I came across this excellent chart the other day. It shows those times in history when the S&P 500 doubled over a ten year period and the trajectory that this doubling took.
Source – @morganhousel
Much commentary that followed on twitter related to the steady low volatility climb that characterised the latest run and how boring this was. One of the interesting thing about markets and money in general is that people betray their true desires and personality. Markets are the true window into the soul and in this instance what traders were actually saying is that they wanted to be entertained and not rich. The constant current moaning about the lack of volatility is little more than the plaintiff cries of children who bedevil their parents every school holidays with cries of …I’m bored.
This lay observation tallies with what others have found. The seminal work in this field of trader immaturity is An Analysis of the Profiles and Motivations of Habitual Commodity Speculators by W.B. Canoles, S.R. Thompson, S.H. Irwin, and V.G. France. I have summarised their findings below and have added my own emphasis.
“The typical trader assumes a good deal of risk in most phases of his life. He is both an aggressive investor and an active gambler.
[He] does not consider preservation of capital to be a very high trading priority.
As a result, he rarely uses stop loss orders. He wins more frequently than he loses (over 51% of the time) but is an overall net loser in dollar terms. In spite of recurring trading losses, he has never made any substantial change in his basic trading style.
To this trader, whether he won or lost on a particular trade is more important than the size of the win or loss. Thus he consistently cuts his profits short while letting his losses run.
He also worries more about missing a move in the market by being on the sidelines than about losing by being on the wrong side of a market move; i.e., being in the action is more important than the financial consequences.
Participating brokers confirmed that for the majority of the speculators studied, the primary motivation for continuous trading is the recreational utility derived largely from having a market position.
Numerous indications in our survey indicate that they are not trading solely or even primarily for profit, but may be maximizing excitement or the number of winning trades.”
So we come back to the original question. Do you want to rich or be entertained as the choice is entirely yours.