Grandpa’s Dangerous New Hobby

Grandpa started a new hobby this year and I think it might just kill me.  Before I tell you about it, a little background is in order.

Staying Active in Retirement

In 2019, after two very fun and challenging careers, I retired. It was a little early (age 63), but with very little debt, two pensions, a 401K nest egg and Social Security, money was not a worry. I was, however, worried about what to do with myself. I’d watched what retirement did to my father and was determined that I was not going to let inactivity and lack of purpose do the same to me.

I had a list of honey-do’s, my family, my garden and my Church calling, but I thought I needed more. I launched into a degree program at Utah State University, thinking I might tackle a third career teaching history. (I loved the learning, but after two semesters, changed my mind.) and has fun — bogging about grandpa-type things. We took a nice vacation back up to Washington and came home to a volunteer Scouting job and Debra’s idea of fun – remodeling.

Looking back, it looks like I had plenty to do and should have as happy as the proverbial bug in a rug.  

Adventures in Apoplexy

But then, I came up with either a really smart or really dumb idea; I haven’t decided which. 

Earlier this year, I heard an ad on the radio about learning to day trade. It sounded fun and was something I’d always wanted to try, so I checked into it and found it promising. I invested in the program and spent the next four months in intensive training. In June, I started trading real money in real markets and that’s when the real “fun” began.

All through the training, teachers and coaches warned us about handling our emotions. They shared stories, some very personal, about bouts of self-loathing, emotional binge trading, blowing huge amounts of money and entire accounts. I struggled with my feelings a bit in the “play money” phase, but thought” “I am a level-headed, reasonable guy.  I’ll do fine.”

Oh my heck! (As they say in Utah County.) I couldn’t have been more wrong!

I have spent the last two and half months riding the Crazy-Trader-Express roller coaster.  It started the day I started trading real money in real markets. A series of losses can send me into a pit of hopelessness. A series of wins can make me feel invincible.

There are plenty of positive emotions involved. I’ve felt love, courage, generosity and satisfaction.

But the most powerful (and expensive) emotions are negative. I’ve felt anger, fear, greed and self-hatred. There are times when I look back at my trading journal and wonder where I was when all of this was happening. I see comments like ‘GREED”, “Revenge”, “Accident” and “Demonic Possession”.  

When this all started happening to me, I asked Debra, “have you ever thought of me as such an emotional person?’ She was too dumbfounded to answer and just gawked at me as if I were speaking Martian. I guess that it’s no secret to everybody (but me) that I know I am a very emotional person.  

Why Don’t You Just Quit?

You might be tempted to ask, “if this is so emotionally taxing why don’t you just quit?”

The truth is that I LOVE IT!  Honesty, it’s addictive! Even after a terrible day (or week), I can’t wait to get back to the market and trade. But more than that, it is a great challenge. I am learning to control impulses, urges, stay the course and not quit.   

I have a picture of Mr. Spock on my desk flashing the Vulcan greeting. He’s there to remind me that, while I trade, I want to be him. And, you know what?  I think it might be working.

There are days when I am so proud of myself for doing nothing – meaning I fought the temptation to take emotional trades.  And it doesn’t matter if they would have gone on to win or lose, the victory is in controlling the emotion.

So, if you hear that I died in the near future, it might be a good guess that I suffered a stroke during a bad trading day.  But I don’t think you will. 

I think I will live long and prosper.

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