My Priceless Investment

Taken from my PDI column post dated July 18, 2014:

At the Philippine Stock Exchange trading floor

At the Philippine Stock Exchange trading floor

I’ve always been interested in the stock market, and how to invest and grow my money. Movies like “Wall Street,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Boiler Room” have brought trading and stock brokerage into the limelight. However, they only scratch the surface.

It’s completely different when you’re sitting beside an actual trader, learning from researchers and analysts, and actually monitoring your own portfolio and investing your own money in real time.

All these I was able to do during my internship at Wealth Securities Inc., the number one stock brokerage in the Philippines in terms of volume traded. It was an invaluable experience that gave me a chance to fully immerse myself in the stock market world.

The world is constantly changing, and there is always something new everyday. This is all the more evident in the stock market, where stock prices can change so drastically in a matter of minutes.

There are many different catalysts and factors to consider when engaging in the practice of stock trading. A single event can drive the price of a stock down or up in one shot.

Law and politics

During the internship, I learned how to interpret the news, and see how events all over the world impact the local economy and stock market. I learned how to connect the dots between political events and the performance of the index. Contrary to what people think, the stock market isn’t just about finance and economics; the stock market is also about law and politics.

One week, all the stocks I invested in were going up. Then the following week, all the investment turned red and fell. When that happened, I started cutting my losses, only to see the stock price rebound the next day.

From this frustrating experience, I learned the value of patience, and why it’s important to play the waiting game sometimes, especially when you really believe in a certain stock.

Moreover, my internship boss stressed several times that you can’t be emotional in the stock market— you have to always keep your feelings in check. “The stock market isn’t the place for emotions,” he told us. “Save that for your relationships and love life.”

I also learned that you don’t always invest in the right stocks. You won’t always win and earn money. In fact, a lot of the veteran traders agreed that you have to first lose money in order to really see the value of investing in stocks.

My internship boss Miguel is an example of somebody who didn’t have much knowledge about the stock market, yet was able to work his way up through discipline, hard work and focus.

He recalled the weeks he would not get enough sleep to fulfill his research assignment: “In the end, the world will give you what you truly desire. If you want to succeed at something, you should do nothing else but that one thing. You have to sacrifice, and pour all your efforts into that one thing.”

The right time

Just like everything else in this world, I saw how important experience is when dealing in the stock market. The more you immerse yourself in the market and study different trends, patterns and scenarios, the easier it becomes to spot winning opportunities.

As much as investing is about monitoring financial trading each day, it’s also about waiting for the right time and opportunity to cash in. “It’s just like chess. You have to think ahead. Buy before everyone buys; sell before everyone sells,” said C3, one of the sales people I met and befriended at the internship.

The perception is that the stock market is a “get-rich-fast” industry filled with greedy people wanting an easy path to the good life. However, what I saw during my internship were traders, analysts and sales persons who enjoyed what they were doing.

These are people who enjoyed watching the ticker move, crunching data, selling to clients and reading countless charts, company disclosures, tables and graphs in hopes of improving their percentage gains.

As I contemplated whether I wanted to pursue this kind of career in the future, my “boss” said: “Ultimately, you have to be honest with yourself. You have to ask yourself what you really want, and what your priorities in life are. People change, but who you really are and what you really love don’t.”

My internship boss reiterated, time and again, that while trading may not be for everybody, investing is. And if you think about it, life is all about making investments.

Just as we invest our money in the stock market to meet our financial goals, how we spend our time every single day is an investment toward our goals and dreams in life.

And I’m glad to say that this internship was a pretty damn good investment. The experience, knowledge and memories I gained from the past three weeks make this internship a priceless investment.

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