It is going to be 50 degrees here tomorrow and then snow on Friday. About a foot of snow. Unreal.
Handling Your Own Financial Future
It occurred to me this past weekend that I have never really discussed how to get into trading or investing on this blog. I think there are twp major reasons for that. One, I figured most that stop in here already had their stuff together. Two, it's not my place to offer that kind of advice.
That said, I figured a quick little big picture post may have some use for anyone wanting to take part in their financial future instead of handing money off to funds and managers to handle. There is nothing wrong with that of course, and this post is in no way is advice to pull all your capital and go crazy in the markets. As of late quite a few people have asked me how to best start handling their own finances, so here is my run down.
I am sure this topic has been covered a million times elsewhere, so forgive me if this is all boring.
1. How Much Capital Are You Willing to Risk
It all starts here. You have to be 100% honest with yourself right from the start on a dollar amount you are comfortable putting at risk. This is the big step and the most important. If you are using rent money or this week's grocery cash to start investing, it will not work out and you will have zero fun. On the flip side, opening a trading account with $100 is going to limit your ability to do very much. All investment is risk, a form of gambling that is legal. Every time you put on a position you are risking it all (in a sense).
2. What Kind of Investor Are You
The type of trader you want to be is the next step. If you work 50 hours a week or more at a real job, daytrading will probably not work out and maybe will get you fired. Are you the type that likes to play long term macro plays which form and move over months or would you like to focus more on a weekly look? Maybe you work in a field that interests you and you can focus there as you already have some knowledge in the arena. You need to decide how the bulk of your positioning is going to be.
After steps 1 and 2, now you have to read. Books are ok, but the real pulse of the markets and economy can be found on the blogosphere. The MUST READ column at the left on this site is a good place to start, then fill it out with sites you find that add value. While in no way to you have to read everything at all times, you need to understand current dynamics and how things flow.
4. What Kind of Trigger Will You Use
There are just too many ways to pick an idea to try to cover here. I have always used simple candle stick charts with a few indicators added for most of my ideas. A cool screening tool like The PPT can add real time saving value after you get to know it. There are a million services out there to choose from but many are not worth the time. You will have to decide under what triggers you are going to open a position.
(Note: No affiliation with The PPT; I am a subscriber)
5. Test Run
No one should ever jump right in and put capital at risk. Luckily you can test your ideas out first. FreeStockCharts is a service that allows you to book a portfolio and then track performance. The basic package will only cost you an email sign up. Using your system trigger start "trading" by selecting stocks for a portfolio. Monitor them as a test environment. At this point you may see your trigger system is either not working at all or you are not using it right. You may find that you are just really unlucky and need never trade in real life. You may find you cannot lose. In any case, play with play money first so you know what to expect. To go to the next level, set up the virtual account the same way you will set up your real account. Then test some more.
6. Start Small
After the 5 steps above, it's time to get to work. I would assume you have a trading service at this point (there are quite a few, shop around). In step 1 you decided on an amount to fund your account with. Divide that number by 3 and transfer the cash to your account. The 30% is arbitrary, but you should start in at that area. I think this is the best way to open activity and keep fear levels down at the start.
7. Notes and Honesty
The first month you will need to make notes about what you are doing. I am old school and use a leather planner to write down my ideas and trades. You new age folks can use some kind if electronic notebook or just post all your trades on Facebook (kidding!). Keep detailed notes about everything; what you were looking at, how you felt about a position, where you are going to sell if you are up, and where if you are down. The biggest thing to stick to here is to be honest. You may be tempted to delete or forget bad ideas or trades that went south to pretend it did not happen. This will not help you out at all and is the single biggest money loser I see among the small type traders I know in real life.
After 3 months, how are you doing? All things being equal (a normal market, no major sell off or monster moves up), how do you stack up? Again, be honest. While nothing is certain, if you have studied and tested your system you should be performing within the limits of your test results. At this point it is decision time.
9. Commit or Quit
If you had huge losses after three months you need to go back to step one and try again using another angle. This will restart the entire process. It is a huge commitment. While there are a million ways things can go wrong, if your system is not working out you need to stop and not put the other 70-80% of your money into this. What would be a loss figure to decide this on? I think if you are down 30% in 3 months you need to rethink the whole thing.
If you came out even, slightly up, or really up (one can hope!) you need to decide right now how much time to commit to this. You will know how much effort it took by now to get to this point, can you keep it up? Will you do homework and try to get better? Again, be honest. If you are happy with how things went, go ahead and deploy your target amount in step 1 to your account.
Not quite 10 steps.
I hope this helps anyone that is in this position.
Any real Star Wars fan knows that a lightsaber is constructed by a force user in a dedicated way that uses the Force to align the crystals in the handle to form the blade. Still, this video is really cool. A steel factory has a backup of molten steel and it looks really wild (hat tip Geekologie):
Have a good night.