Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Back in the ‘90s I decided to try my hand at day trading. Stocks. It was all the rage.
I had left my job as managing editor of a cardiology journal to pound out a novel (which became Parts Unknown, ultimately), but I thought I’d better bring some money into the household too, if I could. How hard could day trading be? Unorthodox, for sure, but worth a try.
Little did I know that I was tightrope walking over a chasm filled with fire-breathing sharks and toxic radioactive sludge.
Of course I did my due diligence. I read lots of books on stock trading, especially the almost mystical art of “technical analysis.” That’s the study of charts and the prediction of future behavior of a stock from its current chart pattern. See, when you know what you’re looking at, and you have the right tools, you can reduce the level of risk on the basis of probabilities learned over the years. Men in eyeshades have correlated those chart patterns with outcomes, and all you have to do is find stocks that have the best patterns.
I still have some of the notebooks in which I dutifully scribbled down stock symbols with current and target prices, culled by software I ran every day after the market closed. I had my Datek account ready to rock. And on the first day that I actually pulled the trigger on a trade, I held the stock for all of ten minutes before selling at a profit of $2,000. Say, this was going to be a piece of cake! When my wife got home from work, I said, “Honey, I made $2,000 today!” And she said, “Giddy up, mofo!”
By the time I stopped day trading maybe three years later, it turns out that my first day had been my best day.
Seems the more I learned, the less successful I became. My profitable trades were on the minimalist side, little pots of two and three hundred bucks a couple times a week. My losses tended to be higher because I wasn’t as disciplined on the downside, always thinking this was the bottom. There’s strong support at 23¼ (this was before they moved to cents in the stock market), but I’d turn around and the damn thing would be hitting 22½ five minutes later. My downside stop orders seemed to get filled within minutes of setting them.
This was interfering with my writing. I had no fingernails left. My nerves were shot, and all I thought about was breaking even by the end of the week.
Somehow, though, I made enough in my first couple of years to put together the down payment for our house in Petaluma. And shortly after we moved I decided I had no business in a market where guys like me were minnows getting scooped up by Wall Street pros with their nets and discarded to suffocate on the hot pavement.
Luckily I was out of it for good when the tech bubble burst in 2000. I’d have lost my shirt, my pants, my skivvies, and my dignity. However, briefly in 2008 — just before the real shit hit the fan — I was short Lehman Brothers for a few days as it was starting to sink. Remembering my lack of discipline from the old days, I got out of the trade with maybe a $700 profit, not understanding that Lehman was going to go down to zilch and I could have made ten times that.
I learned from all this that I like a little certainty in my life. That’s why I’m putting everything I’ve got on Trump getting impeached before the end of his first term (odds 4/5 at Ladbrokes)!