The last few weeks have been almost unprecedented, both to the downside (worst month since the Great Depression), and the upside (greatest short-squeeze since the March 2009 lows) with multiple violent intraday swings almost every day as algos took control on every headline.
For many, we know this was an extremely stressful period, but while most choose to internalize or ignore what just happened to them, one trader – @OddStats (a retired finance professional living in the Bay Area) – took to Twitter in a very personal statement that we hope will help many readers…
I’d like to believe that I’m a relatively smart fellow. After all, I graduated from the local state university with a 2.03 GPA after failing out once and dropping out another time. I spent the majority of my professional life in compliance, but before that, I was an investment adviser who only dealt in passive, diversified asset-class based mutual fund investing.
It was slow and boring, but it worked. Really well. I not only did really well for our clients, but also my own money. It was simple, BUY WHEN YOU HAD MONEY and SELL WHEN YOU NEEDED MONEY. Don’t sweat the small details, we’re properly diversified to minimize risk (which worked) and we’ll catch the ups, of which there are always many.
I used that system for decades, including the first 3 years of our retirement. But it wasn’t enough; oh no, I had to get cute. I learned how to trade derivatives; at first it was just simple calls and puts, then exotic spreads. I learned how to trade just simple calls and puts, then exotic spreads. I learned how to trade futures (not exactly difficult) and started placing bigger and bigger bets because, eh, we had plenty of money and I could afford to lose some, no problem.
As the last 6 years went by, I became more and more confident in my ever-changing trading system(s) with options and futures, despite the fact that there was only 1 year where I turned a profit (+$450k selling call spreads in 2015). Every other year, there was always some excuse.
“Oh well, if I hadn’t lost that $350k on toothless cattle futures,we’d have made money.” Or, “if we had just not taken the $600k loss we’d have made money.” Or, “if we had just not taken the $600k loss after the election, we had a pretty good year!”
Dumb stuff like that.
Friends and family all warned me, I better get out of trading before I blow it all. “I won’t,” I assured them, “I’m not that stupid.”
I was sure of it. And I was wrong.
I had quit day-trading back in November but was still using a swing trading system that damn near never lost (really), until I got completely run over last week. Literally every move I made was wrong, and I managed to completely wipe out my entire gambling account. I want to be clear, we’re not broke or anything near it (still get to claim millionaire status), but holy crap did I decimate my account something stupid.
So, I’m here to tell you that the scary stories you hear from elders who quit trading? They’re true. Trading is a losing game. It’s just gambling.
Most people who claim to be winners just ignore their losses and pretend everything is ok. To be sure, some people really can make a living at it, and good for them. But the odds are massively against you. The system is designed to take your money while you’re stressed, guessing, nervous, angry, depressed, or most of all – desperate.
Your money is your money. Your life is your life. I ain’t your pappy. You don’t owe me anything and I don’t owe you anything. But I’m the lucky one. My wife isn’t leaving me (she certainly could) and I paid for my house with cash, so I can’t lose it as long as I keep paying the taxes.
But do this favor to yourself – ask yourself why you’re really doing this. Actually ask yourself what you’ll do IF you wake up one day to yet another surprise six-digit loss that you went to sleep thinking was a winner. If you can’t deal with the fall-out, get out now while you can. Start a business. Go back to school. Get a job you enjoy. Don’t end up like me, or worse, people who didn’t still have a small pile of assets after the Big One strikes your account. I’ll be alright (I hope).
My gambling days are over (because that account is empty now). My wife swears she’s not leaving and that she still loves me. We can always sell this house and move somewhere cheaper if it really comes to that, or, more likely, I’ll just start anotherbusiness if necessary. But the stress I’ve gone through the past week business if necessary. But the stress I’ve gone through the past week since the disaster struck has been unlike any stress I’ve had since I was still in business and had to worry about sales drying up (which any good business owner is paranoid about constantly, even if things are great). OddStats will still be around, but now I’m angry.
I’m embarrassed. I’m humiliated. I’ve hurt myself and others around me and that’s painful. Think about it before this is you. Be good to each other and remember that greed fucking kills.
We wish him luck in the future with his non-gambling endeavors.