Trading For A Living - Part 1

There can't be many traders who haven't at least considered the idea of telling the boss what they think of him, throwing it all in and going off to trade the stock market for a living. It's a big risk financially, and that uncertainty is what stops most from jumping ship. Is it really possible to trade for a living?

The Dream

You know how it is, you're sitting in a traffic jam at some unearthly hour of a particularly wet and miserable morning, on the way to the same office you have sat in for too long to remember, and you're thinking - there must be a better way ? life shouldn't have to be like this.

Your mind starts to wander and you find yourself thinking back to that stock you bought only a week ago, and how it skyrocketed giving you enough profit to takes the kids to Disneyland in the summer, and you begin to consider if you couldn't make a fulltime living at this trading game. The advantages are certainly tempting; no more pointless meetings with the manager, hours to suit, holidays whenever you feel like it, and with your home-office - no more traffic jams.

Heck, come to that you could even make home anywhere you want it to be! By the time the traffic starts moving again. you're busily calculating how much cash you could make if all your trades went like that last one - you're almost ready to write your notice letter there and then!

The Bad News

Time for a reality check. Certainly all of the above benefits are there to be enjoyed, but it's a huge step from full time employee to full time trader. Are you really ready to give up that monthly pay-check just yet? Can you really cope not knowing how much money you're going to make month to month? Are you prepared for the months when you actually lose money instead of make it? There are many things to consider before taking the leap of faith.

Considerations

Before you even think about trading for a living you have to know how much money you need to live on, that is, how much cash do you need to generate every month in order to survive. As a financially minded person you already have good home accounts, or are at the very least vaguely aware of where the money goes. So take the annual figure (monthly is no good, you need to account for annual recurring items like insurance premiums, car servicing, and vacations), add 50% and divide by 12. Why add 50%? Because there will always be unexpected expenses, and as traders we are always prepared to expect the unexpected.

Now you know how much money you need each month, you can look at your savings and work out how much buffer money you have, that is, how long you could survive without earning anything at all. You can't expect to be an instantly profitable trader, and even the best and most experienced have periods of drawdown, so you need to be ready for the worst. If you can't live for at least six months from your savings then you are probably under capitalised and are not ready to give up that pay-check just yet.

An important but often overlooked aspect of under capitalisation is the effect it will have on your trading; if you are trading because you need the money, then you are trading scared and you're almost certainly going to lose. You cannot distance yourself from the money-aspect of the trade if you are relying on the money.

Living expenses are only one part of the financial equation. Next you must consider how much trading capital you need. This is the money actually facilitate trading, in other words your account balance for trading margin, and the money you will be spending on data feeds, software, and internet access. You must account for this separately, you cannot start eating into your daily living expenses money just because you took a bad trade and need some more margin.

The amount of trading capital you require will depend very much on your trading style. To day trade the US Stock Markets for example, you must have at least $25,000 in your account, so budget for $30,000 to allow for positions moving against you (if you fall below the $25k minimum even briefly, your account can be frozen for up to three months). If you are holding positions overnight you may manage with a lower balance but bear in mind your buying power and consequently returns will be reduced.

If all this is starting to sound expensive, well it is. There's no two ways about it, you simply cannot survive long term as a trader if you are under funded.

This article will be concluded in part two.

About The Author

Geoff Turnbull is a full time day trader, and a contributor to http://www.stock-trading-world.com

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