LB and I have just wrapped up the final in our series on full time trading. For the most part they have been enjoyable except for one twat who complained that it was unprofessional of LB to not present when she was suffering from severe laryngitis. Presenting for the first time in years is an interesting thing as the expectations of those you present to also change over time. This particular series could be summarised as all the mistakes I have made in trading and the solutions I have found such as they are. One of the things I have learnt over the past few decades is that there is no magic. Trading is a grinding profession where your central tenet is not to go broke waiting for the next big move. I think in part some attendees were waiting for the magic. That point in the seminar where you do a grand reveal of your magic strategy that never has a losing trade which means you can quit your job tomorrow and start trading full time with nothing other than a credit card because CFD providers will now in their wisdom allow you to fund your account with credit and earn frequent flyer points.
Regrettably the field of investing has been tainted by endless shonks who have polluted the thinking of people before they even set foot in the market. Before writing this piece, I Googled trading bitcoin for a living and got 35,900,000 returns. Certainly not all of them relate to trading bitcoin or any other crypto full time but if even 10% do then then that’s a staggering 3.5 million sites promising people that they can give up their day job and start trading overnight.
The central theme of these sorts of sites and it is not limited to cryptos is that you can trade full time with very limited capital. And you can do this because you will never have a losing trade. Your equity curve will be a linear trajectory that soars from the bottom left hand corner of the chart to infinity without ever breaking stride. I can understand why this sort of thing has permeated the thinking of new traders.
Whilst this sounds seductive it ignores many of the key realities of trading the foremost of which is that trading does not produce linear returns. We encounter a feature of equity curves called drawdown. All trading systems generate drawdowns – in a very general sense if you are a trend following you expect to have a drawdown of between 15% to 25% once per year. As an example, consider the equity curve below.
This is the equity curve of Dunn Capital a money manager that uses trend following as its basic tool. You see decades of outperformance punctuated by drawdowns. There is an inviolate relationship between performance and drawdown, if you are swinging fr the fences you need to expect to be struck out a lot. Irrespective of the trading system drawdown is a fact of life for traders – it can only be avoided by not trading. If someone tells you that their equity curve never draws down, then they are a liar. It really is that simple.
The implication for those seeking to trade full time is that your first drawdown will coincide with your move to full time trading. This is a natural feature of systems, they cut their losses and then let their profits run. There is a timing dislocation between these two events that results in the account value immediately slipping. The problem is that this occurs at a time when you are most economically and emotionally vulnerable, it is also a problem because most new traders are undercapitalised. They simply don’t have enough money because they have not thought their transitions through and they may or may not have been infected by the thinking that you can give up your day job and earn 100k a year on a bank of 50k. It is at this point in a seminar that I can see how people begin to sag because it begins to dawn on them that they need much more than think to survive as a trader.
However, I think they are missing the bigger picture since the move to full time trading does not have to be an all-in proposition. The move can occur gradually over time as your capital grows and you acquire more skill. And along the way your life begins to change in small but incremental amounts. You may even reach a point where you stop believe in magic and start believing in your own ability to slowly and inexorably change your own life.