Trading Stonks Sucks

I find myself the Stock Guru at UPS now. It’s cool — I love that people are into investing now — but seeing a coworker with a two-week-old Robinhood account tossing money into some penny stock with a 2 BILLION DOLLAR MARKET CAP and 20 employees and making 175% returns on his $200 account makes me sort of want to die. This will not end well! Dude stumbles into the market, buys some ZOM and SNDL shares, doubles his money and instantly thinks he’s good at trading, attributing beginner’s luck to personal skill or something. Eventually he’ll YOLO his whole account on something stupid, his luck/”personal skill” will fail to materialize, and then he’ll be up at 8:30 a.m. after two restless hours of sleep realizing a whopping 90% loss on his account. I’ve lived that hell myself; that’s what stock trading is — getting cocky and blowing up your account — and realizing that, holy hell, it isn’t actually free money.

Andy will probably blow his account up if he ever gets the balls to invest more than a few hundred dollars. Dominic sold his Dogecoins for a hefty loss and recently bought some SNDL shares; today they’re down like 30%! James is still holding AMC for some reason and he’s probably down 50% on that play, but he said he “bought it for the meme” so I think he’s not expecting to actually get rich. Enrique, even if he doesn’t say a whole lot, still mumbles to Andy and Dominic about biotech penny stocks with names that you’ve never heard of and never will hear of. I’ll make up a few names now so you get the idea of what a biotech penny stock sounds like: Trevelex, ZambiTech, Velero Pharmaceuticals, and Xetezic Diagnostics. Caleb is still waiting for ANVX to drop below $10 to load up and warning the others to not invest in Bitcoin at $56,000 (wise moves from someone not trading at all) while my sister is asking me about call options and strike prices on General Motors of all things. If I want anyone to not blow their account up it’d be her. Allison continually says, “Jeremy! You need to teach me how to do stocks!” and my old coworker from years ago texted me asking, “Guess I’m curious what you use to buy stocks.”

This is all confusing to me because I don’t think I’m that good at trading. This year I’m up $5,000 on a $16,000 account — a whopping 30% return in a month — but I don’t think this is my doing. If anything I’ve been lucky and trading cautiously, trying to remember one of the holy rules of the stock market; don’t lose money! It’s hard to gain money if you keep losing it. Even though I’m doing great this year I vividly remember past years where I’ve made some very stupid moves. I blew up my account to the tune of $10,000 during which I call the XIVpocalypse. Seriously, go look up XIV and see what happened a few years ago. That was me riding it all the way down thinking I found a a way to print money for free or something. There’s been countless earnings plays where I also lost thousands of dollars, stupidly betting half my account on a stock either going up or down. It’s dangerous and it’s stupid and it will bite you. And now? I’m lucky and I’m cautious of pushing my luck too far. Maybe this is exactly what a good trader is?

I think that’s the appeal of the market to these blind novices; the stock market is as close to free money as you can get. These guys see 50-100% returns in a single day if they strike the right stock at the right time; how does this compare with slaving away at UPS for $15 per hour. The math isn’t hard to do: dump $5,000 into the market, hit a 50-100% return (or higher), and you’ll have $7,500-10,000 in a single day or week. Do this a few times and you’ve made your yearly pay doing absolutely nothing but clicking buttons on your phone. Very quickly you get to the point of asking yourself why you’re working at all. It’s easier to just trade. Take all your money, dump it into your brokerage account and trade. Roll profits into large plays and profits and before you know it you have two commas in your net worth and can retire. And easy it is when you’re lucking out with 50% gains everyday.

It’s hard to talk about the dark side of trading to these n00bs. They’re making gains all day, everyday, all week long. They’re excited, they’re energized, and they’ve found a new and interesting hobby. How can you possibly be like, “Yeah, that’s cool, but the market will move against you eventually, and it doesn’t feel good when you lose money, so don’t get cocky. Take gains when you can and stay humble. Above else: be lucky.” When Andy is making bank off penny stocks, do I really want to tell him about SPY and it’s tasty 2% dividend? Or JNK with its massive 5% dividend? Or the benefits of long-term investing? Hell no.

I guess I’m torn between these two extremes. On one hand I do feel like my trading is acting like a second job for me; whatever I’ve been doing the past couple of month is working, while on the other hand it doesn’t seem as easy or a rosy as I’m sure these newbz like to think it is. Investing is a great thing to get into that many people, especially poor people, are too scared or hesitant to get into. There’s a big rant here about the US’s population being especially financially illiterate (but I’ll hold off on that) so a bunch of new people being interested in STONKS is a great change. Yes, invest in your future. Make passive income. Be an owner of a company and not a customer. Use your money for you and not to blow on the newest and hottest electronic device.

Free money? Yes, but not really. There does seem to be some work, some price to pay for the cash. Regular jobs involve boredom, dealing with idiot coworkers, and actual labor. With trading to make MASSIVE GAINS I think what you give up is your psychological well-being. It’s checking your account every 10 minutes even though the markets are closed. It’s laying awake at 3 a.m. wondering if you’ll have more or less money in your account in five hours. It’s insomnia and stress. It’s pondering randomly throughout the day what your future plays will be. It’s a mental mess deciding to sell for a profit or to let it ride. Will it go up or down? Play it safe or risky? It’s being bored out of your mind on the weekend unable to enjoy yourself because you can’t trade at all! It’s being upset and restless during holidays for the same reason. It’s having an abstract idea of money as simple numbers on a screen and a detachment to the value of it. Maybe I’m taking this to the extreme, but trading the past few weeks — despite the free money of my gains — is a subtle form of hell. When I think about it it doesn’t seem like free money at all. There’s a cost to it, just a different sort of cost than time/boredom/hard labor that is typical work.

Which is good in a way. By trading and seeing your worth fluctuate wildly during market hours you become stoic in a way. GameStop is down like 70% from when you bought it? You’ve lost thousands of dollars? Oh well. You somehow have to put this to the back of your mind ignoring the money you’ve lost (which is really hard to do) and live your life the best you can. You still have to eat, sleep, have friends, go to work, and be happy all while having this massive dirty-feeling cloud over your head. With time you can get pretty good at it to.

Maybe that’s what I’m trying to say here. The stock market is free money and a good thing to invest in, but know exactly what you’re investing for or what your goals are. If you want to dump part of your paycheck into a wide-market ETF like SPY go right ahead: it’s a fucking smart choice long term and you’ll eventually turn your money into a big pile of cash. It’ll just take forever and it’ll be boring. You won’t get the excitement of seeing your account double or triple in a day or two (or the stress and anxiety of seeing it get cut in half either) but this is what investing is. If you’re trading — looking to make a quick buck or generate income equal to a second job — you’re in for a world of shit. You’ll be consistently checking your accounts, trying to find new plays, struggling with bagholding and deciding when to sell for profits. You’re sleep will be trash and lows are immense. One day you’ll feel like King Midas and the next you’ll feel like a fucking idiot not selling when you felt like King Midas. It’s not fun, it’s all consuming, and it takes some pretty hefty mental fortitude to pull it off properly. And as stated before it also takes a good amount of luck and the appreciation that luck can actually play in day to day life. This is what I don’t think the novices at work are prepared for.

Note: By the time I posted this Andy finally sold his SNDL shares for a $90 loss. Remember, he was up 175% last week. Think about how you’d feel not selling at the correct time and eventually taking a loss.

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