Minyan Mailbag: Angst & Loathing on Wall Street
Self worth and net worth are not the same thing
Editor's Note: Our goal in Minyanville is to remove intimidation from the financial markets and encourage an interactive dialogue among the Minyanship. We share this next discussion with that very intent.
You seem to be talking a lot lately about how unhappy people are in the industry right now. It's very interesting to listen to because I am considering a career change and heading down the finance path. But, I think I have a different perspective on the whole game.
I started really following the market late in college when I was finishing up my engineering degree at Georgia Tech. It was in 1998 when I was taking some finance and investing courses as electives. It was well into the mania and all our investments professor talked about was how much money he had made in Lucent options. He made it seem like making money in the market was a piece of cake and we learned NOTHING about risk management. The only risk was not being in the market.
I started working as a computer programmer (back when it was 'cool') making very good money and started investing heavily in 1999. So, needless to say, I watched CNBC and bought QQQ's in my investment account and technology funds in my 401k and watched them go straight up feeling pretty smart that I had the market beat only to watch them fall straight down and sit at about 30% of that value today. So, my first lessons in investing were hard ones. It wasn't until about two years ago that I started back into 'active' investing again began reading Fleckenstein's column. That lead me to your site, where I have learned more than they can teach you in business school. (I would have lost my butt again if it weren't for John Succo's educational pieces on options).
Anyways, where I'm going with this is that from where I sit, I can see a bunch of people "around the street" that gained their hands-on education during the "easy money" years and are now just frustrated that it's not like it used to be. Then there are guys like me who started off getting their arse handed to them and have a whole different respect for the game. But then again, there are the other 1/2 of my generation who got their butts kicked in stocks and turned to real estate and will probably learn a hard lesson there too.
So, I know you preach risk management all the time and about having respect for this industry. Just keep in mind that some people are listening and appreciate what you all do.
I am not a professional trader, nor am I in your business. I only trade for myself (have done so for the last six years). I am a former banker, but my circle of friends range from realtors (such as my wife), mortgage brokers and appraisers, along with some other ex-bankers. Many of these people are doing very, very well financially (real estate in Florida!), yet, many of them are just like your friends, unhappy. It's like something really important is missing.
I wanted to let you know because it's a totally different group, in a different part of the country, and yet, it appears the same feelings prevail.
For some reason my thoughts turned to your Random Thoughts of today and the heading "Keeping tabs on the psychology bubble."
Coincidentally, I heard of a report yesterday where a study found that the British smile a lot less today than they did just a few years ago (yeah I know, how do they do that?). They, of course, offered a few seemingly valid reasons for this big decline. For some reason, it seems to all tie in to what you are talking about. I dunno.
Forgive me if I'm seeing too much into it.
Have a great weekend.
Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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