I am. There's a lot happening in the world, but more and more I'm seeing a lot of young people who are excited about business and making a difference. If we can get the media to cover us more, more kids would be encouraged to fix the problems of today."
As for his generation, he has high hopes: "The media talks about how this generation is lazy. For me, that is completely untrue because nearly every day, I'm meeting different young people who want to change the world and make it a better place, and they're dedicated," he said.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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