A blue-collar chip on his shoulder, he says the coming 10 years will be the greatest decade EVER in financial history… And has the stocks to back it up
Matt McCall’s got something to prove…
A mile-a-minute talker oozing charisma and a magnetic personality, Matt is a passionate self-made entrepreneur, whose big-gains track record and penchant for teaching and helping investors just landed him with Stansberry Research.
I recently sat down with Matt to find out what’s behind his insatiable drive…
Poverty Breeds Ambition
Matt grew up poor in a very small town outside Philadelphia, next to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His whole family worked for Bethlehem Steel – Matt’s father, grandfather, and uncles.
And for much of the 20th century, Bethlehem Steel was one of the world’s largest steel-producing and shipbuilding companies, a Dow 30 stock, a powerful symbol of American industrial-manufacturing leadership. Until it wasn’t…
When Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt, it devastatingly rocked many families in Pennsylvania, and Matt’s was no exception. He remembers that after the company’s layoffs, they had to leave their nice house for a much smaller one “on the wrong side of the tracks in the city. And for much of the 20th century, Bethlehem Steel was one of the world’s largest steel-producing and shipbuilding companies, a Dow 30 stock, a powerful symbol of American industrial manufacturing leadership. Until it wasn’t…
When Matt was 12 years old, his father left. And being the oldest of five kids, Matt had to grow up quickly… He worked any odd job he could find – at one point, making tartar sauce every day after school at the fish shop across the street from his house.
The first glimmer of Matt’s entrepreneurial drive appeared when he was 15 and started his own lawn-care business. He created and posted flyers on everyone’s doors and car windshields in his neighborhood.
“And when it snowed, it was the best,” he tells me. “Other kids might have been building snowmen or having snowball fights, but I was knocking on doors… ‘Five bucks, I’ll shovel your driveway.'”
Matt says he’s always been motivated by money and wanting to prove himself.
“Other kids had nice, expensive shoes, like Nikes and Adidas, but my mom couldn’t afford them. So I wore these cheap sneakers. They were called MacGregors, and I got made fun of for wearing them. I hated it. I knew I was better than them, even in my Dollar Store shoes.”
I’ve always been told I’m not good enough, so I always have to prove them wrong. Probably why I’ve been hustling even since grade school… selling football cards, cutting lawns, you know, always up to something.
He said the following with a smile. And this Philly blue-collar chip on his shoulder still drives him today…
“My biggest fear in life is being considered mediocre. 80% of the people I grew up with are still in the same town, living within a 10-mile radius of the house they were born in. I knew I had to get out to be successful.” Matt visits the Bethlehem Steel site in Pennsylvania.
Betting on His Future
Besides working, sports were also a kind of escape for Matt, who adamantly followed and played football through high school. He got a football scholarship to a small, local college but flunked out after the first year.
He repeated this three more times at three other undergrad colleges – landing football scholarships but then failing out of school – until he blew out his shoulder and couldn’t play anymore. He finally landed at the state school Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, where he planned on getting his degree and becoming a gym teacher.
Still hustling, Matt had a bartending gig in the evenings, making fistfuls of cash on the regular. Coming home with $200 after a shift one night, a light bulb went off: “Holy shit, it would take me more than a week to make this kind of money as a gym teacher.”
As Matt wrestled with the decision on whether to continue to pursue his college education or not, his grandmother passed away. She left Matt $10,000, but before Matt’s father would give him the check, he first begged him to do something “productive” with it.
A self-proclaimed “degenerate gambler” at the time, Matt loved sports betting…
It made sense – he was a football fanatic and was also always hungry for cash, and sports gambling seemed like the solution. Except when you lose… And we all know gambling is just that… a risky bet on an uncertain outcome. The house always wins.
So Matt took his 10K inheritance and tried a new kind of gambling… He put it in the stock market.
Matt fairly quickly doubled his money… and was hooked.
Matt McCall the investor was born.
Wearing the Stifling Suit of Corporate Finance
Matt suddenly had a new purpose and passion for college, although he claims his first stock market win was beginner’s luck because he didn’t know hardly anything about investing at all…
“My family, we’d read the sports pages cover to cover – I could tell you the stat of any player in any league… But I didn’t know the first thing about the Dow Jones or the NYSE. We didn’t learn that stuff at home or in school.”
But like so many times the odds were stacked against him, Matt switched his major to finance, busted his ass, and took many 21-credit semesters to graduate with a degree in finance from Kutztown University.
He landed his first job at Charles Schwab as a stockbroker in Denver. Matt stayed there for a couple of years and managed to simultaneously get his MBA from the University of Colorado.
But the finance world, at least as it played out at Charles Schwab, wasn’t all that Matt dreamed it would be…
“Schwab kind of sucked… It just wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t for me. They were very corporate, and my interactions with clients were so scripted… I went into this line of work to help people, to teach people, but when clients would call and ask for my opinion or my help, I wasn’t free to speak my mind or tell them the raw truth – I had to stick to the script.”
Matt started going out in the evenings with his then-boss, and the two of them became ”investment junkies” – huddled at the bar, jotting notes on sticky cocktail napkins for various options strategies and how to play different market scenarios.
Frasier and Tuna Helper
Eventually, he left Schwab and joined a startup called Wall Street Radio that had a national radio show in various major cities around the country.
Within a year, Matt worked his way up to president of the company.
One fateful day, the radio host was sick, and Matt was asked to fill in. Even though he had never done a radio show and felt extremely anxious about speaking live on the air, Matt jumped in and helped…
“By the end of that first show, I was like Frasier – my feet up on the desk, taking live calls, answering investment questions.”
He then became co-host and spent the next couple of years traveling around the country doing shows and live conferences. “I loved connecting with people, engaging with them in real time about the stock market,” he says.
In 2004, Matt decided it was time to begin his own venture and fulfill his entrepreneurial dream of starting and owning his own company. He founded Penn Financial Group, eventually growing it to a multimillion-dollar advisory firm that worked with individual investors to help them achieve their financial goals.
But it wasn’t all gravy at first…
“I lived in Denver at the time, and I didn’t leave the kitchen – which was my office. I was just writing free newsletters every day, trying to get my name and ideas out to the world. Trying to get people to give a 27-year-old no-name money for investing isn’t easy. I ate Tuna Helper every meal – 49 cents for the can of tuna, 99 cents for the box of Tuna Helper.”
The Kool-Aid Can Be Tempting
So Matt moved to New York City to be closer to Wall Street. He began making TV appearances on CNBC, Bloomberg, and others. His first big TV break again came in the form of a chance opportunity…
“I was a fan of the Fox News show Bulls & Bears – watched it regularly – when my PR guy called me and said there was a last-minute cancellation, so they could have me on as a guest host. I was scared to death, but this was my chance to be on TV with the guys I loved to watch – Tobin Smith, Meredith Whitney, and Jack Welch.
I was starstruck… For a nerdy Wall Street guy like me, this was big time. I remember the rest of them were in expensive $3,000 suits, and here I was in my cheap suit from JC Penney, two sizes too big, tie a mess, hair all over the place… But I must have impressed them because they asked me to join their new morning show on Fox Business.”
TV appearances became a big part of Matt’s life, and he admits he began to “drink the Kool-Aid” a bit, getting caught up in being a bit of a finance celebrity, having a driver… and an oversized ego.
Having worked in media, I saw the sensationalism… The media is not there to educate you. They’re there to get your eyes or your clicks. Especially today, the media is even more bombastic. There are more and more social outlets all competing for your eyes – and this is where the masses are getting their news from.
This is a big part of why Matt joined the Stansberry Research team…
Like many of our passioned investment writers at Stansberry Research, Matt left the corporate world of banking and media limelight for a freer, truer path to helping people.
“Stansberry Research has done more to level the playing field for individual investors over the past 20 years than anyone. I wanted to be able to talk to people directly – not through a media platform, not in a book, not at a conference.”
One of the largest financial investment research companies in the entire world, Stansberry’s wide net appealed to Matt as a way to reach more people trying to learn about investing.
“Investing is actually very simple… At the end of the day, do you think this is going to be a bigger company in five years or not?”
Matt wants you to fire the adviser who only calls you once or twice a year… and “ditch those hedge-fund guys in fancy loafers who talk down to you.”
He adds, “I’m the most anti-Wall-Street guy there is.”
He tells me the toughest challenge to teaching people about investing is getting them to let go of the American get-rich-quick mentality… and to be in it for the long haul.
“We all hear stories at the watercooler or the cocktail party – someone’s brother who got rich off a new biotech stock. They don’t tell you about the other 10 that went to zero, of course.
It’s not tough to be a good investor… You put money away, you invest in good companies, and you let it go. You keep building out your portfolio. But, boy, is it hard when the market’s down 1,000 points, and you’re watching your money go down, and the news media is hyping it all up – that’s one of the hardest things.”
Spotting the Trends
So it’s easy to say investing is simple, just buy great companies… But how do you know if a company is worthy or not? Matt tells me that is pretty simple, too… Just “use your eyes.”
This is similar to legendary fund manager Peter Lynch’s famous advice to invest in what you know. Matt refers to Lynch as “one of the greatest investors ever.” In fact, he gave Lynch’s name when I asked who his investing inspiration was.
“People should literally walk the streets where they live for investing inspiration. Invest in what you’re familiar with. Now, just because you see a lot of people at a store doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great investment… But it’s a good start.”
Matt tells me about a time back in the 2000s when his then-wife was a buyer for Nordstrom clothing, specifically denim. One day, she told him about “these new jeans that had a unique stitched horseshoe design on the back pockets and a $200 to $300 price tag. And the kicker was that they couldn’t keep them in stock because they were so popular.”
So Matt started researching the company, True Religion, and liked the fundamentals. At the time, the stock was super cheap – maybe 20 cents a share – and he gobbled them up.
The denim trend really took off, and True Religion exploded… with celebrities wearing and endorsing the jeans. Between 2007 and 2012, the company’s revenues nearly tripled, reaching $490 million in 2013. True Religion was sold for $850 million the following year. (Matt saw huge gains on his stock as it ran to more than $20 per share.)
That’s what’s so thrilling about investing – ideas and trends are everywhere. The key is finding them and buying in before it’s on the cover of Barron’s because, well, then you’re too late. And teaching people how to do this is my passion. I live for this.
Musk and EVs… Embrace What’s Coming
Matt says that people often fear the future more than anything… But that’s actually what excites him the most. And he thinks the coming decade will be the greatest ever in financial history.
Since Matt doesn’t want to be known as mediocre, it makes sense that he’s a self-proclaimed “fanboy” of one of the most unique entrepreneur superstars there is – Elon Musk.
When Tesla first emerged, people were very skeptical… They thought Musk was an eccentric nut, and many argued this country didn’t need or want another big car company.
But Matt drew on his sports gambling days… “You shouldn’t bet on the horse – you bet on the jockey. And Elon Musk is a visionary… I remember thinking ‘whatever this guy invests in, wherever he goes, I’m along for the ride.'”
It wasn’t just Musk’s contrarian zaniness that endeared Matt… Tesla’s business model was different. It sold cars directly to the consumer. Plus, Tesla made the first successful fully electric mass-market vehicle… And it also looked sexy.
“Yes, there were hurdles… But you have an exceptional leader who’s incredibly brilliant. And a superior product. I knew Tesla would succeed.”
Matt recommended Tesla in 2014 – a swim-against-the-current contrarian call… And Tesla just reported $1 billion in quarterly earnings and is now one of the largest companies in the world. (Matt’s up around 1,854% on his Tesla position.)
Be the Wolf
Matt’s enthusiasm for helping investors and his future with Stansberry feels contagious.
At the end of our meeting, he leaves me with some words of advice…
To be successful in life, you can’t be on the bandwagon… You have to be the wolf, not the sheep.
Matt’s working on a new book and his new product with Stansberry… It seems the sky’s the limit for Matt when he puts his mind to something.
Just don’t ever call him mediocre…