Meet Patricia Saylor
Follow my journey as I:
Learn How to Invest in Stocks,
Discover my Meningioma Brain Tumor,
Take my State of NC Retirement Benefit,
Turn a Side Hustle into a Main Gig,
Teach Novice Investors How to Invest in the Stock Market
The Whole Story
(It's a long read, but I added pictures.)
Before I got a brain tumor, I spent most of my professional career working in public education in North Carolina. I raised two Deaf children adopted as preschoolers, as well as a home-grown son and a stepson. I was the kind of mom who learned to sew so I could make my own cloth diapers.
Public school teaching is not all that financially lucrative, especially in NC, and most teachers need a side hustle. Mine was offering educational assessments and academic support at Solterra Way Cottage School.
How I learned to Invest
In 2010 I wanted to boost my retirement savings, so I began a self-teaching journey about stock market investing. Every article I read, even those targeted at beginners, assumed background knowledge I didn’t have, and was full of words I didn’t understand. Somebody asked if I wanted to invest for growth or for dividends and I pretended to understand the question before running to Investopedia. I looked up every unfamiliar term, and eventually taught myself what I needed to know, but as a beginner, it took me a long time to filter the relevant information.
I opened a brokerage account and began to build my portfolio. I opened one for my 11-year-old son at the same time. He had $1000 and he asked me to invest it in Apple, Google, and Johnson and Johnson. What kid asks his mom to put his money in JNJ??? He’s 23 now, still owns the stock, and it’s probably going to help him pay off his student loans when he graduates.
I liked investing and being in control of my own accounts. I was making decisions that made sense to me, and getting good returns.
When both of my parents passed away in 2012, I received a modest inheritance. It wasn’t enough to let me retire early or make me rich, but it eased some of my financial worries and allowed me to try some new things. I opened a brokerage account and a Roth IRA at Vanguard and parked my treasure in some steady mutual funds while I figured out how best to use it.
I opened a Roth 401(k) through my employer, and began maxing it out. Making the contributions meant my monthly paycheck became quite a bit smaller, but I allowed myself to dip into the brokerage account to make up for the reduced monthly cash flow. I knew that tax-free money in retirement would be worth having less disposable income while I was working.
My wife and I bought a little beach cottage on Oak Island NC. We were able to get it at a great price because it had been on the market for quite a long time. We slowly fixed it up and began renting it to friends and family to offset some of the expenses. Eventually, we started renting it via Airbnb, which generated enough income to cover almost all the expenses of owning it, and by 2018 allowed us to build "The Owners' Retreat," a separate living space for ourselves. Now we can be at the beach while we rent “The Guest Quarters” or we can host more friends and family in our expanded home. We spend a lot of time at “Moms’ Beach House,” but we always rent out both parts during the vacation season to help cover the cost of owning it. (Airbnb pro tips: Never use instant booking, read reviews of your prospective guests and screen them carefully! We love to host responsible families, mature couples, grownup girlfriend groups and 3-generation families where the adults outnumber the children.)
In 2016 I decided to teach myself to trade stock options. Options can be very risky when used recklessly, and I prefer conservative strategies to boost my returns. I read everything I could find online, but the concepts were hard to grasp and the terminology was unfamiliar. Options sellers benefit financially from the passage of time, and I could never get my head around why anyone would pay me cash for the options contracts I was willing to sell. I like to know how things work, and I really wanted to know who was on the other side of the transaction. There just had to be a catch! (I get it now, but it’s too much to explain here.)
I needed help.
I told my wife I wanted an investing buddy to talk to me about options trading. She’s really smart, but this is not her area of interest. She said everything I told her was just “clicking and popping.” Sigh.
"Everything you are saying is just clicking and popping in my head."
I received a mailing from The Motley Fool advertising their options service. The literature made some sense to me, so I subscribed for a year. It was useful, but I was still left with unanswered questions.
So I created my own self-study program. In early 2017, I set up an account at Options House. A promo code and a $5000 minimum contribution got me three months of commission-free trades. I dedicated those three months to reading everything I could and making multiple very small trades with near expiration dates to see for myself how options pricing moves when the underlying share price changes and what happens at the expiration of a contract. My goal was to get an education and make $300 from my $5000 investment before the trading commissions kicked in. After three months and 100 hours of reading and trading, I converted everything back to cash and I had $5297 in the account! I had earned $2.97/hour for my time.
I crossed the finish line! Almost.
Also in 2017, I downloaded Brad Castro’s free materials, subscribed to his newsletter, then paid to join his excellent options course and online forum. If you want to know more about Brad’s service, you can read reviews, including mine, here. But look back to the older reviews from 2019. Once his service started getting well-known, someone - perhaps a competitor or someone who wanted to get rich quicker - got mad and started trashing him. Before that he had all 5-star reviews. (The internet is mean.)
Joining the Leveraged Investing Club was the best decision I’ve made so far. Brad's recommendations are spot on and he knows how to repair a trade that goes against you. I even like his corny dad humor. But I was glad I had done some background work to get ready first.
Then I Found Out I Had a Brain Tumor
In 2019, my life was upended by a surprise medical diagnosis. I had gotten a CT scan for a minor bone lesion on my skull. A couple of nights later, a MyChart message popped up and I found myself again looking up lots of unfamiliar words, this time on medical websites rather than Investopedia. While my wife cooked dinner, I sat at the table and read and Googled and Googled and read, and finally blurted out, “F— me; I have a brain tumor!” My petroclival meningioma was not malignant, but its location was anything but benign.
Yikes! But don't worry, Dr. Fukushima was sure he could get it with his "very long chopsticks."
I was fortunate to live just three miles from Duke Medical Center with access to the surgical Dream Team of Drs. Allan Friedman and Takanori Fukushima. Dr. Fukushima told me, “A petroclival meningioma is the most difficult neurosurgery there is.” Then he added reassuringly, “I have done 680 of them, and I’m sure I can remove it with my very long chopsticks.”
The weekend of my hospital admission, Mark Holt, one of the owners of my hair salon, Altered Image (whose late brother had been a patient of Dr. Friedman) came in early to work and didn’t charge me for my super-short haircut. My Solterra cohousing neighbors had a good-bye brunch for my tumor where the kids played Pin the Tumor on the Brain Stem. Just to add to the excitement, my 20-year-old son had an emergency appendectomy that day.
My cohousing neighbors love any excuse for a theme party!
It was a good reason to bring out the Halloween brain jello mold. Note the angry meningioma pinned on the brain stem.
On Sunday morning, I wore my comfiest clothes to church at United Church of Chapel Hill and was prayed over with mighty prayers before driving straight to the hospital to check in at 11am. The admissions desk asked me how far I had traveled and laughed when I told them. People come from all over the world to receive the outstanding care I got right next door.
Time to Retire from Public Education and Make a New Plan
A brain tumor and a world-wide pandemic were perfect catalysts to accelerate my retirement from public education. The first clear sign was my craniotomy date. November 4, 2019, was 30 years to the day from my hire date with the State of NC. The next sign arrived when I emerged fully recovered, a few months later, just in time for COVID lockdown. The universe was telling me to get a kintsugi tattoo (still in the planning stages), take advantage of the NC Retirement System benefits I had worked so hard for, and start my second career.
Being broken and repaired is part of our journey, not something to hide. This perfect kinsugi bowl was a gift from my wife the week before my craniotomy.
"I'm not crying, you're crying!"
I've run Solterra Way Cottage School, a consulting and academic support program, as a side hustle from my home since 2002. During school closures, I expanded and opened a tiny Montessori pandemic pod school. Investment education is a natural extension of my lifetime of teaching. The new Zoom world makes it easier to connect with people who need my services. (Bonus- Zoom students don't breathe on you.)
From multiplication to Geography to adult online investing seminars -- I just like seeing my students learn and understand what they need to know.
I demystify the investing process so other beginners don’t have to work as hard or take as long as I did! Just as my first graders don’t know what reading instruction they need, my novice investors don’t always know what information they are missing or what they are ready to learn next. So I plan my instruction to build background knowledge (in educator-speak, “scaffolding”). I explain things clearly, define all the jargon I use and try to keep one step ahead of my students by answering up front the questions they didn’t know they needed to ask.
I offer courses at several levels for
novice investors and
more experienced investors who are novice options traders.
When I am excited about a particularly successful options trade, my wife still says all she hears is “clicking and popping.” So I manage the retirement accounts and Vicki keeps the books, does the taxes, cooks great meals on a budget, and fixes the dryer when it breaks. It’s great to have a partner who saves us money so I have extra funds to invest for our future. Not everyone has the desire to take a deep dive into the stock market.
There is another $250 I can invest for our future! When Vicki fixes the dryer in her comfy flannel pants, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.
But If You Want to Take an Even Deeper Dive...
Brad Castro has offered a $100 discount on his leveraged investing course if I refer people who finish my program. I promised him I’d only send him students who are prepared. I don't give grades to my Novice Investors, but I do want to make sure they are ready before I promote them! (I am a teacher after all.)
Patricia has a BA in Education from UNC-Chapel Hill and an MA in the Linguistics of American Sign Language from Gallaudet University. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching motivated students, quilting, spending time with neighbors in her cohousing intentional community and trying to become the favorite aunt by inviting her sister's grandchildren to spend time at her second home on Oak Island, NC.