Market Musings: A Former Stock Market Junkie

Back in college, when I was figuring out the major question everyone asks you,  “What do you want to be?” I wasn’t really interested in business, mainly, because my cousin and uncles were in a job called, “Sales,” which was what business was to me and I knew I never wanted to do that with my life.

A Generation of College Kids Want to Call into the Lightening Round

Then I was flipping through the channels on my way to CNN, because I thought it would be a good idea to stay updated on the current events, when I stumbled across CNBC’s Mad Money starring Jim Cramer. Mad Money was an hour of sensory grabbing television hosted by the animated former Hedge Fund Manager, Jim Cramer, who’s can of Red Bull condensed energy immediately got your attention. I never seen a show like this before. It’s really like an adult version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.  It captured an entire generation of college age kids who suddenly thought it was cool to watch CNBC in the evening or late at night.  My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, bought me a Jim Cramer Mad Money t-shirt and I was stopped in each of my classes by classmates asking me were I got my shirt.  Was it a world gone Mad?

The main premise of Mad Money was honorable.  It’s goal was to teach everyday people how to invest in stock and make money.  Jim Cramer talked about the homework process on his show and in his book, Real Money, but all the irrational exuberance made the majority of people, I knew, skip the recommendation of completing homework.

It’s not Jim Cramer’s fault. How can you fault the guy for making a fun show about investing?  I can’t.

Trying to Find My Way In

During college, every business school was teaching about investing and the markets, and everyone one us wanted to trade stocks all day long.  Nobody bothered to tell us that kids from most schools didn’t usually go to Wall Street. We didn’t find out until we started looking for work.

After college, I got a good job working, in Controlling, for a large chemical company but I still wanted to be involved in the markets.  I continued following the markets, reading the Wall Street Journal, and pouring over as many investing books as I could find.

A year later, I found myself in a new position at a large investment management company working in their quantitative fixed income group.  It wasn’t the Street, but it got me working with the markets. I started right before the Great Recession and the company is still struggling through this low rate environment.  Times were tight, I thought I was going to lose my job along with a lot of other people, and maybe my house because the recession claimed my wife’s company.  Neither of those events helped when I was trying to study for the CFA, which I failed twice.   By the end of my second try on the exam, I was burned by the lack of pay increases, financial stress, and spending all my nights and weekends reading CFA study material.  Then my father passed away and I realized I needed to change my career path because what I was doing was not working.

And He Walked Out of Our Lives Forever… Well Maybe Not Forever-ever

That’s when I decided to leave the markets behind to refocus on technology and try to fill the void I experienced at both of my former employers which was a person who could blend business experience with technical skills.  It’s why I went back to school for an advanced degree in technology, started studying Data Science, learning to code, and left my Quant role for a job that started moving me towards that intersection.

I still sometimes miss my old job.  I liked dealing with the portfolio managers, analysts, and sitting near the trading floor. But I’m glad I’m out and no longer unable to talk about the markets online and held to their trading restrictions.  I rarely buy stock anymore and I would suggest that most people stay as far away from individual stocks as possible.

I’ve posted a few Market Musings posts in the past few weeks and I’ll continue to write one every week because it’s an outlet for the former stock market junkie in me. Maybe it will help rehabilitate my feelings to the markets or I’ll accidentally turn on an episode of Fast Money and realize one of the reasons I left.