Who is the Alternative Investor?
Before I give some background about myself, I would just like to answer this question broadly by saying that the alternative investor is anyone who is currently frustrated or dissatisfied with today's mainstream investment strategies (practiced by many financial planners and 401K managers) that basically put most or all of your money into a "balanced" portfolio of mutual funds and bonds for extended periods of time with occasional "rebalancing" into a different set of mutual and bond funds. Within this mainstream investor philosophy, frequent market timing is thought to be foolish, investing in gold is usually frowned upon, investing in individual commodities such as crude oil is generally considered to be too complicated and time consuming for the average investor, and converting some of your savings into foreign currency to hedge against inflation is rarely even considered. "Alternative" investors, on the other hand, are justifiably suspicious of the stock market (especially since the 2008-2009 plunge of over 50% - and, yes, I did sidestep this crash), realize that gold (and silver) can have great value in a weakened financial system based on inflated fiat currency, and generally like to think for themselves and seek out investments that are relevant to current economic times.
But back to the original question and my personal background:
I'm an average middle-class American in my mid-fifties who pays taxes, owns a house and has saved enough money over the years to have the need for a good source of information on how and where to safely invest it. In the early 2000's I noticed that the stock market was becoming more and more volatile and unstable (remember the dot-com tech bubble and crash of 2000-2001?), and I was frustrated at how difficult it was to find clear and competent advice on trading and investing for the average person. At that time I had absolutely no knowledge of economics, finances or investing of any kind. My background was science (I have a Bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry and I've worked as a teacher, analytical chemist, microbiologist, and zoologist at various jobs over the years). Financial matters were not my area of expertise. I was, however, good at technical research, so I began researching and studying not only the basic logistics of economics and finance, but also some of the social and political dynamics of the global economy and the underlying forces that drive the various financial markets up and down.
One of the first things I noticed in doing my research was how the so called financial experts - the "talking heads" of Wall Street and the mainstream news and media - always had wildly different opinions on what the markets were doing and what they were going to do. I also noticed how none of them ever seemed to consistently call the markets accurately. (This situation continues today and is even worse as markets are more volatile and unstable). Through persistent research into traditional as well as more unorthodox sources of information (for example, cycle theory and the study of financial astrology) I slowly began to understand and be able to interpret the various factors correlated to the up and down movements of the major financial markets.
Over the course of the last decade (since the early 2000's) I have found several competent sources of consistently accurate financial analysis that have helped me tremendously in my own personal investing. These resources and the methods they employ involve traditional technical analysis, the study of financial cycles, global economic analysis, and other techniques (some traditional, some not) unique to the analysts that have developed them. Although none of them are perfect, I have developed my own way of reading them collectively to make educated decisions involving my own investments that have not only been profitable, but have given me the peace of mind of knowing where the markets are and where they're likely to be going in the short-term and long-term future.