Balancing Life as a Trading Mom
09/15/2010 12:01 am EST
A few weeks ago, I got a call from a prospective client. She was in her mid-40’s and had some questions about a presentation she heard me give the night before on the Nasdaq futures. We talked about the trade setups and then she hesitantly said, “May I ask you a personal question?” I answered “Yes, of course.” And she proceeded with the following: “As a single mother of two, how do you manage a full-time job, trading in the market, a household, and still have a life?” She then told me her story, which was in fact a lot like mine. Two kids, divorce, and a pile of bills that she knew she was responsible for because at the end of the day, there were no longer two incomes “bringin’ home the bacon.” I took a deep breath and said, simply, “I just do.”
I had never really spent a lot of time figuring out how I was going to balance it all. I didn’t sit down one day with a legal pad and say to myself “OK, here’s a list of all the things you will be responsible for in September 2010, so formulate a plan to make it all run smoothly.” I decided it would be important to take her back to how I got in the business of trading the markets in the first place. And actually, it was by complete dumb luck. I was unhappy at my job in early 2001, so I went to a headhunter. The very first interview I went on was with Tom Busby, the guy I now call “boss.” I spent about 15 minutes with him, and after we got past the fact that I was unwilling to be his assistant, we came to an agreement on my new role at his company, DTI. He hired me as a recruiter for his trading school, and he promised to teach me about the market. I celebrated my nine-year anniversary with the company in April of this year, and I have never regretted the decision I made that day to try something where I had no prior experience: Trading the markets.
Over the years that followed, my day job was to stay on the phone talking to people interested in learning to trade the methods and strategies that Tom Busby used in his personal trading, better known as the DTI METHOD©. It was what was going on in the background that really caught my eye though, and that was the markets—particularly the futures indexes. Honestly, it took me about six full months of repetition to even get the concept of “going short,” which is simply selling first and then buying it back at a lower price. I also struggled with the idea that the futures were not a tangible; they are not like common stock, the IBMs and Googles of the world; and they are not like a deliverable commodity, like wheat or sugar. The stock index futures are simply a number, a price, a prediction of where the underlying stocks on that index will be at expiration. Have I lost you yet? Well, let’s just say that while the concept seems simple to me now, back then I was a lost ball in high weeds, clueless about the way things work and about how I fit into this new world I had found.
Fast-forward almost a decade later. One of my primary roles at DTI is to run an online trade room that operates 24-hours a day during the market week. My job is to help the members determine the trend and pinpoint futures trade set-ups in the first two hours after the NYSE opens, roughly 8:30am – 10:30am CT. If someone had told me I would be doing this ten years ago I would have laughed, hysterically I might add. I was not a great student at math. I am downright horrible at doing any type of number crunching in my head—I just didn’t get that gene, the numbers gene. Most people believe you have to be scientific, downright mathematically inclined, to be good at reading the markets. I say, “Not true, I am proof.” In my opinion, studying the markets, learning the numbers that are pivotal, learning the right times of day to even consider a trade—all of those things are memorization and a little common sense—they have nothing to do with adding, subtracting, or solving quadratic equations (remember that math gene I didn’t get!).
Over the years, I have traveled across the country and abroad and met thousands of market enthusiasts, from doctors to lawyers to truck drivers to yes, housewives, who want to trade for a living. The first question I ask is do they have four things: Time, capital, passion, and discipline? These are four of the commonalities of a trader who can make it at the big dance. So back to my conversation with the woman who is interested in changing her career, leaving the 9 to 5 for something with no ceiling, unlimited opportunity, something she can control from start to finish. She said yes to all four things, but there was still one thing plaguing her, and that was the obstacle of balancing her home life, her children, her daily to-do’s, and being in the market. Would she be able to go to field trips with her daughter? Would she be able to take breaks during the day to get groceries, make doctor and dentist appointments, and handle the other business of life that she was responsible for handling. My answer: Yes.
The key element balancing my life and my trading is that I manage my trades with the clock. There are times in the market when trends develop, specific times that I know and live by daily. The first setup of the day occurs around 9:00 am CT. There are rules for the trade, and it either happens or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, I find something else to do. I literally minimize my trading platform and take a phone call or educate the members of the trade room on what I will be looking for at the next stop on my trading time frame, which is 9:30 am CT. (Hint: This would be a great time for you ladies or stay-at-home dads to go swap the laundry!) The early morning trade set-ups are not all the market has to give. For example, between 12:30 pm and 1:00 pm CT, the market has a tendency to go higher. This is an observed characteristic of this time of day, every day in the futures and stock markets. There are roughly 11 set-ups in the 24-hour clock that I could take, but I don’t. I trade when I “see” it best, when it is clearest to me: The first two hours after the NYSE opens.
I am not suggesting that trading is easy or for everyone, but I am suggesting it is a possible career for those who have the four things mentioned previously. And for the women of the world who are trying to balance life, kids, money, and a career, the market is a great place to be your own “boss” (it’s OK Tom, I am not going anywhere).By Jeanette Sims of DTITrader.com