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The Trading Teacher
When I studied the principles of investing in university, I was taught that the price of a share reflected the value of the company. With fundamental analysis, there are many methods on how one can analyse the financial statements of companies to find out whether a share is a good or a bad investment. You can conduct horizontal and vertical analyses on standardised financial statements, which are just fancy terms for comparing numbers. You can calculate certain financial ratios to get a better understanding of a company’s liquidity, working capital management, its ability to remain in business over the long term, and its profitability. I applied these concepts when I started trading the stock market. Soon I found that if I wanted to trade shares in a timeframe of less than three months, decisions based on these analyses were not useful.
I did not want to buy shares only to receive dividends. I wanted to trade for capital gains. I was dissatisfied with my knowledge, the tools and the methods that I had to trade the markets. With my desire to trade a timeframe shorter than three months and my strengthening belief that emotions greatly impact on trading, I began to search for different approaches to buying and selling shares. I went back to one of my textbooks in university.
I wanted to know how else I could analyse the markets. From the passage I read, I learned that one can analyse the markets in one of two ways: fundamental analysis and technical analysis. I bumped into a newspaper ad one day for a trading seminar. While reading through the ad I saw the words: technical analysis. An expert trader was going to speak on the exact topic I was interested in learning. It was a free seminar and everybody was welcome to come along. So I called a friend of mine and I asked if he would be interested in attending this trading seminar. He was. The seminar was organised by a business selling trading courses: courses to instruct people on how to trade the share market. When we arrived, we were led into a small room.
There were about thirty people. The spokesman was apparently a veteran trader who wrote two books on trading. Let’s call him Bauer for the purpose of this article. Bauer had a very strong presence. He was a huge, tall man with a clean-shaven head. I was on the front row seat trying to listen and understand every word this man said. It was his teachings that planted the seeds of how I eventually grew as a trader over the years. Many times, I heard his voice in my head, reminding me of the lessons I learnt from his books and the lessons I learnt from him that day. I will try to enumerate the lessons I learnt from this man to help you the way they helped me. This man had my attention from the very beginning.
“The share market is a game where people try to steal money from other people. That is the objective of the game and it is legal”, he began. I wondered what the professionals in Wall Street would have thought about that statement if they heard it. I smiled. I liked him already. He continued: “If you are going to join this game, you are essentially given permission to steal money from other people and in exchange, you are okay with them stealing your money also. Some of the brightest people in the world will be playing with you. Therefore, if you are going to war and fight an army with real weapons, you better make sure you do not go there with a plastic gun.” He said that people rush to the markets to lose their money. It sounded laughable but I guess it was the only conclusion one can draw from the fact that most people begin trading without sufficiently preparing and educating themselves.
Of course, most of us do not put on a trade with the hope of losing our money; however, that is what we are effectively doing when we trade without adequate preparation. “They just cannot wait to lose their money. They do not bother learning about the market first. They think it is easy. Most people know that they need training before they can fly a plane or perform surgery, but I do not know why they think it is easy to make money trading”, he exclaimed. He was quite emotional about it. “Trading is hard”, he declared. Only about 5% of people know how to trade profitably. And so the probability of finding someone else who knows what they are doing is very, very small.
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