Understanding The Stock Market & Trading

The Stock Market and financial trading is probably one of the most misunderstood mechanisms on the planet. Anyone you ask will have an opinion about it, but very few actually understand what it is or how it all works.

This is a real shame, because the stock market and the various trading instruments that exist today have lowered the barrier of entry to this field monumentally in recent years, and the stock market is now accessible to pretty much everyone.

There are lots of misconceptions about the stock market, and the people who use it as a trading tool, and so it’s important that we understand the basics to be able to dispel the myths and sort the good advice from the bullshit.

So, what is the stock market?

Well, the stock market is basically a place where people trade emotions. I say that, because although the nuts and bolts of the stock market are the stocks, commodities and currency markets on one side, and the myriad of investors, retail traders and financial institutions on the other, the values of those stocks are largely based upon people’s collective emotions at any given moment. This is what you’re seeing when you seeing price action moving on the candle charts; it’s a visual representation of the mean average of the presiding emotional sentiment in the market at any given time.

So the components of the stock market are simply:

  1. Company Stocks/Shares (Apple, Facebook, Google etc.)
  2. Commodities (Gold, Silver, Platinum, Oil etc.)
  3. Currencies (FOREX – Foreign Exchange)
  4. Indices (these are collections of companies and so their value is the mean average of the value of all the companies within the index – an example would be the FTSE100, which is comprised of 100 of the top blue chip companies in the UK at any given point in time)
  5. ETF’s (Exchange Traded Funds – these are funds that are a marketable security tracking an index, a commodity, bonds or a basket of assets like an index fund)
  6. Investors (companies and individuals of various sophistications buying and selling stocks and shares on the market)
  7. Financial Institutions (banks, funds, brokers, and traders buying and selling on the stock market)
  8. Retail Traders (everyone else trading stocks and shares on the market)

Looks a little complicated doesn’t it? Well, it’s really not.

In order to simplify, look at it this way – it is the same as buying and selling food at a street market where prices fluctuate over time, only in the stock market this happens at a much faster rate.

For those who take the time and make the effort to understand the mechanics of it, there is the potential for rich rewards where every day your money works for you, rather than you working for money. Financial freedom is attainable for each and every one of us, all we have to do is take the time, and make the effort, to learn the rules of the game.

It doesn’t matter if the stock market is in the middle of a strong bullish rally, or a crashing bearish descent – when you know the rules, you can make money either way.

Ever since I started learning about trading the stock market and investing I was confused as to why more people didn’t know about it, and why more people weren’t doing it. It seems to me like this is something that they should be teaching our kids in school, as it stands to return significantly more handsomely than any bank on your pot of savings – if you know what you’re doing.

And it’s really not that hard; the rules are simple – it’s having the discipline to stick to them rigidly that is the challenge for most.

I should tell you now that 90% of people who try to learn how to trade end up failing and wiping out their accounts, and this is somewhat responsible for why it has a bad name. I cannot stress enough that there is no such things as a risky trade or a risky investment – only risky traders and risky investors. Those people who don’t have the education, the cohesive plan or the experience in the markets to have the first clue about what their doing, and who are basically gambling their money on the stock market. This is why 90% of traders fail – it’s a lack of knowledge and understanding of the rules of the game.

Trading Instruments

There are various different instruments that are available to retail traders these days, all with slightly different mechanisms but all based around the same set of skills. If you can trade the stock market, then your skills should be transferable across spread betting, trading CFD’s and investing in physical stocks and shares.

The main different instruments are:

  1. CFD’s (Contracts for Difference) – these pretty much do what they say on the tin, and is the main instrument I am trading at the moment due to the versatility of the social trading platforms available. When you trade on platforms that operate on a contract for difference basis you do not own any of the underlying asset, and so do not benefit from any dividend payments. All you are doing when you open a position is taking out a contract with your chosen broker agreeing that if the price of the asset increases or decreases from a fixed entry price then either you pay your broker a set amount per pip of price movement (if the price moves against direction of your position – up or down), or your broker pays you. When you close the position, you close the contract and either ending up taking profits (if you guessed the direction of the market correctly) or closing out for a loss if you guessed incorrectly. One of the big advantages to trading instruments likes CFD’s and Spread Betting is that you can use leverage to increase your asset holding without needing to invest or tie up the total value of the asset invested. However, be warned, whereas this drastically increases your ability to make significant profits, it also drastically increases the likelihood of having a catastrophic loss that wipes out your account – proper risk management should be observed at all times when trading
  2. Spread Betting – this works in exactly the same way as CFD’s, and you’re trading the same stocks and commodities on the same charts, only the profits you make trading through this instrument are completely tax free. This is because it’s called Spread ‘Betting’ and so because it’s classed as ‘gambling’, any profits are not currently subject to UK tax. This makes it an excellent instrument for generating a residual or passive income. Both Spread Betting and CFD trading allows for very easy entry and exit from trades, powerful leverage if used correctly and guaranteed stop losses and take profits for protecting your trading equity. They both also allow for you to enter positions to profit when the markets are both falling (bearish) and rising (bullish), by either going short (selling) or long (buying)
  3. Investing in actual Stocks and Shares – this is where you actually own the underlying asset, whether that’s a share in a company or some sort of ETF. This process is subject to higher broker fees when buying and selling, and so is better suited for longer term swing trades or long term investments. This method only allows you to profit when the asset increases in value or through the repeat dividend payments – if you own shares in companies that pay dividends then you will generate a regular passive income that can be used to reinvest in more shares and add to the compounding of your wealth. The more shares you own, the more dividend you get paid, and so the compounded growth is never ending and grow like a snowball rolling down the Alps

Fundamental or Technical?

There are two different techniques when it comes to trading – fundamental analysis, and technical analysis.

Fundamental Analysis is where you look at the financial and economic data for a given asset and make your trading and investment decisions based on the results of what you find in that data. This could be company financial reports, earnings reports, or economic data such as inflation rates or political announcements. This would be the best method for discerning quality assets for long term investments, as it’s important to be able to have confidence in an investment over time by confirming that the asset in which you’re investing your hard earned money is financially sound.

Technical Analysis is where you look at the price action data on the charts. There are several different types of charts and many different methods of technical analysis, but you only need to master a few to be a successful trader – even mastering one method will return profitable results if you stick to the trading plan without deviation. This looks at historical price data on charts relating to different time frames from 1 minute up to weeks and months of price data per candle, and provides insightful information about likely areas, or zones, where the markets are likely to react from and change direction. This is where technical analysis provides numerous trading opportunities – in recognising patterns, and in understanding how the mechanics of the markets are structured.

Ultimately, you’ll probably end up favouring one over the other and this will govern how you build and execute your trading plan.

Trading Psychology

“Success is 20% mechanics, 80% psychology”

– Tony Robbins

Trading psychology is without a doubt the hardest part of trading to master. Never mind all the charts, terminology and financial data – mastering your mind, your discipline and your emotions trumps them all.

The effect a losing trade can have on our psychology can be profound, and for most is what leads to emotional trading that generates massive losses and even wipes out people’s entire trading accounts. Emotional trading is a big NO, and this is the single most important reason for having and using a detailed trading plan. Having a written plan that details exactly what your methods are, and specifies your researched and back tested criteria for entering and exiting trade positions, will remove the need to make any decisions when you have money on the line. It’s when you have money riding on an open position that your primal croc brain starts to fuck with you and allowing this to take over your thinking when trading is the beginning of the end for most traders.

You have to learn to be your own trading coach and mentor – or go out and find someone who can fulfil that role for you. The best resource I’ve come across so far that really helped me gain control of my psychology when trading and which has helped me to remove all emotional trading from my trades was the following book by Brett N. Steenbarger:

This book gave me all the tools I needed to understand the inner workings of my own psychology when it came to trading, and indeed gave me skills which transferred over into others areas of my life such as sport and business. A really excellent book, and highly recommend – in fact, it’s a must if you’re thinking of embarking on the journey of learning to become a financial trader. Without it, the risk of your emotions taking control and devastating your trading account is all too real.

The stock market, by it’s very nature, goes up and down in cycles. As I hope I’ve shown in this short blog, there are the vehicles available today that allow everyone with access to a computer, smart phone or tablet and an internet connection to trade on the financial markets. Most platforms come with free virtual trading accounts that allow you to trade the markets in the first instance with fake money. This provides the opportunity for gaining valuable experience in the stock market, watching and learning how it moves, and means you can try out new techniques, systems or adjustments to your trading plan without putting any of your hard earned capital at risk. Once you see that you are consistently generating profits over a period of several months, you can then begin trading with real equity with some degree of confidence that you know what you’re doing and have a trading system that is profitable when followed with discipline.

Everyone has the ability to be financially free by taking the time to learn this skill, and doing so is going to not only put your future in your hands, but also has the potential to return significantly on capital invested – more so than any bank or other financial institution is going to give you that’s for sure.

From Beginner to Trader

I will be running a ‘From Beginner to Trader’ course around the Oswestry/Welshpool area very soon for anyone who is interested in learning about how to trade the stock market using the instruments I’ve described in this blog. The course will take a complete beginner who knows nothing about the stock market and trading through learning the skills needed to become a profitable trader. Course material will be provided in a live training environment, and you will come away from the training session with:

  1. A solid understanding of the mechanics of how the stock market and it’s various instruments work and move
  2. A solid understand of both fundamental and technical analysis, and strategies for utilising both methods in your trading
  3. A tool box full of tried and tested technical indicators for providing high probability entry and exit points for your trades
  4. A trading plan for intra-day trading on the 5-minute time frame
  5. A trading plan for swing-day trading on the higher time frames (4 hour, daily, weekly)
  6. A trading plan for pattern trading according to price action and technical indicators, as well as a thorough understanding of what key support and resistance levels are and how to define them on your charts
  7. How to buy and sell assets tax free – both through leveraged instruments and through physical stocks and shares
  8. A road map for finding quality shares for longer term investment
  9. An understanding of the emerging crypto-currency markets and how to maximise trading profits trading these alternative currencies
  10. A risk management strategy that will stop you blowing your account and that will keep your trading equity protected by minimising your losses and maximising your profits
  11. An understanding of the importance of psychology in trading, and techniques for mastering your emotions when engaged in live trades

Financial freedom is the ultimate goal – to every day have the choice of what you do, where you do it, and who you do it with. No constraints, no limits, no worries.

The beautiful thing about that? That the more people there are in the World who have that level of freedom and choice in their lives, the more people there will be in the World who have the desire and capability to help everyone else up to that level.

I’d love to see you on my ‘From Beginner to Trader’ trading course as I know it will change the way you think about money, and it has the potential to change your life if you implement the lessons you will learn in the course. Please register your interest by completing the contact form below, and I’ll send you an e-mail with all the details including how to register:

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Financial Wealth: What, How & Why

On the back of Tony Robbins releasing his latest book Unshakeable: Your Guide to Financial Freedom, I want to talk a bit about how my philosophy on financial wealth has evolved over the last couple of years and my current view on why building personal wealth is so important.

We’re all aware (or at least should be) that there are many definitions of what wealth means to a person. There are many extremely wealthy people in the World who have very limited resources – for example, people who are blessed with the unwavering love of a family and support network yet barely scrape enough money together to pay the household bills each month. These people are emotionally wealthy, whilst being financially poor.

Accepting this, today’s focus is going to be around describing what financial wealth is, how it is generated and why it is important to build personal wealth in the first place.

First, some background.

Over the last 10 years I have managed to do a complete 360 on what money and financial wealth means to me, and how I leverage it in my life. When I was in my early 20’s I was playing in a rock band and living for the many and varied social experiences that provided for me. I was also hanging around with people who called themselves socialists, and who generally had a very dim view on money and the effect it has on people – in their eyes, and mine at the time, money was the source of all evil.

My view today couldn’t be more different and I wrote a full post describing my current view on money explaining how it is one of the most ingenious systems we have devised, with it having the power to harness the resources and will of an entire global species – it is the ultimate tool for progress and provides and incredible amount of leverage to get things done. What let’s it down is the people behind it – not the system itself. You can read more of my thoughts on the subject HERE.

Money often gets a bad name because of the unethical and dishonest intentions driving it. After all, it’s like any other tool – if it’s put in the wrong hands it can be extremely destructive. With a system or tool that possesses the insane amount of leverage that money commands, the downside has the potential to be as powerful as the upside. This is why, as we all know, it is so important to ensure the powerful systems we design are used correctly, and with the best of intentions. A bullet in a gun can either be used to kill food to feed your starving family, or it can be used to murder them – same tool, same level power/consequence, completely different outcome as a result of the different intentions driving it.

I hope you can see how ridiculous it is to blame money – or any other tool for that matter – for our short comings. It’s about time we take responsibility for ourselves, so we can harness the full potential power of the systems we’ve designed to effect massive evolution on our planet before it’s too late.

So, what is financial wealth?

Simply put, healthy financial wealth is when you stop working for money and start making your money work for you. Most of us are stuck in jobs that leave us feeling overworked, under-appreciated and under-paid. We have locked ourselves into this limiting pattern where we have convinced ourselves that our only options for increasing our personal wealth is to work harder, more often and for longer. Is it any wonder most people just accept their situation for what it is and make do? It doesn’t make sense to do more of what you hate to realise a relatively insignificant rise in personal income whilst in turn leaving you with less free personal time to enjoy the additional income. Besides, even earning hundreds of thousands per year through employed income would mean paying significant sums of money over to the tax man and you would still have to put most of that away to be able to have any hope of saving enough for retirement.

Financial wealth is a change in mindset from exchanging your time for money, to making your money generate income you can live off so you can focus your time and energy on leading a fulfilling life. The key to financial wealth is working less, not more!

Remember what ‘job’ stands for – ‘Just Over Broke’

Now I’m not saying you should go out and quit your job tomorrow, and neither am I suggesting that this path is any easier to walk than the job route, but the journey is rich with fulfilling experiences and can be extremely rewarding when you know what the rules are and how to play the game. For most people who don’t have rich parents or a nest egg of savings they can call on, a job will be necessary to fund the first few years of the wealth building process but it should only be seen as one of the many stepping stones to the attainment of financial freedom and as such, only temporary.

How can the average person achieve financial wealth?

Financial wealth, and ultimately freedom, is something that is an inalienable human right and that can be achieved by anyone in the western world who makes the effort to take the steps required of them. This involves learning the rules of the game, increasing your financial literacy and intelligence, and putting what you’ve learned into action.

Remember, knowledge is only potential power – real power is in putting that knowledge into action in your life.

In the beginning, I recommend reading a lot of books, watching a lot of on-line content and talking to knowledgable people who are already executing their plan to realise their own financial freedom (or even better, those who have already got there). I didn’t say it would be easy, and I certainly didn’t say it wasn’t going to take hard work and dedication – suck it up; if you want the life you’re dreaming of then you’re going to have to damn well work for it. This, and this reason alone, is why most people will never achieve financial freedom – they are lazy, comfortable and apathetic. These are the people who focus on wealth for the wrong reasons and who have no purpose behind their actions, as we shall discuss in more detail in the ‘why’ section that follows.

Building wealth starts with saving some money; remember, money is a tool with the power of leverage and as you will see, utilising as much leverage as your personal risk/reward plan allows is key to expediting the process of wealth building. The best way to save money is to open a separate account where it can be stored safely without getting mixed up with your personal family finances. It really doesn’t matter how much you save per week or month, just that you save something. Everyone can save something – even if that’s 50p a week in a jar on your bedroom windowsill. If you never start – even with saving relatively small amounts – you’re guaranteed to fail. By starting with even the smallest contribution to your fund, you are growing your financial freedom fund every day/week/month/year and as it starts to grow in value, so does the power of leverage you are able to command.

Once you have a pot of money – whether it’s a few hundred or a few thousand – you need to start thinking about shifting your focus on how you can start making that pot of money generate income for you. There are many ways to do this, and my top five are listed below:

  1. Investing in the stock market – Tony Robbins recommends a well balanced portfolio of index funds to keep fees and costs to a minimum and to achieve market based returns
  2. Investing in commodities like Gold and Silver – commodities like gold and silver should be, in my opinion, part of any sensible investors portfolio for the simple reason that as the stock market goes down, commodity prices rise and vice versa providing a level of security against such bearish markets
  3. Investing in property for capital gains – there are two property investment strategies, and this is one of them; it should be noted that there is no guarantee that property prices will continue to rise, though overall they do tend to follow a similar sort of pattern to the stock market – although it does regularly crash, the floor it hits is usually higher than the floor it hit during the previous bearish period and it usually returns to strength hitting new all time highs. This being the case, and as with stock market holdings, investors should be prepared to hold their investment interests for long periods in order to realise the best returns. Be warned though that profits from gains will be subject to CGT and this should be accounted for when calculating your potential returns
  4. Investment in property for cash flow – this is my preferred property investment strategy and is not concerned with repaying the principal loan of a given property resulting in an increased cash flow from rent due to utilising the leverage of interest only mortgage repayments. The amount of leverage it is possible to utilise in these types of property investments can be insane when structured correctly, and can be a very lucrative source of increased personal cash flow. Buy to let mortgages are assessed on the ability of the property in question to generate roughly 1.25x the monthly mortgage repayment, and so in theory there is no limit to how many properties you can structure under this arrangement within reason and assuming you manage your portfolio effectively. A small portfolio of 10 or so rental properties realising a couple of hundred pounds in additional cashflow each month is going to get you to a point whereby your living expenses are covered by your passive income relatively quickly and is not subject to the same volatility as the stock market or ‘flipping’ properties – in fact, in difficult financial times, rental demand tends to increase and so rental property investments are extremely good at weathering the storm of a financial crisis… so long as the bank doesn’t pull the rug out from underneath you
  5. Start a business – this one by far is going to take the most amount of time and effort and so should not be considered lightly. On average 400,000 businesses are incorporated each year in the UK alone, and of these 20% will no longer be around after 1 year. 50% will have failed within the first 3 years. Again, the reason behind this shocking level of failure is that the people starting these businesses often don’t do what is required to really set themselves up for success. They don’t embark on the journey of learning the new skills required to set themselves up for success, and thus the pitfalls of business eventually catch them out along the way and force the closure of their baby. Owning your own business can be an excellent investment if you put the effort into it, as you are investing in something in which you have a legal insiders view that you have significant control over – there is no such thing as a risky investment, just risky uneducated investors. Whether you build your business to provide regular income, to solve a need (such as a property management business to manage your investment property portfolio) or to eventually sell for billions it can be a fantastic way to build long term wealth

Anyone can incorporate their own business, save a few quid a week towards their wealth building fund and invest their money in accessible ways that will begin the process of making their money work for them rather than the other way around. All it takes is the desire for something better, and the willingness to learn.

But, why?

Ah, the million dollar question.

I’m sure most of you are expecting the following answer at this point; you should focus on building personal wealth so you can be comfortable in life, provide for your family, have a life rich with experiences of all shapes and sizes and not have to waste your time going to work every day for a boss you despise.

Well, yes but that answer only focuses on the effect increased personal financial wealth will have on you and your immediate family. Although these are excellent reasons which should not be discounted, and that I’m sure highly motivating, I have a much better one.

We all have an obligation to build personal financial wealth to the point where we all have financial freedom not because of what that freedom means for us but because of what that freedom means for what we are then able to give back to the World around us.

Money is a tool which provides a powerful leverage over the World we live in. We have a duty to ensure that there are more good people wielding that kind of leverage than bad people in the World, and that we use the leverage we hold power over to consciously go out and make a difference in people’s lives. I have met so many millionaires over the last few months and there are two things that consistently amaze me – how much of a difference they are personally making to the underprivileged and under resourced people in the World, and how little we hear about it in the media.

If it bleeds, it leads. Rich people building schools and wells in Africa who bypass the system of charity organisations because they want to make sure 100% of their money goes to the cause as opposed to being swallowed up by the operating costs of some not-for-profit doesn’t sell newspapers or hook people into news shows. It’s a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless. These people are not interested in fame or fortune – they are interested in, and solely focused on using their power of leverage to change the World for the better.

This is why YOU have a duty to become financially free and to build your own personal wealth. The Governments of the World are part of the problem, on average only 8-10% of the money you donate to charity actually makes it’s way to the front line, and most people are too lazy and comfortable in their sheltered existence to give a shit. If you truly want to see a better World then you have an obligation to get up off your arse and start being the change you want to see – if you want to see a World filled with people who are financially free, living their dreams and furthering the evolution of the human species, then step up – change starts at home. Lead by example, show others the limits they’ve previously imposed on themselves are a choice, and light the way by using the leverage you empower yourself with to help build a World where everyone is afforded a basic standard of living.

If that’s not something worth building wealth for, then I don’t know what is. The personal benefits are just a pleasant side effect.

Thank you for reading, and I hope my words have helped you think about wealth and money in a slightly different way. This can be a particularly emotive topic for some people, and I would like to encourage active discussion in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if this has changed how you think about money in your life I’d love to hear how.

If you would like to discuss any of the subjects in today’s post in more depth, or discuss strategies you can implement in your life to set yourself up for success, please feel free to drop me an e-mail at littlegreyjk@gmail.com – I am in the process of launching a coaching service around business, health and personal development and would love to hear from you.

Have a fantastic day!