Sunday, March 15, 2015

Best Practices in Trading: Balancing Your Job With Your Trading Career

What if you want to develop yourself as a trader, but you need to bring in income right here, right now?  In that case, you may very well work a day job while you learn the ropes as a trader.  Balancing your job with your hoped-for career can be a challenge, but it can be done.  

Today's best practice comes from Sam Awad, who describes--tongue firmly in cheek--some of the strategies that help traders who have to make ends meet from 9 to 5:

"In my mind, the real unsung heroes of the trading world are people like me:  people who love markets, are invigorated by the intellectual pursuit of extracting money from the market; people who are willing to put up their hard earned capital against Ivy Leaguers, former Division 1 athletes, Ph.D. mathematicians and computer scientists; and who are just nutty enough to do it--while at work.

That's right.  We're the guys who work 8 hours a day, every day.  And when do those 8 hours occur every day?  Oh yeah, at the exact same time as market hours.  And yet for the love of the game and the dream of a new, free life, we persevere...Over the years, I've become an expert at this.  I have faded liquidity spikes while yawning through Monday morning meetings; navigated Fed speeches and pylons during fork lift training; caught a lucky bounce off a morning support level during a conference call; and given it all back rolling the dice on Non-Farms on casual Friday.

Through it all, I've compiled quite a few methods by which to achieve Trading at Work mastery:

1)   Negotiate an earlier starting time:  arriving at work before your co-workers may seem like an opportune time to work on company work, since you will spend the rest of the day trading, but really you'll use this time to research and generate your day's trading ideas;

2)  Volunteer for special projects:  this is the best way to ensure you always have an excuse for not getting day to day work done, and you look like a hero volunteering.  What do you do when those special projects come due?  Don't concern yourself with that right now.  When that day comes let Future You curse Present-Day, Money-Making You.  It'll be worth it.

3)  And this is the piece de resistance.  If at all possible, find a software program that looks similar to your trading platform.  It could be software that charts productivity analytics, or sales, or in my case, temperature and humidity monitoring.  Just get everyone in your office used to seeing those nice red and blue bars on your monitor and boom!  You've just bought yourself valuable screen time!

Sam's advice may not work well for job longevity, but it captures a challenge that many people face when they are first learning how to trade.  When I began trading regularly, I was teaching and running a student counseling program at a medical school.  Fortunately, students were engaged in courses during morning hours, which allowed me to follow markets early in the trading day.  I developed a trading approach that only traded opening setups.  To this day, if I trade intraday, my feel is best at and near the market open.

This, however, is where simulated trading and the ability to replay the market day can be extremely useful.  Once I finished work, I could practice trading with real prices and gain a feel for markets without jeopardizing my work during the day, which I loved.  I was also able to use evening hours to print and review charts, observe market patterns, and learn valuable lessons that have stuck with me to this day.  My current work extends from early in the morning to evenings, which has prodded me to learn to trade longer time frames.

Creatively integrating the work you do to bring in a paycheck with the work you do to learn markets is a best practice.  If you're creative, there are ways of having your cake and eating it too!

Further Reading:  Living the Purposeful Life