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Trading Recap

That Time I Lost $1 Million

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Updated 9/21/2022 5 min read

I’m not very good at investing. And I’m totally fine with that.

When I recently sat down with Jordan Belfort for his Wolf’s Den podcast, I told him the story of my worst investment.

And it caught him by surprise.

Early in my career, my best friend’s dad and I were talking over Thanksgiving dinner.

He convinced me print-at-home ticketing would take off, and I needed to invest.

Turns out you can be dead right on your predictions and still lose money.

The technology took off. The company I invested in declared bankruptcy.

Even for me, $1 million is a lot of money to lose.

Yet, it probably saved my students and me far more money in the long run.

You see, I learned a very important lesson…

No matter how much you believe in a company, always expect the worst, whether it’s a penny stock or a blue chip.

This single idea made me a better trader and can also help you if you know how to apply it correctly…

There is Always More You Don’t Know

Monday motivation - Tim Sykes swims with laptop exemplifying mindset mastery to achieve success
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My friend’s dad’s company didn’t fold because it didn’t time the trend correctly or understand the technology.

Simply, they failed because they took on too much debt during product development.

Even the biggest companies hide things in plain sight, from Enron to Countrywide Mortgage.

Rather than try and figure out who’s telling the truth, I assume they’re all lying.

And it makes my life a lot easier.

In the world of penny stocks, promoters pump stocks. That’s their job.

Sometimes it’s a legit news release. Other times they’re trying to scam you.

However, their motives don’t matter if you assume they all lie because you only need to focus on price action at that point.

My 7-step penny stock framework highlights the patterns and price action I see repeatedly.

These setups occur over and over precisely because traders react to pumps the same way, whether they’re legit or not.

All I do is exploit the price action.

Expect Extremes

Tim Sykes prepares for a potential market crash in 2022
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I stopped short-selling several years ago when it became too crowded.

Stocks like AMTD Digital Inc. (NYSE: HKD) that shoot up 2,000% before crashing can wipe out poorly timed short trades.

Instead, I prefer to buy stocks after they crash, scooping them up at support levels based on the price action, or jump on pumps as the stock rebounds.

Alaunos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: TRCT) is a recent example of this trade setup.

After shares plunged on Thursday, I bought into a pump that sent shares higher on Friday.

I want to see these types of big moves for my potential trades, not something that’s up or down 5%.

For the majority of my trades, I shoot for 5%-10% gains.

That’s much easier when a stock moves +30% than only a few points.

My #1 rule is to cut losses quickly and keep them small.

The flip side of this is to take profits often and early.

I don’t know how far a stock may run or how long it will take.

What I know is my chart patterns, how to apply them, and what they look like when they work and fail.

I go into every trade with the mindset that I want the trade to prove itself to me.

If I buy a stock, expecting it to bounce, I will not hold onto it if it trades sideways for more than a few minutes.

Anything can happen at any time, especially with pumpers involved.

They can vanish just as quickly as they appeared.

Healthy Self-Skepticism

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In yesterday’s newsletter, I covered mistakes I made trading an IPO.

After more than two decades of trading, I could pretend like I don’t make mistakes

But I do and so do the best traders I know.

When I assume I screw up more than I actually do, it creates a healthy skepticism that forces me to look for mistakes.

Even when I don’t find them, it keeps me vigilant and always improves my game.

Remember, don’t take anything for granted.

Prepare for the worst so you can achieve the best.


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Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (888) 878-3621 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”