InvestSMART

Add another grenade to your belt - it's a war out there

Are you one of those investors who bought Telstra in the IPO and still holds it? Who bought Myer because you thought Jennifer Hawkins couldn't possibly be involved in a scam, only to watch your investment halve? Who thinks the banks are safe and shouldn't have fallen 27 per cent since April? Who thinks Qantas is a blue-chip stock and shouldn't have fallen 75 per cent? Who thinks QBE, Forge and Matrix are value stocks that will go back up? Who sells something only when it's blatantly obvious that ...

Are you one of those investors who bought Telstra in the IPO and still holds it? Who bought Myer because you thought Jennifer Hawkins couldn't possibly be involved in a scam, only to watch your investment halve? Who thinks the banks are safe and shouldn't have fallen 27 per cent since April? Who thinks Qantas is a blue-chip stock and shouldn't have fallen 75 per cent? Who thinks QBE, Forge and Matrix are value stocks that will go back up? Who sells something only when it's blatantly obvious that you should and, by the time you do, it's wrong?

Or maybe you're one of those investors who believe you are buying a company, not a share price. That intrinsic value is more important than market sentiment. That faith, duty and loyalty are part of being a shareholder and are more important than whether you make money and have a decent retirement.

Or perhaps you are one of that small band of investors who has taken their failure a step further and thinks that all fund managers are overpaid crooks, that fund managers don't deserve their fees, that financial planners do nothing for their money, that brokers say sell only because they want to buy, that everyone in the financial industry is out to get you and that the whole sharemarket is an evil conspiracy of institutions out to rip off poor honest and innocent citizens like yourself and that it just isn't fair and somebody should pay.

Are you one of those? Are you a victim of the sharemarket?

Well, if any of the above applies to you, it's time to realise that making money is a battle, not a divine right, and that the sharemarket is a battlefield, not a gravy train, and that if you turn up to the fight expecting other people to fight the fight for you then things are going to happen to you instead of for you.

In the sharemarket taking money off fools is expected, taking money off innocents is applauded and ruining the lives, retirements, funds for school fees and futures of families is an accepted, no-recourse "casualty of war".

If I was to ask you for $10,000 to put into a business, what would you say? "Bugger off," most likely. But put the same $10,000 in a sharemarket trading account and incredulously all that prudence goes straight out of the window. I am guilty myself. When buggering about in shares the whole notion of "money" seems to change. A $10,000 sum is nothing to an investor. But take $50 out of that same trader's wallet and he'll defend it with his fists.

The difference, of course, is the "clarity of affront". Faced with a thief we know exactly what to do. We'd act decisively and with the Lord by our side. But faced with a computer screen and the sharemarket we allow all sorts of fingers into our wallets and strangers into our lives. The markets are a facility for the smart to rummage around in the personal lives of the innocent.

In the Australian sharemarket every trade is matched. That is to say, for every buyer there's a seller, and for every seller there's a buyer. So for every winner there is a loser. Every dollar someone makes is lost or not gained by someone else.

Seen like that and you begin to realise that trading is a war. You and them. Every other investor is your competitor and the sharemarket is nothing more than people, people who are anonymous, people who are not like you, people who are under no moral obligation to care. The sharemarket is anyone and everyone and you are a target for them all.

Yet so many of us wander onto the battlefield unarmed and unaware, thinking that our mere appearance is enough to make us winners.

Investing is a business and has to be treated as such. When you boot up that trading screen you open the door to your bank account and the only guardian is you. If the last six years of going nowhere has taught us anything, it is that participation alone is not enough. You need to arm yourself. You need trading skills.

Next week we'll look at step one. Stop losses. What are they and how do you set them.


Join the Conversation...

There are comments posted so far.

If you'd like to join this conversation, please login or sign up here

Related Articles