The Career Risk Traders Are Unaware Of.


“Tell your story…”

That’s the line that greets you as you open up a blank page on this medium platform to begin writing a blog post. Three simple words that instantly evoked dread in me as I contemplate the significance of what I might write next. I don’t have a plan for what I’m about to write. I’m just spilling onto this page…

I’m writing this just minutes after leaving a voicemail at the office of a Cognitive & Behavioral Therapist, asking for help. The crushing weight of a lifetime of poor financial and career decisions seems to be collapsing around me all at once. I’ve prided myself on my stoic ability to quietly and privately shoulder my struggles — shielding my friends and my family from the maniacal ups and downs of my trading career. But the burdens are suddenly and swiftly becoming unmanageable.

As many of you know, I’ve considered myself a Trader for nearly 20 years. I began in the late 90’s as a daytrader in stocks, then moved into a trendfollowing futures trader, followed by a brief dalliance with daytrading futures as a Chicago Board of Trade Member. I then embarked on options trading and have attempted to make a go of it in this arena off-and-on for the past 10 years or so. I’ve lost track of time and times. It happens.

Much to my detriment, I’ve had several brief episodes of fantastic successes which have proven to be just enough to keep this addict coming back for more market crack. The most recent high being just a few short weeks ago.

I’ve always been attracted to this industry because I viewed it as a means to achieve “financial freedom,” whatever the fuck that means. However, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that the only thing I’ve been successful at is building myself a financial prison. Big beautiful high walls that would make Tweeter-in-Chief Donny Trump proud.

There’s nothing to be ashamed about if you (I) cannot make it as a Trader. This is one of (if not THE) hardest professions to make a living at. Many are called, few are chosen. VERY few. Especially if you’re independent, on your own (as opposed to working on a desk at Goldman Sachs). And this is not news to anyone who’s attempted their hand at Trading. Undercapitalization — my chronic disease — may be foremost the hardest challenge (amongst a jungle of hard challenges) to surmount. If you were to average 25% annual returns over a career, that would put you in the upper pantheon of trading legends. But to earn a respectable $100K per year to live on with that performance, you’d have to have at least $400K in your account and hope you don’t draw down your first couple years. For most independents getting started in this business, this is a very high hurdle.

But the one thing that was never communicated to me, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen written about or rarely talked about, is what happens to the Trader (like me) who’s been at this business for most of his professional life, and then finds himself out of money and needing to find some income — any income — to support his family?

I’ll tell you what happens: You discover that you have a resume that makes a dry desert bed appear fertile. You discover that you have little or no transferrable skills that “check the right boxes” for recruiters and machines that scan your online job application. You find that you’ve spent little time “building your network” because you’ve been solely focused on building your trading account because that was what was supposed to take care of you — until it doesn’t anymore. And then you find yourself seemingly alone, without options, without savings, and desperate. That’s where I find myself today.

Feeling inadequate. Feeling lost. Scared. Anxious. Depressed. In debt. Unhealthy. Unloved. Afraid of losing my family.

All is not lost yet. There is still hope. But I feel like I’ve never been closer to the black hole.

Sometimes a guy just needs a break. Someone to champion him. Believe in him. Trust that you are his guy. It’s hard to get lucky when the machines that scan my resume don’t find anything they like. I thought at least my 6 years at StockTwits, Inc. would provide some useful proof that I’m employable and dependable. However, in seven months of job hunting, I’ve succeeded in landing ONE face-to-face interview. After several phone conversations that led up to the face-to-face, everything was looking good. The meeting went well. They liked me. I like them. The opportunity looked like a perfect fit for me as I looked to try some new career directions. But at the end of the day, they chose someone else who “checked the boxes” of experience they were looking for. His/her resume met their checklist.

I don’t satisfy conventional checklists.

If you’re reading this, then you likely know me (or at least internet know me). You know I’m a good guy with a big heart who’s passionate about things I believe in and hold dear. If your company needs help with something, perhaps I could be your guy?

  • If representing the right product, I believe I could sell anything.
  • If relationships need to be managed, I believe I could provide superior support.
  • If you need to reach an audience, I believe I could help you tell your story (you’re reading this, right?).
  • If you need someone who has a deep well of mistakes to draw communicable or cautionary lessons from (especially in the financial realm), I believe I’ll never run out of case studies, anecdotes, or ideas.
  • If you need someone who is willing to travel to represent your brand and be your eyes and ears for your customers, I believe you wouldn’t find a more loyal servant than me.
  • If you run a wealth management shop and you need a poster child for why your clients need to disabuse themselves of their active trading tendencies that is working against their long term plan, I’m the right man for the gig.

Early this week I asked on twitter:

I’ve received many thoughtful responses and several that resonated personally with me.

If you’re an aspiring trader and you’re focused on managing risks and not blowing yourself up as you learn — that’s very good. But it’s not enough. You need to also consider the opportunity costs of spending your time trying to make it in this profession against time better spent building a career elsewhere. I wish I had given this some thought in 1997, not 2017. And I guess that’s my answer to my above question.

Perhaps my other answer would be that I wished I asked for more help. That’s what I’m doing now.

Your humbled correspondent,

Sean McLaughlin

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