Disclaimer: I’m not a writer, nor do I play one on the internet. I just want to tell some stories about people I know, and this one happens to be about Ryan Fredrick Grace.
Spend 15 minutes with Ryan Grace and you will make a couple of blatant observations. The first thing you’ll notice is that the man’s mind is perpetually on the stock market, or more specifically, trading options. His brain never shuts off and even in times of relaxation he’s thrashing through the details of how to know what the market is going to do next. He loves it, and with Ryan, it’s not just a means to acquiring dollars - it’s an art.
The second thing you find is that he’s all about having a damn good time. Most of my time with Mr. Grace is spent laughing so hard I’m about to cry while slamming a couple brew creatures and discussing QE3 or why he’s short Twitter and I should be too. And that is exactly why he is so interesting to me. I know what you’re thinking, you lived with a guy for two years in college who studied finance and now he works at a desk at citi bank. Ryan is not that guy, he’s not looking to make enough money so he can buy a mini mansion in the suburbs and watch football on his flat screen in his man cave. He’s trying to make a difference in how people like you and me view investing and handling their money.
Ryan makes his living thinking about the market. He works for wildly successful Chicago-based option trader Tom Sosnoff. Sosnoff’s company, Dough, creates content for people to learn about how to trade options. Oh, and If you don’t know what “trading options” means, Ryan would gladly tell you. Just buy him a couple cold beers if you ever happen see him out on Chicago’s north side. Anyways,Dough doesn’t give it’s people titles, but Mr. Grace spends his day working on launching the content, answering emails, and developing marketing strategies among other things. He’s very adamant about what the company does and desperately wants it to do well. What he really wants is to help people learn about trading.
Ryan Grace also likes drinking and having more than enough fun. This is another reason why we’re very dear friends. Last fall I hosted Mr. Grace and our good friend Mike for a long weekend in Atlanta. Their first night in town is another story in itself and entailed a failed attempt to rent a maybach and me passing out in the back of a town car while my other two friends took our driver into a gentlemen’s club and spent well over a thousand dollars in less than an hour. Their second night in town we went out to one of the city’s finest steak houses after spending the afternoon at a local brewery. After an afternoon of sampling craft beer, a manhattan at the restaurant, and half a bottle of wine each, a single piece of Ryan’s wet aged ribeye somehow ended up in his wine glass instead of his mouth. As you can imagine this left the much older, much more polished patrons aghast at our unruly behavior as the fatty acids from the steak began changing the dark red color of his cabernet sauvignon into a murky brown hue. But hey, we sure thought it was funny and I think the wait staff enjoyed our behavior.
Besides being absolutely wild about the market, Ryan is as much an aesthete as he is a numbers guy. This past Christmas I sat in his basement catching up on his most recent developments. Volcano Choir played in the background while I listened to him wax poetic about a formula he created that determines what choice of alcohol he will make for the evening.* Ryan turned me on to Justin Vernon a few years ago even before he was a mainstream success and always has a new artist for me to check out every time I see him. He truly has his own sense of style and is not afraid of wearing something odd. When I asked him about his choice of clothes he scoffed at the idea that he has any fashion IQ and said, “… I have these bright green pants that I wear and I just think, ‘What kind of asshole wears these?’” Mr. Grace also confessed to owning a pair of very expensive boots that have never left his closet. (I’m pretty sure an economist would say there’s a lot of lost value there…)
It’s not more than five minutes of discussing new music, clothes, and what booze we should drink that the market talk begins again. As the evening progresses a few more of our econ pals arrive and to the chagrin of our female friends the market talk really heats up. I fancy myself as a hobbyist economist and I enjoy the discussion of QE3 and whether or not the FED is going to taper almost as much as he does. What fascinates me is his intense interest and his thirst for knowledge. It’s commonplace for Mr. Grace to work 17 hour days. When I asked if he ever gets burned out he just said, “It’s like playing your favorite video game ever, no matter how long you work on it you just want to keep playing and playing.” You can’t help but think of the Confucius quote that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. Isn’t that what we all strive for?
Most of the time when you think about someone involved in trading stocks, bonds, options, or anything financially related, you think of a money hungry Gordon Gekko in Wall Street saying “Greed is a good thing.” Albeit Ryan is out to make a large profit at the end of the day, he is also motivated by altruism. He wants people to be in control of their financial destiny, not handing their money over to an account manager who they don’t know. I’ve actually seen several people get visibly upset with him when he poses the question “So, you give your money to this person every month and you don’t know what they’re doing with it?” Ultimately, I think these people are upset at themselves, but they’ve never been shown another way. This is precisely what Ryan wants to do, show people how to set themselves up for financial success. It’s rare to find someone who loves what they do as much as Ryan does. It’s not a just a job or a means of making ends meet. He truly loves it and he’s changed the way I think about my money. And maybe he’s crazy just enough to make a change in how you think about money too, and that is what makes him remarkable.
The foolproof formaula for making an economically sound alcohol purchase
*(abv./(price/qt) = % of alcohol per $ spent
I also added a variant of my own to the formula, a +/- 3 for taste. So a bush light would get a -3 a yeungling would get a 0 and a 21’st ammendment Brew Free or Die would get a +3.