How Being A Trader Helped Me Lose 50 Pounds

I’ve gone back and forward over the last couple of weeks whether I wanted to write this post or not. My blog hasn’t been a place I’ve shared a lot of personal details of my life – having kept things more focused on the market.  However, being that I feel the market and trading has helped me progress towards a personal goal of mine I felt it was worth sharing…

I have had been fat my entire life. Many people read ‘entire life’ and assume its hyperbole, but I truly can’t imagine a time or find a picture when I was not overweight. I was picked on for my weight from an early age and being heavy shaped who I am today. I was never the fattest person I knew, but I always had extra pounds I just couldn’t commit to myself to lose. In early 2015 I decided that needed to change and looking back I can see that being involved in the financial markets played a positive role in changing not only my physical body but my mental attitude and view on life. Since then I’ve been able to lose a little over 50 pounds, cut my body fat percentage in half, and find out I now have very few clothes that still fit, a good problem to have I suppose.

Information is King
Some may argue that trading stocks (and commodities, and forex, ect.) is one of the hardest professions to be successful at. Trading is a zero sum game, you either make money or you don’t, there is no gray area. Early on in a traders career you learn that information is king and plays a vital role in being able to pick buy and sell points. Many will argue what information or even what kind of information is important, whether it be price movements, indicator readings, corporate balance sheets, analyst reports, or the latest unemployment report. I would argue there’s more information related to the financial markets than any other profession, topic, or hobby. People have become extremely wealthy just by producing, organizing, and/or showcasing this type information alone.

Understanding the importance of information played a big role in me being able to shed 50 pounds. I’ve always known that it’s better to eat vegetables than junk food, that the amount of calories you consume determines whether you gain and lose weight, but that’s pretty much where my knowledge base stopped. I took my thirst for information that had previously been solely quenched by the stock market and applied a piece of that to learning about nutrition and training.

I know have a better understanding of nutrition timing, knowing when to eat certain foods during the day (for example, avoiding carbs at breakfast). I’ve learned more about macros – protein, fats, and carbs, and how to use them properly within my daily diet, and many other important concepts and principles associated with the simple motion of putting food in your mouth.

While I was learning more about the right foods to eat in the right amounts and at the right times, the flood of opinions and research can be overwhelming. There’s many right ways to shed body fat and there’s many wrong ways to do it. The issue is learning the difference and what worked best for me. Like developing a trading style and discipline I had to used what I’ve learned to create the right nutrition protocol that fit my life.

Turning To Experts
It can be a daunting task to just one day sit at a computer and begin pressing buttons buying and selling securities. Having someone teach you and review your trades, someone who has traveled this endless road for many years can play a vital role in developing your ability to be a successful trader. The same idea applied to my learning to lift weights. After having a gym membership for about 6 months I hired a personal trainer to work with and create workout plans for me to do each day. Having someone critique my form, push me when I wanted to quit, and develop a plan of attack for increasing muscle mass made a world of a difference in my pursuit.

The Trend Is Your Friend
IMG_3032As anyone who has read my blog or follows me on social media knows, I view the market through the lens of technical analysis. A big part of analyzing price action is evaluating trends. This was probably the easiest ‘concept’ to apply to my losing weight. The trend was my friend, and unlike a stock, I was in complete control of how that trend looked and how long it lasted. While many health experts advise against weighing yourself everyday, I found it to be beneficial for me to do so. Holding my self accountable every single day for what I ate and how hard I worked in the gym kept me focused on making sure the trend in the picture above did not change direction. It’s probably the only down trend I’ve ever rooted for!

Discipline
As I’ve developed as a market participant I lean more and more to the systematic approach to investing. The strategy that I deploy uses varies sets of ‘rules’ and guidelines that help take the emotion out of decision making and creates a discipline that is defined enough that I know when I am and when I am not on track and following it. Having this level of discipline with regards to my nutrition and training was extremely important. I didn’t/don’t guess or estimate how much food I consume, I measure everything. And I mean everything. It almost became a game to meet my macro (protein, fat, carb) goals each day by pre-planning each day’s food the night before using the MyFitnessPal app. If you don’t know what and how much is going through your mouth and into your body, it becomes very difficult to gauge if you are in a caloric surplus or deficit.

The same idea applied to my training. I first starting going to the gym and doing random exercises, lifting, pushing, and pulling at random machines. Until I had done the research and learned the proper way to workout did I begin following pre-written training plans. I’ve tried several different plans I’ve found online from sites like BodyBuilding.com, and trainers like Kris Gethin, Ben Pakulski, and my own gym’s trainer. I noticed a big difference in my focus and progress when following a training plan. The same type of focus and progress that can be achieved when creating and following a plan for trading.

Setting Goals
Having a degree in Financial Counseling and Planning and working as a portfolio manager I understand the importance of setting financial goals. My firm’s advisors each day meet with clients to check in and make sure they have the right goals, whether for retirement or buying a new house, ect. and what changes need to be made (if any) to stay on track.

I initially set a goal of losing 35 pounds, I had never lost that much weight so it seemed pretty lofty to begin with. But once I hit that mark I added 10 pounds, wanting to lose 45. And then it became 50 pounds with a goal of being at 15% body fat. Once I got under 15% and lost the 50 pounds I now am ready to create new goals for 2016, ones I’m excited to eventually check off. At this point I don’t know what those goals will be, my trainer wants me to consider doing a bodybuilding contest but my wife is not a fan of the idea. So we’ll see where this journey takes me. I am content knowing there is no end point, there is no finish line, just goals to hit and new knows to set.

 

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.

The Biggest Lesson I Learned As A Trader in 2015

As many do at the end of a year, I’ve been thinking and trying to process the year in which we’ve had. As a professional money manager and someone whose heart and soul lives within the ticks of the tape I am constantly seeking improvement. This has been an important year for me both personally and professionally. I’m pleased with how this year has turned out, but it didn’t come without a fair share of turbulence. I hit peaks I never thought I could and I saw valleys that drew tears I’ve never seen in such quantity.

The end of a year is a time to reflect and that’s what I intend for this post to be, specifically a highlight on one of the biggest lessons I learned as a trader in 2015.

As I grow as a trader one of the biggest, most unappreciated portions of my development has come from the topic of mentality and psychology. Specifically in pressing my bets and trusting myself more than I have. By no means was every call I made or buy and sell I placed correct. That, I have no problem with. The largest lesson I learned this year was recognizing when I should have stronger conviction in my trade ideas. Mike Bellafiore, co-founder of SMB Capital and author of two excellent books on trading, has shared some excellent viewpoints on this topic. Bellafiore notes that conviction is something that’s earned and developed over time and requires dedication and study of your previous trades.

While I don’t share every trade I make in my personal account or on behalf of my firm’s clients on social media or this blog, I can reference some previous posts that touches on this point from the last nearly twelve months….

For example, in January I wrote a post that at the time didn’t get a whole lot of views. It was on a topic that was a bit confusing and one that was fairly contrarian. I laid out an argument for why I thought this year could be a flat/negative year for U.S. equities, titled Why 2015 May Not Be A Lock For the Bulls. While I wrote a fair amount of bearish posts, this specific one, while as it turns out seems to be one of the most accurate opinions on 2015 I’ve come across, kept me from finding certain opportunities in areas of the market that broke away from the overall indices and taking full advantage.

Reading through some old blog posts from April, May, June, & July, I notice how many bearish articles I was writing. All I could come across were more pieces of price-related data showing deteriorating breadth and rotation favoring defensive pieces of the market. While the 2015 high did occur in May, these bearish charts clouded my ability to find bullish opportunities. In June I tweeted about an expectation for Volatility to rise. While I may have gotten more defensive, there’s more I could have done before what turned out to be one of the largest spikes in Volatility history.

The one post I wrote this year that probably got the most attention was on July 30th, titled, The Greatest Risk of A Market Peak Since 2007 which followed my post that looked at the lack of confirmation in semiconductors on July 22nd. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting to blog, people love references to 2007. As awful of a time it was, people are drawn to headlines with those four numbers. I digress. This was the one time where I feel my actions did meet my market view, but I could probably have done more. A few days later the markets began a waterfall-like decline as panic set in. I had no idea it would happen that quick. While there’s no way to know what will happen, I failed to recognize the possibility for the saying “the market takes the escalator up and the elevator down” to materialize. I hadn’t pressed my bet as much as I wish I had. 

When markets decline like they did in August, it’s often followed by a re-test of the low. However, no one seemed to be looking for this to happen. The choir had grown accustom to singing the same song called “V-shaped recovery.” It was lonely not chasing but I felt the sell-off was too quick and caused too much damage to just be another V. While equities did decline after an initial bounce I did not show enough flexibility when the market didn’t provide a perfect re-test of the prior low. My expectation got in the way of clear thinking.

The biggest lesson I learned in 2015? To trust myself and have stronger conviction. There are many market-related calls I got wrong. I’m happy to make mistakes in my analysis as that’s how I’m able to learn and improve. It’s the times my analysis is on the right track that I need to do a better job of acknowledging and riding large chunks of the wave. 2016 will be a new start. I look forward to trading during another election year with sprinkles of Fed policy and international conflict thrown in to keep things interesting. I love being able to have the opportunity to be involved in the financial markets and I can’t wait to see what next year brings. It’s a privilege and an honor to trade, a fact I refuse to ignore. This year had its share of missed opportunities, I don’t plan to learn from this lesson in 2016.

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.

101 Tips From Experts on Investing

I’m honored to have been included as a contributor to an article by ETF Reference looking at tips from various finance professionals. There’s some great insights included from those like Ben CarlsonMebane FaberMichael BatnickDavid FabianJeff MillerDavid Merkel,  Michael KitcesTim Knight, and many more.

Included among the 101 tips are subjects like:
Tips for First-Time Investors Building a Long-Term Portfolio
Avoiding Common Mistakes
Buy-and-Hold Investing
ETF Investing Misconceptions
Recommended Sites and Twitter Accounts
Recommended Books

Read the article here: 101 ETF Investing Tips from the Experts (ETF Reference)

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.