So You Want To Trade For A Living: An Introduction

“How much money can I reasonably expect to make from trading full-time?”

“Do you know anyone who is making a living trading full-time?”

“Who do you know that I can talk to that can prove that they are making money trading full-time?”

These were the questions I was being peppered with on two separate, successive phone calls recently.  One was from a gentleman whose day job was in financial services, but had been trading part-time for thirteen years.  He was tired of the “rat race” as he put it and was working up the nerve to follow his dream and trade for a living full-time.

The other was from a young man who called me asking a question regarding real estate, having thought I was an active agent (I have a license but have never used it), and once realizing his mistake, inquired as to what in fact I did do.  I was tempted to give my pat answer, “I work in an ice cream shop,” but his voice sounded very sincere and enthusiastic and I decided that I would divulge the truth.

The first question I asked myself after I put the phone down was, “why don’t more (hot) women call me about trading?” but I digress…

The second thing that came to mind was how peculiar it was that two different people, at opposite ends of age, career, and experience were both asking essentially the same questions.  There was a difference in the tone of the questions; the first caller inquiring with an uneasy insistence, a slight quality of desperation in his voice, and the second, greener of the two, with a lively and somewhat naive curiosity.  But the questions were the same.

Out of the all the questions I get asked in bars or airports,  meet-ups or seminars, on social media or at social gatherings, the most frequent one is some derivation of the ones these two callers asked, in essence, “Is it possible for me to trade for a living?”  I have spent a lot of time thinking about the answers to this question, and not in an abstract sense.  I am very familiar with the pros and cons and potential pitfalls of this endeavor.  After selling my company in early 2005 I spent nearly four years doing just that, trading for a living, until I stopped in order to co-found Ditto Trade.

Trading for a living is the ultimate fantasy for anybody who has ever invested their own money in the market; it’s the musician’s version of being a rock star, the scribe’s version of being a best seller, bringing with it the potential financial freedoms of both, the difference with trading is that your success is not determined by the fickle tastes of your fan base; it is all within your power.

Perhaps the allure is best summed up by something Eric Bolling wrote a few years back in a piece entitled The Benefits of Trading….

I am lucky to have spent a career trading so that I can find the busy market and trade it. I can trade from my office, my beach house and even my car. I don’t have to be in Manhattan to work.

I can trade from Miami, Spain or wherever the phone and Internet work. It is a gift given to me and I appreciate it every day. I respect it and that keeps me a viable trader.

That is the reason it is so important to be able to trade. Look, I am no smarter than most of you readers. I just made the decision to learn how to trade and just do it.

Sure there are bumps in the road and the trading landscape changes daily. But with diligent homework, a desire to make it work and a definitive fear of losing, almost anyone can make a career out of trading — anyone with the discipline to cut a losing trade that is.

My goal in this series is to inform you of what I know and what I lived, what I did right and what I did terribly wrong, so that you can, with complete lucidity and of your own volition, decide if taking this step is right for you.  I am approaching it from the point of view of a retail trader, which is what I, and what most of the people who read this blog are. That doesn’t mean that you can’t eventually end up running the Goldman Sachs trading floor or your own eponymous hedge fund, but I want to speak in terms of people who want to start with making a living first.

What I will not be doing in this series is telling how to become a successful trader; there is enough information, free or otherwise, out there that deals with that topic (including about 400+ posts on this very blog), and frankly, at the end of the day that is a job that ultimately you can only do yourself.

I would love to get your feedback and/or questions on this series so feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Up Next – So You Want To Trade For A Living: Making The Transition

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14 Responses

  1. Pingback: A great post by Brian Lund: SO YOU WANT TO TRADE FOR A LIVING: MAKING THE TRANSITION | FXTraderPauls Trading Adventures

  2. much appreciated, Brian. The 10.000 hour rule applies if you wanna become a professional trader just as much as for a professional athlete or a rock star or anything that most people lose in, don’t you think? for how long did you trade before you really started to get momentum? (in terms of your P&L)

  3. Pingback: So You Want To Trade For A Living: Making The Transition | The bclund BlogThe bclund Blog

  4. Hey Brian…I always appreciate your insights on anything trading-related. If you’re looking for feedback, please count me in as an enthusiastic ‘YES!!’ I look forward to this series.

  5. I’d like to see a guide for how to get started at trading. For someone who’s never done it before (but would like to), it’s a daunting thought. Questions like: What KIND of trading is better to start with, what are some basic rules to follow, how do you become good at trading, how risky are the different types of trading, etc.

  6. When people (friends) ask me that question, one of my standard answers is: “The first decision to make is how much money you are willing to lose on any given trade.”

    For some reason, they usually lose interest at that point.

  7. Excellent topic! This is just what I need and exactly where I am. Perhaps you’d consider touching on your prep work before the market opens each day and how you plan to trade during the day given the direction of the overall market?

  8. Pingback: Tuesday links: a marketing gimmick | Abnormal Returns

  9. I guess I’ve been doing this long enough to know that there are really no questions to ask… everyone has their own story… I am looking forward to reading this one. They are all usually pretty interesting and enlightening. Thanks.

  10. i am part time retail trader and contemplating the same question for some time if this transition is possible…So today i just google’d the question looking for some direction and came across your blog…I guess got the timing right …looking forward for next article….

  11. Pingback: Hot Links: Mean Revert Like a Bastard | The Reformed Broker

  12. Brian:

    This will be a fantastic topic to cover. Perhaps some points you can shed light on:

    1. Starting capital
    2. relistic returns
    3. developing a system

    I am sure there are many more! Look forward to hearing abt your journey!

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