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The 5 Best Stocks from My 35 Years in the Business

I’ve spent the last 35 years of my professional life focusing on stocks and the stock market. I haven’t kept track over the years, but I’ve probably written about more than a thousand different stocks and companies in that time.

Most of these companies have been part of an ever-shifting investment portfolio, but a select few of them have been life-changing.

They are rare (as are most things that one might refer to as life-changing) but five stocks in particular stand out from my 35 years in the industry.

5 Life-Changing Stocks
Stock number one is GCA Vacuum Industries, a company that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s where I worked for five years before joining my father at Cabot in 1986. The parent company was a conglomerate named Geophysical Corporation of America, and our Vacuum Industries division, located in Somerville, Massachusetts, made vacuum furnaces that were mainly used for processing metals. I worked in the Advance Engineering department, working with potential clients to test and develop new processes, the most interesting of which involved heating up (sintering) powdered metal to create turbochargers; I got a patent out of it, but no money. In any event, it was a mature industry even then, and some years after I left, the business was sold to a Korean company, and those jobs all moved overseas.

But GCA changed my life in two ways. First, like many big companies, there was a plan that allowed employees to buy stock at a significant discount (10% or 15%). That was a deal that was hard to turn down, especially given that the stock was generally in an uptrend while I was there. I eventually sold for a nice profit.

More importantly, GCA showed me firsthand what a mature (dying) industry is like, and since then, I’ve had a definite preference for companies that are in growth industries.

Stock number two is Summit Technology, which was a pioneer in the field of laser vision surgery. It was a small company in Boston when we first learned about it, but the stock was going up. We recommended it in 1989; it was up more than 700% by the end of 1995, and the company was eventually acquired by eye-care giant Alcon.

But the personal benefits were far greater. Both my brother and I had our eyes lasered—for free—in 1991 as part of the FDA trials. We each had one eye done, resulting in monovision, and to this day, I don’t wear reading glasses!

Stock number three is Apple (AAPL), a company that needs no introduction—except perhaps a reminder that when it started, it was a true underdog in the IBM-centric world. In fact, when I bought the first Apple computer for Cabot in 1987, it was simply to run subscription management software; we already had an IBM Displaywriter for word processing. Today, most of us carry Apple computers in our pockets all the time—though we call them phones.

As for the stock, Cabot never had a big success with the stock, but I did have great personal success—at least on a percentage basis. For years, in partnership with MacWorld magazine, Apple would run MacWorld shows, and at one show in Boston in 1986, there was a company named One Share of Stock selling framed shares of Apple stock (with the multi-colored apple logo), for less than $100. I bought one and hung it on the wall for decades—where it was extremely illiquid. And I finally took it down and put in my brokerage account a couple of years ago. Thanks to four stock splits over the years, that one share is now 112 shares, and worth over $16,000.

Stock number four is Amazon (AMZN). As a lifelong lover of books, I was an early customer (in 1997); I believed in the business model, and I believed that Jeff Bezos would eventually make a profit. We recommended the stock in January 1998, in the great dot-com boom, and sold in January 2000 as the boom was maturing for a relatively quick profit of more than 1,200%. And—no surprise here—I’m still a customer today.

Stock number five is Tesla (TSLA). The stock was first recommended, because the chart was strong, and soon after, I added it to my own advisorywhere I still hold it, with a profit exceeding 13,000%.

More importantly, I bought a Tesla Model S in 2013; it’s been my daily driver since then and now has 86,000 miles on it. And this year I had solar panels installed on the roof of my house, as well as two Tesla Powerwalls in my garage. As a result, I don’t pay electric bills anymore; the electric company pays me—and they pay a premium for taking electricity out of my Powerwalls when demand is high. And very soon I expect to take delivery of a new Model S. The old one is still great (I just finished a 6,380-mile month-long trip in it) but the new one promises more range (400 miles vs. 260) and more safety (thanks to all the cameras and software).

3 Stocks for the Future
Looking forward, I continue to expect great innovation to provide profitable investing opportunities and I expect some of them to make a big impact on my life. But it’s very hard to see the future. Still, three stocks that I have high hopes for today are ChargePoint (CHPT), the leading provider of car-charging stations; Trulieve (TCNNF), whose recent acquisition of Harvest Health & Recreation makes it the de facto leader in the legal marijuana industry; and Virgin Galactic (SPCE), a leader in the space tourism business.

What stocks have changed your life? Tell us about them in the comments below.