The offer came randomly to my inbox from LivingSocial: an eight hour “learn day trading!” boot camp for $99. I must have been in an expansive mood because ordinarily I delete those emails but for the first time I actually bought it. Considering the absurdly modest price of the course, I was fully expecting the offices to share space with an Asian textile company and be populated by smokey old guys who look like Jack Lemmon and whose sallow faces are lit by flickering IBM terminals. Lesson #1: Don’t judge a book by its cover.Turns out, Equity Trading Capital is actually a legit outfit with 9,000 well-appointed square feet in the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street. The office abounds with luminous flatscreens all tuned to CNBC, so chattering heads following you everywhere you go. At 9:00am sharp, we met our boot camp director: David Green, a day trader with 27 years of experience and to my mind, right out of Central Casting. Large and loud with a staccato vocal style, Green manages to be both brash and personable in a way that is proprietary to this city of ours. More importantly, he knows and clearly loves his business. We jumped right in and began to learn how to execute trades, long vs. short, the basics of technical analysis, the fundamentals of risk, and some of the essentials of a day trader’s vernacular you would need to master in order to be a Master of the Universe.Here are some non-technical nuggets I enjoyed and jotted down:
“90% of day-traders fail. 90%! Why? Because they get emotional. Trading requires discipline. Otherwise every trader would be a multi-millionaire, am I right?”
“Hope is not a strategy.”
“Traders love panic. Volatility. Love it.”
“The crowd is ALWAYS wrong! You want to buy from all the idiots who are selling, and sell to all the idiots who are buying.”
Timeless chestnuts! So after a few hours of instruction, they hooked us up to trading platform simulators that work in real-time with the market, credited us with $200,000 in funny money and wished us luck. As it happened, it was a particularly crazy day in the market on Friday because the President and House and Senate leadership were all making televised speeches on the “Fiscal Cliff.” Sitting at my trading computer, I was able to see the way the stock market directly reacted to the news as traders around the world pressed their “sell” and “buy” buttons. It was surprisingly exciting to attempt to anticipate reactions, to buy and sell right along with them… and even though I was working with bogus money, it was also kind of stressful.I ultimately ended up $347 after being down about $30,000. I got killed, made it back, lost it again, and so on. As one person put it, the market had “more swings today than a Hedonism vacation.” But that’s the name of the game, I suppose. And although it was fun for the day, I don’t think I’ll be quitting my day job on Main Street to be a day trader. I guess as much as I wanted to be Gordon Gekko, I’ll always just be Bud Fox.