Death of a Trader
- Posted by Jeff Carter
- on June 21st, 2010
Void. Disbelief. Nothingness.
Just heard an old trader buddy of mine took his own life. It has happened more than enough times in my trading career than I care to talk about. I have been at the CME since May of 1986. At least 7 people I know have taken their lives due to being depressed.
Most of the time it’s over money. For some it was millions, for others as little as 30k.
This guy was always a stand up guy. Another local, just like me. We’d compete like heck all day, and sometimes scream at each other across the pit. But at the end we would go down and have a beer and all was forgotten.
I saw him a couple of months ago and we had lunch. Laughed like old times and he seemed to be doing well. Was going to start up an incubator for businesses in Chicago, and introduced me to the person who was going to run it. It was the last time I saw or spoke to him.
I feel terribly for the family he left behind. They must be so distraught. The unanswered questions…..
Traders are an eclectic bunch. But one thing that was on the floor that you only find in places like military units, or sometimes sports teams was a macho camaraderie. While we fought like cats and dogs, and competed like crazy, we were still all in this mess together.
Traders sometimes have very warped personalities. Addictive.
I have seen guys kill themselves in different ways via drugs or booze. But I also know several that have come out of those depths to lead fantastic lives. One of my closest friends managed to do it. We had a lot of fun in the old days, but I like him better now that he quit. There is a place for you in this world, don’t end your life.
Harris Brumfield, former 10 year note trader and CEO of Trading Technologies said, “There was not a more fun way to make money.” He was right. But those days are long gone.
Fred Pickard(FRP) might have made the most insightful statement ever when we were talking about the death of the floors. Trying to explain it to someone that had never been there he said, “It was the most amazing network on the face of the earth. You could get anything you wanted at any time anywhere, all it took was money. If you wanted a hotel room somewhere, somebody always knew somebody. If they didn’t, you’d call another exchange. If that didn’t work, you could always call someone around the the world that could get it done.” Leveraging that network meant power, and for a century a bunch of enterprising guys from Chicago had it. That network still exists, it’s just a lot harder to tap. If you are thinking of ending your life, don’t despair. There is hope.
When a trader meets someone, invariably they know someone else that traded. ”Do you know John Doe?”. I always ask what they traded, what exchange they were at. Then we ask the operative question: What was their badge? I know more people by their badges than by their name. Even when I saw ZMAN the last time, I called him “ZMAN”, not John. It was a part of your identity, but in the new world, we will create new identity’s. There is a tomorrow.
Traders have done some amazing things over the years. I encourage any trader that reads this blog to leave a comment, a story about someone, something they know. We could kill a lot of forests recanting them all. To give you a flavor; there were more millionaires per square inch on the floors of the Chicago exchanges than anywhere else in the world. However, they were/are some of the most charitable people I know. You’d give 20, 50, 100 dollars per week to various charities. An old trader on a private chat room we have asked if anyone had a charity for him to donate to. He is off the floor living in another state but felt that was one way for him to reconnect and be a part of it. Two brothers I know tragically lost their brother. They established a foundation in his name, The Clubber Fund, largely supported by donations from the floor. They have sent over 15 deserving kids to college. There is a place for you. Don’t end it.
Traders did crazy stuff, and they competed like hell. Trading your own money against other people that trade your own money in a trading pit is more competitive than pro sports. It is a visceral experience. But sometimes, I have seen guys do things to make sure we all survived another day. Letting you have a piece of a trade. Lending money when you were down. Taking you under their wing for awhile. One trader I knew called it “stepping off their throat.” Someday it might be you that needed help. Once in the hogs, I needed to buy a couple of hundred hogs to cover a position. A guy sold 500 contracts, and faster than you can blink your eye, the market was up around 150 points. That’s a 300k loss. There were some orders up there and I turned to him and said, “If you want to buy them they are yours.” Then, put my hands in my pockets and waited. There are millions of stories like this. You will live to fight another day.
If you are despondent take a breath. Wait. Sit on your hands. Don’t make the ultimate selfish sacrifice.
If you know of a trader that is on the edge. Put your arms around him and tell his family. It’s just like helping him out of a bad position in the pit. Oh, and send this one around. If there is anyone out there on the brink that is thinking about ending it all-maybe they won’t. There is light at the end f the tunnel. The happy warriors that we are will fight again another day.
RIP ZMAN, lots of people are going to miss you.
Some extremely moving comments. Keep them coming. Not just about ZMAN, but about hope. Too often, people in our industry measure themselves by their P+L (thanks OLA). Three days ago, another guy I didn’t know from Wall Street jumped off a bridge, taking his life.
As a trader, I empathize with them. It is so easy to stay down when you are ice cold. I understand what the depths look like. However, we have to focus on other things are reframe ourselves. Please, more comments on how you reframed your career during a tough time. This suicide thing can’t become de facto for losing money, or losing your perceived purpose in life.
We lost another one. Michael T. Lee from the CME. RIP. Please, if you are thinking of ending it..Don’t.
tip of the hat to John Lothian for linking to this. Thanks.
The information in this blog post represents my own opinions and does not contain a recommendation for any particular security or investment. I or my affiliates may hold positions or other interests in securities mentioned in the Blog, please see my Disclaimer page for my full disclaimer.
Jeffrey Carter is an angel investor and independent trader. He specializes in turning concepts into profits. He co-founded Hyde Park Angels one of the most active angel groups in the United States in April of 2007. He previously served on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Board of Directors. He has done market commentary for (More...)
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