Editor’s Note – I started a weekly column today in the San Antonio Express-News, and I plan to repost them here for the vast majority of you who neither live in San Antonio nor read newspapers. I expect the major difference between the newspaper columns and the blog posts will be:
1. saltier language and
2. more random hyperlinks.
The original column appeared in (largely) similar form here.
I feel like I just arrived in San Antonio, although it’s been five years since my family and I moved here from New York City.
“New York City?? Get a Rope!” for those of you who remember the Pace Picante ads.
I heard that line above dozens of times in my first few months living in San Antonio. Eventually I realized that’s not funny in the least. So please don’t write that in the comments section of this paper. Thank you.
Ok, back to me.
I used to work on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs & Co., selling mortgage bonds. Yes, that Goldman Sachs, and yes, those mortgage bonds. I even sold a few CDOs and credit default swaps in my day so, yes, you may blame me personally for all the bad things that happened to the economy over the past decade.
I also started – and eventually closed – a distressed debt hedge fund. If those four words together make no sense to you then: Congratulations! You are a normal person.
My friends – none of whom tend to actually work in finance – have been asking me for financial advice ever since I started in the industry. What’s always struck me as curious is how super-smart people – like my friends – feel confused and overwhelmed by the finance industry.
In 2012 – inspired by what I knew and what all of my friends kept asking me about, I decided to get into the simplifying-and-explaining-finance business. I started a blog I cheekily named “Bankers Anonymous” (Bankers in Recovery, get it?).
I’ve also co-taught a personal finance course at Trinity University here in San Antonio for the past two years, consulted for Accion Texas and ran a workshop on personal finance for San Antonians.
I’m an ardent Show Me The Money capitalist who also thinks we should have been tougher on the Too Big To Fail Banks. I am still mad about the bonuses paid to Wall Street executives in 2008 after we the taxpayers bailed them out. Don’t even get me started on that because I became a mumbling and then raving angry man, and nobody wants to see that.
But at the same time, I instinctively cringe every time a financial regulator talks about “fixing” Wall Street. Even though I’m originally from Massachusetts, I do not trust Senator Elizabeth Warren to do the job right.
“New York City and Massachusetts? Now, living in Texas? Whoo-boy we’ve got a live one.”
Anyway, back to my contradictions.
I’m an entrepreneur who has worked within the most rigid corporate culture imaginable. I founded a hedge fund, but I advise almost everyone I know to avoid hedge funds.
I studied nothing about finance or business in college. Heck, I avoided business completely in those years.
Now, however, I think the colleges and universities fail a basic duty to their students, and society, by not requiring students to take and pass a rigorous course in personal finance. Students graduate with an average of $33,000 in debt, and they’ve never learned about interest rates and compound interest!
Basically what I’m trying to say with all of these contradictions is that I am an Alanis Morisette lyric.
And what it all boils down to, my friends, is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet.
I’m here to help us figure it all out.
My primary advantage over your other sources of financial opinion is that I’ve got nothing to sell you.
Think about it: The experts and practitioners of finance typically have a product or service to market to you. They may be experts on bonds, or private equity, or asset allocation, or merger arbitrage but they’re experts because that’s what they sell for a living. You may be forgiven for being a teensy bit skeptical about their motives. In fact, if you are not skeptical of their advice, you’re not thinking hard enough about it.
I’m writing this column because I believe most people will benefit from disinterested – but interesting! – opinions on finance.
In this column you should expect some rants about Wall Street finance, some rants about Main Street finance, some rants about Texas finance, and some rants about San Antonio finance topics. You might even expect some columns not to be rants, but that might be getting ahead of myself.
I particularly enjoy answering questions on my friends’ minds, so please, be a friend and send me a question. If you don’t know the answer to your money problem, it’s probably something that other people have wondered about as well. Let’s all help each other figure it out.
My name is Michael and it’s been 3 years since I ran a hedge fund. Thank you.
Michael Taylor is a former Goldman Sachs bond salesman, hedge funder, and now writes the finance blog Bankers-Anonymous.com.
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