Beware - no man is a pocket-sized hedge fund


In Guys and Dolls, Sky Masterson recounts his old man’s adage - never accept a sucker bet.

'If some guy bets you he can make cider squirt out of your left ear, then that, to your amazement, is exactly what will happen if you bet against him!'.

A celebrated day trader, known only by his internet handle CIS, with his own blog and Twitter following, seeming made $48 million calling the top and bottom of the Nikkei last week.

What disturbs me about the coverage of this matter is how it promotes the idea of spread betting and gambling on financial markets. The problem is that day traders usually only tell you about the big winning strategies - and not the times where they stay up for hours and lose their minds, and then their shirts. Whilst the likes of Paddy Power and the rest of those betting shop ads may annoy the hell out of us, it’s relatively few of us who actually get addicted to gambling to the point where it destroys our financial health. The day trading or spread betting affliction, however, can be a lot more pervasive - it has a way of taking over your life if you’re not careful.

I know several market people who have managed to trade away a great portion of their fortunes on spread betting alone. We all make lousy investments at one time or another. In fact, one of the problems with being a successful City type is that all sorts of people are after your money - whether it’s those eponymous film finance tax break schemes, or just losing AIM investments. But spread betting is something far more insidious because you get constant action, just like being at a poker table, and you get to kid yourself that you’re in control and are exercising your financial nous.

Now there may well be folk who do well from day trading if they take it seriously as a career, but I bet it’s the minority that really make a good living or untold riches. Those who mix business hours with a bit of spread betting on mobiles not only play with fire, but can ruin family and personal time agonising over trades, and divert attention from their real jobs. They also run the risk of losing everything. Surely it’s not worth the risk. After all, no man is a pocket hedge fund.

And if you want another warning, here’s the brilliant CIS again: 'When a trade goes right I feel like bragging a little, but I don't get on Twitter to talk about it if I lose'. Yes, you generally only hear about the winning bets.

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