So, it’s taken me all this time since April to write the conclusion (or what I hope will be the conclusion to my very first blog post on this site. The fiancée is somewhere in the house with her college friend reminiscing about the good ol’ days. I don’t want to inadvertently get an earful of any sorority house exploits so I’m at the trusty ol’ dining room table with a late night snack. It’s a Saturday night so what better way to spend it than by…you guessed it…blogging! LOL. What? It’s not like I’m gonna get any alone time with the lady so I might as well pour out all of my rants and troubles to you, my unsuspecting – and unknown – readership. (Besides, the lady would rather I stay in and whatever she says, I do – mostly because I respect her wishes and also because I want sex leverage. But that is for another post.)
I’ve really had a tough stretch of trading lately. It’s the type of stretch where you’re struggling to differentiate the head of the capital markets from its ass and you’re getting caught in between, either because of noise (both self and outwardly imposed) or just because you just happen to suck at that point in time. I don’t really know what category I fall into and for the sake of not boring anyone, I’m not going to think about it. What I will do, however, is engage in one of my favorite pastimes : hating on this career called commodities trading. Notice how I had to underline and bold the text? It’s because I really hate this career. I’m not going to say I truly hate this career or I hate this career from the bottom of my heart because that’s just another level of hatred that I don’t want to get into and I’ve realized that hate is a worthless but emotionally consuming endeavor. There are things one can legitimately hate but I think you should try to not hate your career especially if it puts food on the table and a roof over your head.
I have called getting into commodities trading the worst career decision I’ve ever made in my life. And as you saw in my very first post, I have often thought of what my life would have been had I just tried to become a professional baseball player. Of course, that’s an opportunity whose boat has sailed years ago but there are things in its place that I’ve replaced it with. But that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that commodities trading – for all its good, produces a whole lot of noteable bads. I get really amused when I see trading commercials for stock trading classes or gold investments because I know how misrepresented the realities of such things are. Foreign exchange (or Forex) is especially egregious because it’s so easy to get into and thus you can get hooked into it in a faster and worse way.
Disclaimer: I hate that they call it Forex. It sounds like for-sk-n to me. I can tell you that the act of trading in that market is as vile as the image that’s in your head now that I’ve made that comparison (ok, maybe trading the market isn’t thaaaat disgusting but I probably won’t be able to eat my steamed vegetables without dry heaving).
Ok, ok so back on hating commodities trading. Trading, as a whole, is speculating (read: guessing, gambling, etc.) on where the price of something is going to go in the all inclusive future. Do you know how hard that really is? To be able to do that correctly day in and day out? It is one of the hardest things to ever do. And the kicker here is that you are your only safety net. It’s your money that you put at risk. Any money you make is yours, for sure but any money you lose, that’s yours as well. I didn’t realize just how enormous of a responsibility this was until a few years into my career and I started to worry about things outside of regular car insurance, rent and travel money. In short, the worry of adult expenses and your overall financial state of being is amplified when you have to use your brain to get to the next day.
This is a horrible way to live.
Many of us – including myself – have secondary streams of income that (theoretically) should offset our yearly losses. All too often, however, that theoretical offsetting income is not enough or non-existent for the vast majority of traders. People say that they can live off of trading income and I agree, in some way that there are exceptions but for all the stress that goes into the business, the payout will never be enough unless you make it to that rarefied winner’s circle – the $1M+/yr club. I guess I’m only speaking for myself here but when I got into this business, I expected that at some point I’d be making that kind of money but I am so far off from that projection that I often find myself thinking of other career opportunities that I can pursue. Then I get on TV and see real-estate courses, and investment classes and then it’s a whole new beginning to an already stale cycle.
I’m actually getting kind of tired and I’m not sure if I’ll keep this train of thought up in another post but the bottom line is this: commodities trading, or price speculation is a really really dumb business. Your odds of succeeding here are almost about the same as getting discovered in Hollywood or transcending YouTube singing videos and becoming a full blown pop star (which is what I should have tried to do, what the hell was I thinking with this baseball player sh*t, lol). It happens, people get famous, people win the lottery…but it doesn’t happen all the time. In the grand scheme of things, that stuff is absolutely rare.
I say this a lot but I am very lucky. I’m not a smart person, I’m really not. In the grand scheme of things, I am a simpleton. I just happened to have been at the right places at the right times and that includes being with and being loved by my fiancée now. Even though she has a job, I would never ever expect her to work to make up for our financial needs. She is great in that she takes care of the groceries and other bills but I know that if we needed to rely on her to take care of stuff, things would feel constrained immediately and I know that she’s the type to soldier on without complaining. It is a rarity to have a spouse that will really stand with you when things get tough. I know that, in principle, that’s what it should be but in practical application this is rarely the case. And such is commodities trading. There is no other job that you can show up every day and the possibility of getting money taken away from you looms above you every second you are at the computer – actually Uber can sometimes do that to their drivers but I’m digressing. It’s like you work as a Starbucks barista and during the day for whatever reason, your manager just arbitrarily says “I’m taking away your earnings for the whole day – and you owe me money or else you can’t work tomorrow.” No rational person would ever work in a place like that.
So why did I do it?
Well, for the financial rewards. That’s the only reason anyone ever does anything relatively stupid and dangerous. While I reap what people would call a “good salary”, I always have to look over my shoulder and far beyond the horizon to see what can possibly come up and kick my legs out from under me. I could have become a plumber or a heating/cooling specialist. More importantly, I could have just foregone the whole making money pressure and just committed myself to a low paying job and eschewing “the good life”. The thing is, that’s just not me. I’ll never be like that and I have to accept that in the relationship of cause and effect, this was one of the few roads that would have appealed to me even if I didn’t know about it coming out of college.
I can’t believe it’s 1:45am. I don’t know if I’ve made my position about commodities trading as a career any clearer but I feel like I’ve probably driven home enough points to make someone considering this as a lifelong thing stop and re-examine things. There’s so many more sides to this issue than what I’ve written but you’ll find them across the scattered blogs of the internet – as well as government published studies. I’m not quite ready to go to sleep but I’m quite ready to shut the computer off. As a person, I want to reiterate that commodities trading has taught me a lot about life and about my own sense of self. It has given me the things that I enjoy around me. I am thankful that I found a career early on in my life that really appealed to me and that I was passionate about. Thus, I am thankful & grateful that I know what I’m doing. Moreover, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to trade the markets. I say this as a person.
But as a trader, this career – with all its glorification of excess and the shady people/situations that go with it – can go and eat cow sh*t.