“I’m just going to say one word…plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.” Quote from the movie, The Graduate
As any full time trader knows or as any new trader will soon discover, there will come a time when you will be asked what you do for a living. I wish it were as easy as stating the word “plastics”, but it isn’t. So, what should a full time trader say? How should we describe what we do day in and day out in the most competitive market place in the world? I may have the key to this perplexing question. Before giving it away, let’s take a look at various times when I tried to explain what I do (all true stories, well close enough).
Location: Ski chair lift at 10am on a normal weekday
- Stranger: “So, are you on holiday or do you work on the mountain?”
- Me: “No, I’m a trader.” After seeing a blank look, I respond: “I trade the markets…the stock market”
- Stranger: “Oh. So, you are like Kramer from the show Seinfeld? No one knows what he does. Now that I think about it, I don’t think he did anything.”
- Me: “It’s something like that.”
Learning takeaway: None
Location: Immigration Officer when entering the US
- Officer: “What do you do for a living?”
- Me: “I’m a trader. An options trader / derivatives trader to be specific.”
- Officer: “Options Trader? Derivatives?” He said in a disapproving tone while typing into his computer.
- Me: Trying to stick up for my fellow traders, “It can actually be less risky to trade options than going with a mutual fund.”
- Officer: “Hmm…sounds like gambling to me. Good luck and welcome home.”
Learning takeaway: None, but no glove. So, that was positive.
Location: Rotary club
- Fellow Rotary Member who is an Investment Advisor at a large bank: “So, John, what do you do for a living?”
- Me: Sensing that I had finally found someone who would truly get it, “I’m a trader. I trade the markets especially the options market. I used to sell premium on high liquid underlyings with high implied volatility, but I now prefer to utilize an unique butterfly strategy on the RUT.”
- Bank Rep: Blank look
Learning takeaway: Don’t use an Investment Advisor
Location: Christmas party
- Uncle Bob: “Johnny Boy, how’s the market? Got any hot tips!?”
- Me: “Uncle Bob, to be honest, a drunk dart throwing monkey could pick stocks better than me.”
- Uncle Bob: Disappointed look
- Me: “I make money when the market trades in a range.”
- Uncle Bob: Disappointed look
- Me: “Buy apple.”
- Uncle Bob: Happy look
Learning takeaway: Keep Uncle Bob away from the egg nog.
Location: High school reunion
- The gist from several conversations with some old classmates who became CFAs, CPAs and MBAs: “John, what do you do for a living?”
- Me: “I trade options.”
- The common reaction: “You wild man! That’s some scary stuff. Nice!”
- Me: Grinning ear to ear, “Well, yeah. That’s me!”
Learning takeaway: Milk it when you can!
Location: My kid’s 2nd grade class
- Teacher: “Class let’s welcome Emma’s dad, Mr. Wilson. Wilson will talk a little about what he does for a living.”
- Me: “Hi class. I’m really excited to be here. What do I do for a living? Well, I’m a trader. That means I like to buy and sell things in the stock market. I try to buy low and sell high.”
- Class: Blank look
- Teacher: Getting a little anxious
- Emma: With a look of “oh brother, not again.”
- Me: “Well, I…I don’t have to stare at my computer all day since I have a cool strategy that allows me to go and ski when I please.”
- Class: Eyes start to widen and a look of excitement sets in.
- One kid: “You can ski all day whenever you want! Emma, your dad is awesome!”
- Me: “Well, kind of like that” Then deciding to go with it. “Yeah, that’s right. You see being a trader is a good thing to be. You can set your own schedule and do what you want to do.”
- Teacher: Skeptical look.
Learning takeaway: Always emphasize the positives. Your kid will thank you for it.
The gist of our conversation in my best French as possible:
- Mother-in-law: “John, I hear you changed professions. What is it you do again?”
- Me: “I’m like a stock broker, but I trade our family money. I play the markets so to speak.”
- Mother-in-law: With a look of oh dear, my poor daughter: “So, you are a gambler?”
- Me: “No, no. I’m a strategic investor. By doing this I have more time to spend with your daughter and the kids.”
- Mother-in-law: Looking more relaxed, “So, you can visit us more often?”
- Me: “Quoi?”
Learning takeaway: Be careful with the positives.
So, after all that, what have I learned as being a trader? No one really knows what we do or at least can relate to it. I guess that’s worth living with versus saying I work in the plastics industry. On another note, I wonder what ever happened to Mrs. Robinson?
Written and contributed by John Wilson