Call me trader.
I admit it. I like to trade. I enjoy it. It has made me money. I wouldn't do it if it didn't make me money. I would do something else. I am a rational human being who does what is optimum, just like the texts from Ec 10 talk about.
Many of you are like me. I read your email telling me so. Every day. Sometimes several hundred a day. Let me state something that seems obvious to you, but seems completely preposterous to some in the media: Many of us have profited from this great bull market. Many of us have investing gains. But many of us also have trading profits. They tend to look the same when they are in the bank. There are no asterisks adjacent to the profits bearing a legend that says "these are only trading gains."
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These profits work to pay for tuition or retirement or dinners out or boats and homes or vacations, just like investing profits. These profits are accepted at
I know, it sounds like I am stating the obvious. But I am stating the obvious out of pique. Because on Saturday morning on the front page of
The New York Times
is still one more article about what a bunch of fools we all are for doing it ourselves and taking control of our money and selling stocks for other stocks.
Underlying this "Investing's Longtime Best Bet Is Being Trampled by the Bulls," article, by Gretchen Morgenson, whom I regard as the apostle of the "individual as moron/public as fool" school of thought, is the notion that trading is somehow evil or stupid. We have seen so many of these articles before, under that byline, that my eyes should glaze over by now. But this time she uses some statistics put together by my friend Steve Galbraith, who covers the brokers at
, to talk about the dangers of speculating. I know Steve's work. It seems to me he got duped into the "musical chairs" analogy that he coughed up, because he knows better than most how much money has been made trading during this period.
What is behind this rearguard action against people taking control of their finances and managing their own money to their individual betterment? Let me give you two schools of thought, one benign, one malignant. Perhaps these negative articles are spurred by an incorrect lumping of daytraders with people who buy and sell stocks after doing homework that is now available to all. Whenever I see the
people, who studied daytrading, quoted, I always get suspicious of this mischaracterization.
Daytrading out of high-pressure firms where heavily margined folk do their best to beat market makers is a nemesis to profit. I share in that pejorative. I am all for any article that calls attention to the dangers of that kind of leveraged daytrading. These high-pressure firms produce crummy results.
But the type of behavior Morgenson criticizes is much broader than the rough-and-tumble world of daytrading, where only about one in 10 wins. She is criticizing the basic trend that has taken hold in America these last 10 years, the notion that individuals can pick stocks and make money. She, like many in the media, is obsessed with the notion that someone else can do a better job than you with your money. She seems to think that you should give your money to someone who knows better. She seems to be under the impression that you are losing money, not making money, and if you would just give it to your broker at the old full-service brokerage firm, you could do much better than if you do it yourself.
This judgment is a false one, based on a lack of reporting. The revolution in financial self-control has created a generation of people who care more and are far more intelligent about their money than Morgenson or many others in the press realize.
Where are the empirical data that shows that individuals are recklessly trading? Where are the statistics that show people are overtrading their accounts into oblivion?
On the other hand, I am happy to make available thousands upon thousands of emails I have received from people who not only have taken over control of their finances but also have vastly superior returns to many of the customers of the traditional brokerages.
Isn't it time the media recognized that a smarter, more informed client, albeit one with a trading bias, is much better than a clueless, sheep-like investor who knows little and leaves it to others who don't care as much about her money as she does? Or is the media so blind to the changes that such a recognition is simply an impossibility?
I'm afraid it's the latter.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at