Your A-Game and the Broker’s Pitch

There’s a threat to your A-game.

If you don’t have the proper mechanisms in place, it can get mixed up with your broker’s pitch.

Your broker, poor fellow, is only trying to make two ends meet. His or her salary is coupled to turnover. Therefore, his or her sales pitch is programmed to maximize turnover.

Turnover does not necessarily enhance a good A-game. It figures nowhere in the top three aspects of trading, i.e. entry, management and exit. Please don’t spend any more time thinking about turnover.

Tune out your broker. Just press mute on your trading system. Nowadays, this is easy. You can do this by trading online instead of through the phone.

Even while online, go straight to the trading platform instead of the tips section. Tune out your broker, man. He or she exists in electronic form too. Tune him or her out.

For a better A-game, decouple it from your broker’s pitch.

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Face-Off

Markets are about returns.

Just as many roads lead to Rome, so do multiple paths lead to returns.

The two basic approaches in this game are investing and trading. We are keeping things basic, and are not even going to talk about scalping, arbitrage etc. We are looking at paths taken by most players.

So who has got it better, the investor or the trader?

Markets have this characteristic of collapsing. Unless the investor has bought with a decent margin of safety, he or she can be sitting on a huge loss. This can lead to irritability, sleepless nights, ill-health and family problems. An investor needs to slay these demons before-hand. Allowed to grow, these demons can wreck havoc.

The nimble trader on the other hand treads lightly. Technicals alert him or her well before a collapse, and when the collapse comes, the trader is ideally already fully in cash. Such a trader has no professional reason for a sleepless night.

However, when the bulls roar, the investor’s entire portfolio adds to the roar, and very soon the investor is sitting on huge gains. The trader on the other hands builds up positions slowly, and might miss a large portion of the up-move during the staggered entry process. To be fair, the investor’s exposure (risk) has been large in comparison to the trader, and thus the reward in good times will be proportionately large too. Given a choice, I’d personally take the comfortable nights throughout the year.

Then there’s active and passive playing. Investing is a passive play. One doesn’t need to man one’s portfolio on a daily basis, and can focus on other things instead. Trading, on the other hand, is very much an active play, and needs to be attended to on a daily basis.

So, unless the investor likes action, this is a favourable scenario. Unfortunately, the majority of long-term investors mess up their long-term portfolios owing to the need for action.

Trading can lead to action overload. A bad day’s result can cause mood swings. The trader needs to be in control of emotional machinery and ready to withstand a pre-determined level of loss. Unfortunately, most traders fail badly in the emotional and stop-loss department. On the whole, I feel this particular round is won the by the investor. So, it’s 1 round each.

The last round in today’s discussion is about life-style. The bored investor can either use the spare time for constructive activities, which is a great scenario, or for useless ones, like surfing adult sites. The point I’m trying to make is that a bored investor is a prime candidate for sowing wild oats.

The sensible trader uses non-market hours to finish research for the next day and then to give the mind and body relaxation and rest. However, all the action makes most traders less sensible and more flambuoyant, and equally likely candidates for sowing wild-oats during non-market hours. I think this round is a tie.

So who’s got it better, the trader or the investor?

This is actually a trick question.

What’s the proper answer?

The answer is that YOU have got it better if you fit into the profile of a sensible trader or a balanced investor, and that YOU have got it bad if you fit into the profile of a reckless / flambuoyant trader or a bored and thus trigger-happy investor.

Both investing and trading are about YOU.

You need to see how good or bad YOU have it, and forget about the rest.

Street’s got the D-word

There seems to be an X-word in every avenue of life.

The Street has its own – the D-word.

It spells D-e-r-i-v-a-t-i-v-e-s.

Whatever reasons there are for a crisis to develop become secondary at the peak of the crisis, because derivatives take over. The crisis is driven to the nth level because of massive institutional leveraging in derivatives in the direction the crisis is unfolding. Recipe for disaster.

The human instinct is to maximize profit, irrespective of any consequences. When masses start shorting the stock of a company that’s already in trouble, its stock price can well go down to zero (and lead to bankruptcy), even if the company’s mistakes are not deserving of such a price / destiny.

Similarly, when masses start going long the futures of a company’s stock, the resulting stock price overshoots fair-value in a major way. Then come along some fools and buy the scrip at an extreme over-valuation. They are the ones that get hammered.

That’s the way this game has unfolded, time and again.

Does it need to be this way for you?

No.

Firstly, as a long-term investor, don’t buy into over-valuation. Make this a thumb rule. Control your animal instinct that wants a piece of the action. Leave the action to the traders. You need to buy into under-valuation. Period.

Unfortunately, most long-term investors (myself included) miss action. Then they fool around with their long-term holdings to get some, and in the process mess up their big game.

The animal instinct in the long-term investor can be channelized and thus harnessed. One way to get action is to play the D-game. Of course with rules. The benefit can be huge. Action focuses elsewhere and doesn’t mess up your big game.

So, play the D-game if you wish, but play it small.

Secondly, be aware that you’re only doing this to take care of the action-instinct. Any profits are a bonus.

Thirdly, keep the D-game cordoned off from long-term investment strategies. No mixing, even on a sub-conscious level.

Then, take stop-losses. DO NOT ignore them.

Also, when anything is disturbing you, DO NOT play the D-game. It DOES NOT matter if you are out of the D-game for months. Remember, this is your small game. What matters is your big game.

Categorically DO NOT listen to tips.

If you are down a pre-defined level within a month, press STOP for the rest of the month.

Make your own rules for yourself. To give you some kind of a guide-line, I’ve listed some of mine above.

A D-game played with proper rules can even yield bombastic profits. 95% lose the D-game. 5% win. Derivatives are a zero-sum play-out. 5% of all players cash in on the losings of the other 95%.

So, play in a manner that you belong to the winning 5%.