Mark Fonville, CFP®
President and Wealth Manager
Mark is the President of Covenant Wealth Advisors. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner in Richmond and Williamsburg, VA. Mark has over 17 years of experience in the areas of financial planning and investment management for individuals and families.
Prior to joining the firm, Mark served as the Regional Director for Loring Ward, an investment management firm located in San Jose, CA with over $17 billion in assets. There, Mark served on the leadership team and provided investment strategy and consulting to some of the most experienced financial advisors in the country.
Additionally, Mark has been featured in Kiplinger Magazine and the New York Times. He is an accomplished public speaker on investment management and strategy, having spoken across the country at events for the Financial Planning Association, New York Life, Commonwealth Financial, Cambridge Investment Research, among others.
Mark is an active member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA).
Mark graduated from Virginia Tech in 2001 with a BS in Finance and holds a Series 66 license.
My Personal Story
When I was 10 years old, my father gave me a book that would forever change the direction of my life.
The book was Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin LeFevre. In the novel, LeFevre brilliantly describes the life and times of the book’s protagonist, Larry Livingston, a pseudonym for Jesse Livermore, one of history’s most famous and successful traders on Wall Street.
The story was my first introduction to the stock market and was the initial seed that fed my interest in investing. My father was encouraged by my enthusiasm, and to nourish my insatiable hunger to learn he graciously gave me a few thousand dollars to “invest”.
For me, my initial interest in investing was the start to a decade of success, a growing ego and, ultimately, unfulfilled expectations.
For the better part of the 1990s, I made hundreds of trades in and out of stocks. I vividly recount the hours spent with my father, reading valuation sheets from the equity research company, Value Line.
Some of my best memories as a child was spending time with my dad, researching the next hot stock and chatting about our next “play.”
Back then, and now, I saw my father as a hero, not so much because he was knowledgeable but because he took the time to have an interest in me.
Our research gave us an inside edge on identifying winning investments, or so I thought. By the late 1990s, the tech boom had started and with it, I transitioned my research from Value Line to the internet. By 1999 I was enrolled at Virginia Tech and had amassed a small fortune in my brokerage account.
Unlike many of my college friends, I had money.
With increased success, my interest in trading stocks became a passion, and it didn’t take long until my passion became an obsession, and my obsession became an addiction. As my account grew daily by the thousands, it became more and more difficult to maintain the dopamine rush to which I had become so accustomed. Trading and the subsequent returns that came with it became a drug, and, like all highs, the crash was yet to come.
History tells the rest of the story. The tech bubble burst, and with it, so did my fortune. In a matter of months, I managed to turn nearly a hundred thousand dollars into less than a few thousand. Nearly every stock I owned either went bankrupt or declined so much in value that my holdings were nearly worthless.
I remember sitting in my apartment wondering: How could I make such a catastrophic mistake? After all, I'd been studying investing for nearly a decade!
With a shattered ego and enormous regret, I decided at that moment that I wouldn't let my crisis go to waste.
As it turns out, the famous trader, Jesse Livermore, made and lost millions playing the stock and commodity markets seeking great returns. He became famous for his ability to identify winners and amassed over $100 million during the crash of 1929.
Often, we hear about the great investments people make, and we never hear about their poor investments. In proper fashion, Reminisces of Stock Operator, followed the same story line. However, one Wall Street phrase did not make the book that should have, and that is
“A speculator who dies rich is a speculator who dies before his time.”
In 1940, just six years after Livermore amassed his enormous fortune, he died broke in the bathroom of the Sherry Netherland Hotel in Manhattan. In the end, Livermore lost his money because he was a speculator, not an investor.
What I didn't realize as a young man, that I do realize now, is that there is a big difference between investing and speculating.
Knowing how to prudently invest, while avoiding speculation, can have a meaningful impact on individuals who want the best life for themselves and their family. I've spent the last 20 years learning time tested principles to help ensure families don't make the mistakes I made early in life.
This experience, and the lessons I learned, is why I do what I do. When my career is over, I hope people will feel I made a difference.