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Trading for a Living (Pt 3): Golden Years are Golden Opportunity

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September 29, 2015

Editor’s note: Read parts one and two of the Trading for a Living series.

In my early 20s, while learning about the stock market, I found a group of traders who regularly posted on Prodigy, one of the first online networks. When the group decided to meet, I flew down to Biloxi, MS, excited to rally with some other young guns. Imagine my amazement when it turned out that the average age of our trading group was north of 60!

This was my first exposure to the concept of trading during retirement. For three days, I soaked up everything I could from these extraordinary traders, not one of whom had traded professionally during their careers. Their backgrounds ran the gamut, including a doctor, an airline pilot, a pharmaceutical sales rep, numerous engineers, and some military men. Their only commonality was that they were all retired and trading for a living.

It was an eye-opener to the clear notion that trading and retirement go well together.

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For starters, trading affords flexibility, something that is very valuable to those living the retired lifestyle. The main benefit of no longer having to punch the clock is the ability to be spontaneous: travel, visit friends and family, take an origami class. Do what you want, when you want. The market is always there, and it won’t miss you if you skip a day or even a month.

But perhaps the biggest benefit of trading during retirement is how it keeps you on your toes and works out the brain. Every one of the retired men and women in our group was sharp as a tack, including the elder statesman who was 85. Looking at charts, analyzing stocks, and stalking entry and exit points on a daily basis is like cross-fit training for the brain. It keeps you engaged, curious, even competitive—all things that help the mind stay alert.

The Time to Do It Right?

Trading during retirement also offers an advantage that younger traders often lack: time to think. Retirees tend to be more thoughtful and patient, and although youth may have its benefits, it comes packed with a lot of haste and impatience. Those aren’t exactly the best characteristics for trading for a living. But, in general, I found that those who have already accomplished much in life tend to have perspective that helps foster a more methodical approach to trading.

That’s what struck me as unique—how much time and effort each of these traders had put into building, testing, and refining their trading methodologies. It was a labor of love for most of them, but also a very pragmatic and necessary endeavor.

As you might guess, most professional traders will stress drawing a distinct line between funds earmarked for trading and funds delegated as retirement income. Don’t forget emergency savings, too—hands off! Nothing could be worse than losing all your retirement savings. You worked your entire life for that nest egg, and it’s your support in your golden years. These learned folks took the time to understand risk, respect it, and build it into their trading rules in a way that worked best for their personalities.

As I’ve gotten older and (in theory at least) wiser, I’ve realized what a tremendously valuable experience it was for me to meet with multiple generations of traders. It introduced me to a wiser approach to trading long before I had earned that right. But more important, it showed me that there is no age limit for trading. As long as you approach it in a responsible way, you can continue to trade as long as you want.

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