Tallinn University of Technology

Kristjan Liivamägi, economist, investor and lecturer of finance at the TalTech Department of Economics and Finance was recently chosen as the "Investor of the Year" by the Äripäev newspaper. The "Investor of the Year" award is given to the investor who has contributed the most to the promotion of Estonian investing culture and the sharing of financial wisdom.

Kristjan Liivamägi - aasta investor 2022
Kristjan Liivamägi. Photo: Raul Mee

On 22 January you were awarded the „Investor of the Year 2022“ title by the Äripäev newspaper. Please tell us, what brought you to finance and investing?

I started investing when I was a 19-year-old boy because I was looking for solutions to preserve the purchasing power of my savings. It was the spring of 2006, and there was a very high inflation in Estonia. I understood that if I just kept money in my bank account, it would lose its purchasing power. After considering various options, I ended up at the Tallinn Stock Exchange, where I bought my first shares – Saku Brewery and Rakvere Meat Processing Plant. This decision was motivated by the wish to protect my savings from the inflation, but it turned out to be the beginning of an exciting and interesting journey in the world of finance, which has culminated with a PhD degree in Financial Economics and an investment portfolio worth over one million euros.

It seems that the investor of the year could just enjoy the life of a rentier. Why bother with science?

The honest answer is that my passive interest, dividend and rent incomes are several times larger than my family’s expenses and I indeed do not need to work. Yet, I give lectures at Tallinn University of Technology and do research because if I have the freedom to do whatever I wish, then what could be better than pursuing my passion, hobby and love which is studying investing and financial markets. My research examines the behavior of investors at the financial markets to find out why some are successful but some are not.

In addtion to doing research, you also teach university students – you give lectures in the Personal Finance, Basics of Finance, Investment Analysis and Financial Management courses. You have been a lecturer for almost 10 years now, have there been any noteworthy trends or developments, and how have your students changed during that time?

For me, sharing knowledge is one part of the mission to increase the financial wisdom of the Estonian people. During the last ten years, students have become more knowledgeable and interested in investing and finance. I see every week how they come to lectures with a spark in their eyes and a true desire to acquire new knowledge and practical skills. It is really wonderful and gives me motivation to continue teaching financial wisdom.

How have you yourself developed and changed as a lecturer? What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

Leaving aside professional development, the greatest change has been in the public speaking skills. My advice to me 10 years ago would be to remember that how you say something it is very important - 80% of your success as a speaker comes from your body language and only a little over 10% comes from what you say.

You are a valued teacher: most recently students awarded you with the „Lecture Guru of the year 2020“ and the „Lecturer of the Year 2021“ titles - not to mention all the earlier titles. What are the most important aspects of being a good lecturer?

In my opinion, inner passion and motivation are very important – without them it is really hard to engage students. In addition to that, especially in the field of investments, it is very important to have practical experience. It would be very difficult to keep up with the changing times as a pure theoretician.

What do you like to do in your spare time? How do you rest and recharge?

Sports is very important for me. I started playing sports when I was two years old. Earlier I played handball on the professional level, now I exercise four times a week on average: I swim, run and go to the gym. Healthy eating and sleep are also essential – I need at least 8 hours of sleep to function effectively, so I really like to sleep.

An additional hobby of mine is numismatics. I also enjoy playing chess and Monopoly with my kids.

To conclude – how to preserve and grow your wealth at this current time of uncertainty? What would be your recommendation?

The investment with the highest long-term returns is investing in your own knowledge – no other person or an economic downturn can ever take it away. Knowledge and experience can be converted into money or other assets throughout the entire life.