I have no tolerance for losses. I never have. It has always been my watchword. I have never cared as much about the gains as the losses. The gains take care of themselves. The losses ruin you.
That attitude has probably cost me more than $10 million in the last three years. It might even be more. Yeah, as a hedge fund manager -- when I get it right -- I make a lot of money. That's not the point of this piece, however.
I don't want to lose money. It is as ingrained in my soul as the time I spent sleeping in my 1977 Ford Fairmont at rest stops on I-5 in California, because that's where the cops won't roust you and the truckers protect you. If you haven't had money, you don't want to give it back. And you only need to get rich once.
I write all of this because last night on
chat everybody was just as bullish as ever. Like the last two months haven't happened. People want in. People are in. People are waiting for the rally to resume.
Why aren't people more worried about the losses? Why aren't people more worried about giving back many years worth of gains? I found myself lapsing into that downbeat, end-of-the-day cadence of "nah" and "don't like that" -- the kind of stuff I only do around the office when people come up with stupid bull market ideas that I think will cost me and my partners money. Scolding and raw.
People should be more worried than they are. People should understand that this market has simply remorphed into the market we had before the euphoric period where everybody started trading stocks. That period where everybody got in and everybody turned to
and everybody trades stocks is over. Soon we will come to despise the advertisers for their glibness. We will come to hate Stuart and laugh that that bozo manager of his bought that laggard
, and that both have lost their jobs because of that crummy stock selection.
No, I don't want it to be this way. It is much more fun when everybody is making money. We can have periods like that again. But just not now.
Last night I had an epiphany during a conversation with my wife, who traded professionally from 1984 to 1994. All hedge funds. I told her that the business was no fun for most people lately. That the bloom was really off. She looked at me as if I were nuts. "What, are you kidding me? It was always a loser's game. Only a couple of people made money consistently. Trading stocks is a tough mean business. What were these people thinking?"
I countered by saying that, in the last few years, lots and lots of people made lots of money in the market.
"They probably thought they were geniuses," she said. "I hope they got out. Because it's back to the way it used to be now. Treacherous and unpredictable."
Yep, treacherous and unpredictable. Worry can't make you any money. But it can help you to lose less. That's the goal right now: Lose less than the others.
Stay in the game.
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