Stop Me If You’ve Heard This, A Trader Walks Into A Party….

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The setting is a cocktail party– this one in a loft apartment in the heart of Manhattan. However it could be in a house high up in the hills of Hollywood or in the suburbs of Chicago–the dynamic is the same and the cast of characters, with minor variations, is standard.

Guests mill about, forming temporary cells of small talk, and not unlike dogs smelling each other for the first time at the park, nose around to find out what the professions of their semi-drunk soiree companions are. Once discovered, each has their moment in the sun to impress.

The doctor talks of the patients he sees and the lives he saves while guests try not to look bored. Yawns and glances at watches are on tap when the real estate agent talks of his big sale. The lawyer, the scientist, the fireman and cop all suffer similar fates–nobody is really that interested in what they do or have to say.

And then the trader is discovered.

Unless there is an astronaut, movie star, or Head of State in attendance, the announcement that you are a “trader” will always elicit the most interest from the crowd. Unfortunately, it is not always the type of interest you would wish for.


The unique thing about trading–opposed to most other “professions”–is that anyone can do it, or at least attempt it, as long as they have the money to open a brokerage account. The low barrier of entry gives “civilians” the impression that there are no unique skills or abilities that the trader possesses.

Doctors don’t have their medical expertise challenged nor are lawyers debated on points of law at cocktail parties, backyard BBQ’s, or their kids swimming lessons. Yet everybody seems to feel free to aggressively engage with the trader.

The typical interaction starts with skeptical surprise. “Oh, you trade for a living?”

Followed by an “equivalency statement.” “Well, I have a number of brokerage accounts and am pretty active in the markets myself!”

Then the “what do you think about XYZ stock” question comes up. The XYZ generally being AAPL 80% of the time. “So what do you think about AAPL? I have been buying it on every dip, you’d be crazy not to at this discount.”

Soon after the challenge statement comes in. It can take many different forms such as “I think that shorting stocks is un-American and that it should be outlawed” or “so tell me Mr. ‘Trader,’ where is the market going to be in six months?”

And it just goes downhill from there.

Some will want you to teach them to trade. Some will assert that there is no way you can be making a living from trading. Others will explain to you how the markets are one giant conspiracy, manipulated by global and extra-terrestrial forces. And still others will quiz you on every piece of terminology you use, the glazed look in their eyes indicating that they have no idea of even the basic workings of the market.

At the end of the day you open a can of worms up that is better left sealed when you announce that you trade for a living. My suggestion is to take the advice of my good friend Joe Fahmy and do what he does when his occupation is asked.

“I work in an ice cream shop,” he replies, leaving him, once the disapproving looks fade away, to enjoy his cocktail and hors d’oeuvres in peace.

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