Too old to trade?

When a commenter leaves an email address at the end of their comment it usually means they want to have a conversation through email. In that case I prevent the comment from being published so that the email address is not shown on my website but I do answer the commenter with an email. Anyone is welcome to leave their email address and I will answer them as soon as I can.

This particular commenter wanted some advice on trading and as I think the advice would be useful to others I will show a summary of the question and my answer with additional comments whilst withholding the questioner's details.

The poster asked

I'm just turned 60 and have been banging my head against the very expensive trading wall for over 2 years now. I'm at the stage where I don't know who to trust (sad to say, present company included!). But, as they say, 'You have to trust someone!'.

I have two beliefs in life. 1/ If it sounds too good to be true it most likely is. and 2/ If you've found the answer to life, the universe and untold riches - why would you want to tell me?!

At my age, I don't have the time left to put in 20 years of research and data collection to build my future. I don't want to retire and live a multi-million pound lifestyle, but I am keen to try to earn a decent living for myself and my partner in the the time I have left!

With the above in mind, I'd really value your opinion as to the best way to begin/restart my trading, in order to perhaps make that possible?

I don't want an AtoZ of how to trade, just a couple of pointers in the right direction would be great and most welcome.

How was I to answer such a question, point them in the direction of my books and leave it at that? I wonder what the software/course vendors would have said? "Try using a larger typeface with my software", "Try my video pack with subtitles for the hard of hearing" or "Try a silver surfers trading course with tea and biscuits and a free ear trumpet for all delegates!" I must point out to Cassini that the silver surfer course is now full.

My answer made no reference to my books. Instead, I was brutally honest. "Stop trading immediately," I wrote. If you haven't the time or patience to learn how to trade properly then you will probably end up trying to take short-cuts that don't exist and lose more money.

In summary my answer is to avoid taking excessive risk as retirement approaches. I am over fifty years of age and my risk profile has changed over the years. From aggressive derivatives trading and poker playing in my twenties and early thirties to today's more sedate level of investment, including peer to peer lending and a decreased level of trading based solely on algo-trading where any human frailties are avoided.

When you are young you can take on more risk because you have time to make mistakes and correct them. And I made plenty of mistakes at an early age. Lose all your money at the age of 60 and it is unlikely that you are going to get it all back. That is why the amount of risk I take on today has decreased and the resultant return is less than it once was.

It must be depressing for anyone seeing bank interest rates at close to zero, knowing that they won't be able to work in a few years time and may only have savings and a state pension to keep them going. But it is a fact of life that most of us will not reach the level of success we would like to attain. We must be satisfied with what life has given us otherwise we run the risk of losing our wealth by gambling it away.

The best way you can make risk free money is to spend less. Saving is the best way of making money. By desiring less and spending less life becomes more affordable and what wealth you have becomes more valuable. You may buy a brand new high-performance car but be unable to run it because the tax, insurance and fuel bill is too much. Buy a secondhand fuel efficient car and you will have money to spare. Better still, do without a car.

If you have children and they have left home then do you really need such a large house? Do you need all that you have accumulated over the years? I downsized about ten years ago and my belongings - with the exception of my car - can comfortably fit into a small bedroom.

Sports markets are becoming ever more efficient due to increased computing power crunching every item of fundamental data such that finding an edge amongst past performance data is very difficult. Large syndicates cover every opportunity where edge may be had, with operatives at sports events relaying truly live data. Can anyone, at any age, keep up with that?

I didn't get into sports trading from the usual entry point, the desire to make money. Originally, I was a computational finance researcher who worked in The City. After redundancy I decided not to allow my knowledge go to waste but to apply it to sports trading with the hope of educating others of the pitfalls.

There are no "few pointers" when it comes to trading, just a lot of maths, a lot of data and a lot of time spent using the one to investigate the other. Add a lot of lateral thinking and thinking out of the box and you might surface again with a few pearls. Then again, you might not. Contrary to what some might say, not everyone is going to make money from trading and most don't.

Nobody is too old to trade so long as they still have their faculties. In later life, manual trading will get harder as reactions slow down and so it is advisable to turn to algo-trading and permit a computer to make trades on your behalf.

Learning does get harder as you get older. The mind is less plastic and less able to learn new concepts, especially if they are completely knew. I understand the mathematics of markets and trading on them so I can understand new research. Starting from scratch at my age would be a lot harder.

The questioner thanked me for my response and stated that they will continue with sports trading as a hobby. By that I hope they mean they will reduce their outlay such that they are not banging their head against the very expensive trading wall. At an age where retirement is not far off expenses are everything.

4 comments:

  1. It's nice to hear an honest man, I repeat again that there are few blogs like this, thanks James.

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  2. Quite a sad tale that, James, and not too dissimilar to my own predicament. However, my question is not about age, but more aimed at when should one just give up? Having spent 3 years and seemingly every waking hour working on 'sports trading' (mainly pre-race horses with a dash of football), I've got to the point where something has to give. I bought all the 'guides', studied the youtube videos endlessly, devoured every trading blog and tweet from the 'pros' and it's all been a colossal waste of (precious) time. Having give so much it's hard to just walk away but I find myself becoming increasingly cynical and bitter. The likes of Webb and Caan used to inspire me, but now just immensely irritate me. They'll refer to punters as 'mugs'- like trading is far superior - but in reality, losing pre-race traders like myself are the ultimate mugs as we fund their lifestyles. I'd rather lose to a bookie. Anyway, sorry for the rant! The question is: How long is too long? Great blog btw - best out there.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment P T.

      In actual fact, one of the drafts that I have yet to publish is called, "When does a beginner become a mug punter?"

      I couldn't think of a better title. At least it is to the point. As you have brought the subject up it will make a good follow up to this article. Expect it to be published over the weekend.

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  3. Wise words, James and a refreshingly different view from the usual tripe that is endlessly peddled from more mainstream outlets.

    Having very s l o w l y made the switch from manual to automatic, I simply ask, "where is the future for manual traders/punters?"

    Saying that, my personal switch is not as efficient as it should be. Its a never ending battle this beating the market game ...

    Both books are well worth the read and there's plenty to ponder on in them, particularly for those able to code.

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