“Greed is good,” Gordon Gecko said in the movie Wall Street. Isn’t that why you trade futures instead of bonds? You want the maximum returns. You want the biggest payoffs. You want the best possible opportunities. The problem is that greed can cloud our judgment. It can make us take risks that are unnecessary. It can force us into situations we wish we had never gotten involved in, and it can make us squander our success.
Of the emotions that plague every trader, fear and greed, I believe that greed may actually be worse. While fear may stop us from doing anything and thus we may simply preserve our capital through passivity, greed forces us to do something-to act when we should be doing nothing.
In this definition, the words that stick out are excessive desire. So while it is okay to want to be successful, there is a point where it becomes unhealthy. How do you determine that point? Who decides that you have an excessive desire? Where does the feeling come from?
There are several expressions of greed when it comes to trading. We will tackle three of the most common expressions and how to emotionally prepare for them. These definitions are based on the explanations from Investopedia.
Overstay is the act of holding an investment for too long. It often occurs when traders attempt to time the market by identifying the end of a price trend and the beginning of a new one, but, due to greed and fear, tend to overstay their positions. This usually results in reduced gains or, worse, further losses.
The worst thing that can happen to a trader is early-on success. The feeling of invulnerability kicks in and the belief goes from your being a good trader to your being able to predict how the market operates. There is an old traders’ saying: “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
There is much truth to that statement. Too often, we are forced to live up to our own reputation when we profess how good we are. It is so much better for the psyche, not necessarily the ego, to chalk our success up to luck, being at the right place at the right time.
It diminishes our need to prove something. This is why overstay is so common. Somehow, success is confused with market timing. The reality is that you can make a profit getting in the market too late and exiting too early. It’s more difficult to make a profit in the market getting in too early and exiting too late. This goes back to the fact that we have finite capital.
Whether it’s the fear of missing out or the greed of making more, there are warning signs that get ignored in trading, particularly if you are making a profit and you begin to realize that the market is pulling back. This is where rationalizing becomes a problem. The trader wants the home run and is not satisfied with the double or triple, and immediately the profits become “house” money.
For some reason profits are not as valid because they came from the markets, so if you lose them, you are not as worried.
This is greed talking. The moment your internal dialogue comes up for reasons why you should stay in the trade or you start fantasizing about how much money you could make if this trade goes to X, get out. This is the litmus test for “excessive.” Will you leave money on the table? Yes. Does it matter? No. One trade does not make or break a true speculator. This trade you are in is one of many. Take your profits and move to the next. While fear is easier to manage, greed should come with a warning label. It will disguise itself as happiness or logic, and then it will abandon you when things are not working. Remember what happened to Charlie Sheen in the movie Wall Street?
Chasing the Market
Chasing the market is entering or exiting a trend after the trend has already been well established. Investors are often unaware of the fact that they are chasing the market, which can dent the value of a portfolio. This type of investing is often seen as irrational, as decisions are often based on emotion instead of careful analysis of the value of the investment.
It is easier to see a price go from 1 to 2 as opposed to going from 6 to 12. Both are a 100% return. Why is one easier than the other?
The old cliché is “The trend is your friend-until the trend ends.” If you pick a market at the beginning of its trend and you capture profits, and your indicators say the trend has ended, there is no shame in taking profits. The problem arises when you decide, after you have taken your profits, that they are not enough.
The market has continued in the direction you expected, and you are out of the market now. You have a profit, but the profit isn’t good enough. You get bitter and resentful that all of the money you should have made is going to someone else. This is the most difficult emotion to subdue. You were right about the market, which happens so rarely, and now you aren’t getting your just desserts.
You want the thrill of “getting it right” back and that’s when you succumb to greed. You reenter the market, and then it happens-the panic selling or buying, the big sell-off or “buy-back, and you are giving your profits back. All of the careful preparation you used to get into the trade in the first place is squandered in a matter of minutes, and you find yourself wishing you had the profits you originally started off with.
While there are ways to lock in your profits and hold on to trades that are doing well, moving stops or moving options, if you exit the trade, the amount of effort you put into getting into the trade in the first place should be used to reenter. No impulses, no assumptions that what worked before will continue to work. You have to redo your analysis and treat this need to jump back into the market as an all new trade. Only then will you be able to avoid the demon of greed.
Chasing the markets is so dangerous because at the time it makes so much sense. It’s hard to believe that greed is what is motivating you. Learn to appreciate what you have and you will find that, although you took your profits early, you are not going to let one trade-one mistake-make or break you.
A hog is an investor who is often seen as greedy, having forgotten his or her original investment strategy to focus on securing unrealistic future gains. After experiencing a gain, these investors often have very high expectations about the future prospects of the investment and, therefore, do not sell their position to realize the gain.
“Bulls and bears make money; hogs get slaughtered.”
Unrealistic trading expectations are not entirely your fault. Late night infomercials; radio advertisements; and a recent 25-year high in oil, gold, and the British pound color how much and fast you can make money in futures and forex. They give you a feeling of invincibility and abundance.
That’s the hype.
I hope by now you are beginning to get the picture that trading successfully requires preparation, planning, and consistent execution. This is not the Wild West. These investments have been around for hundreds of years. In the past 30 years, we have seen the level of financial sophistication in currency trading and in options and futures trading grow exponentially, particularly because of the advancement of computers.
The “small speculator,” the trader working on his own with finite time and finite capital, cannot afford to give up his most valuable asset-flexibility. While corporations, agribusiness, and farmers go toe to toe in the markets, you cannot afford not to be humble.
Too often, a trader attempts to make all of the money by overleveraging, overstaying his position, chasing the markets, and a myriad of other greedy habits. Without fail, he will blow up his account and come back to the markets believing he did nothing wrong. Being a hog is a personality flaw stemming from ego.
Until you can relinquish the belief that you are the direct result of your success-“I’d rather be lucky than smart-you will continue to attempt to make grand slams on legitimate singles and doubles. It’s like attempting to steal a base with the pitcher staring right at you.
As I have said before, there is opportunity, in fact, unlimited opportunity. The only way to enjoy it is to be methodical in picking a side and picking your trades. Be bullish or be bearish. Don’t try to do everything-that’s being “excessive.” It will only come back to haunt you.
As I said earlier, this emotion is actually worse than the demon of fear. While fear has the ability to protect you from getting involved in trading in the first place, greed forces you to push the envelope. Greed makes you act irrationally, it will force you to hold on to winners long after you should have gotten out and add on positions you can’t afford.
Quelling the demon of greed requires a lot of energy and discipline. The question is whether your capital will survive long enough for you to gain control. There is no easy answer to fixing the greed problem. You may be good at picking the market, so your ego will play a large role in whether or not you can accept leaving money on the table.
The quicker you can subsume your ego and humble yourself to the idea that the market is bigger than you, the less opportunity there is for greed to take root and stay. Accept that you won’t be right about everything; sometimes you will get out too early, sometimes you will not have enough contracts on, sometimes the market will simply get the best of you. So instead of focusing on being right, focus on being profitable.
Written By Noble DraKoln.
Noble DraKoln founded Speculator Academy Traders Club, http://www.speculatoracademy.com, where the motto is “Great Trading Ideas Deserve To Be Shared” Noble DraKoln, has been involved with the trading industry for over 20 years and is a featured speaker on trading and investing around the world.He is a former editor of Futures Magazine, contributor to Forbes, has been a featured guest on numerous financial channels, including Fox Business News, and is a sought after consultant and speaker in the futures, forex, and options world.