Saturday, October 24, 2009

How stubborn can you be?

"Life is a gift of nature; but beautiful living is the gift of wisdom" - Greek Adage

I was away last weekend to KL, Malaysia to attend my wife's cousin's wedding dinner, and didn't have the time to update this weekly blog. I drove up with my wife's family in a 5 vehicle convoy and stayed in a hotel in Mid Valley before returning on Monday.

Can't imagine myself shopping and walking the whole Sunday inside such a huge shopping complex in Malaysia! I felt safe inside, that's my utmost concern for my family after hearing so much about daylight robberies and snatch theft on motorbikes.

The drive was smooth both ways without any police block for speeding, what a relief! Many times in the past, I needed to put 2 M$50/- bill in my passport for the traffic police to settle the case after some bargaining. Extra income for these law enforcers! I could see the greed in their eyes and the radiant smile on their faces when they returned the passport back to me and urged me to drive carefully.

My cousin joined me this month as a full time trader after more than 10 years in the electronic sector. He spoke to me in January about having not much prospect in his job, frustration and contemplating switching career to be a trader. As usual,I encouraged him to go for it, giving himself a chance, an opportunity in his life and to prove his critics wrong.

I lent him all my trading books so that he could prepare himself with some knowledge of the challenges ahead. I'm not sure whether he had completed them. He cleared some leave to watch and learn how I traded, so simple, so easy!

He planned and prepared himself mentally for 9 months. Full of confidence that he could make money from the word go. Of course, the result turned out the other way round, as what I would have expected.

My brother, a former floor trader joined me last July after my success in switching to electronic trading. The most intelligent in my family, I thought it would be easy meat for him as he traded the Forex after the floor closed.

Robert and I taught him our strategies in trading Index futures which I would say is rather different from the interest rate futures he traded on the floor. Nevertheless, with his background and knowledge, I didn't think it should be a big problem for him since we were there to guide him.

I was damn wrong as the months went, his account depreciated slowly, at least he knew some form of money management. In my opinion, he was not disciplined and a bit lazy. My parents were concerned and I was worried for him.

He did not lose money in trading, it's the expenses that were killing him, the booth fee and the trading platform fee. He couldn't make enough profit to cover those expenses. And, how about living expenses?

So, what went wrong?

Whenever I glanced and looked at his position, I knew whether he was making money or holding on to some bad position. He was surprised. I told him that with my experience and understanding of his trading style, looking at the number of position he was holding indicate he was in deep shit and fighting the market.

"I told you to cut your losses when wrong and don't average on bad trades, why are you doing it again and again, I told you a hundred times, a thousand times, yet you are still doing it.", seems a little bit harsh and exaggerated, painful for me but meant good for him.

"What can you to do if you can't make it as a trader? Taxi driver? Hawker?"

I thought he would not make it, but he really is a fighter, sold his house, cleared his debts, got more screens and continued to struggle on. I could see the will power and determination in him to succeed. He had not many choices.

How stubborn you want to be? Until it is very painful before we learn not to be stubborn, admit our mistakes, take the losses and move on, the market is there everyday for us!

After more than a year of trading, I can see my brother making a u-turn and start to have positive cash flow recently and very consistent profit everyday. He now speaks with confidence. He has finally overcome his own obstacle and finding his edge in trading. I am really happy for him.

Being stubborn does not pay. I am ashamed to admit my own stubbornness too, holding on to my Topix/Nikkei spread. I have been influenced by my Guru not to cut the losses, holding on to it together and fight on with bruises all over the body. This is not my normal trading style. Though I can afford the losses, it's just not worth it.

It's a wake up call.

I have a friend who once worked for a fund management firm, he told me there were 7 staff, 2 admins, 2 traders and 3 compliance officers to make sure the 2 traders toe the line for every trade. Stop losses will be executed without fail to ensure traders stick to the rules with eyes like a hawk, watching over their every move. I suppose they didn't want another Nick Leeson to appear here again in Singapore.

That's how discipline is being enforced, no room for complacency.

Did not trade much for the past 2 weeks for this special account. Still holding 4 Topix/Nikkei spread and losses to date is S$2,031.00. What a disaster! Need a lot of soul searching.

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