What did you want be when you grew up?
Kids have a knack for dreaming up jobs they’ll do in the future. A few go on to fulfil these early ambitions. But if you’re like me, your ideas gradually shift in a different direction.
My first love was flying. Nothing else came close.
I remember gazing out a plane window as a five year old. I was amazed how the cars and buildings below looked like toys. It’s one of my most vivid early memories.
I was hooked. There was only one job for me…a pilot.
For years I built model planes and read aviation books. I’d also pester my dad to arrange a cockpit visit every time we flew. I couldn’t get enough.
Eventually things changed. By senior school the stock market had my attention. My passion for flying was still strong. But the buzz of the trading floor was nudging ahead.
The cockpit was destined to remain a childhood dream…or so I thought.
I recently had the chance to step back in time. You see, my son’s Scouts group had an excursion to a flying school. And I immediately volunteered to help.
The day involved introductory briefings and a walk around the hangers. But the highlight was a 30 minute flight in a single engine Cessna. I was back in a cockpit for the first time in years.
So did I recapture the flying bug?
Well, my mind was racing listening to the instructor talk about flying. I thought maybe I could still do this. Perhaps I could still be a pilot.
But the flight put an end to that idea. As fun as it was, I knew I wouldn’t take the next step. My enthusiasm for being in a hot noisy cabin just isn’t what it once was.
The day was a snapshot of how my career could have easily begun. It was the closest I’ll get to going back in time — even if it was just for a few hours.
A glimpse of the future
Unfortunately, time travel is the stuff of science fiction. But let’s pretend for a moment. Rather than winding the clock back, we’re going to look forward three years.
Imagine you knew for certain that gold’s recent run higher will continue. By July 2019, it is guaranteed that the price will be trading 90% higher than today.
Think for a moment. How would you use this information to make the most money possible?
Now, there are many ways you could trade this knowledge. But let me narrow it down to just two choices. You can buy gold outright, or you can use a CFD to give yourself leverage.
Have a look at the next chart…
Source: Commodity Systems Inc.
[Click to enlarge]
This is our hypothetical graph of gold’s future. For the sake of this example, imagine the current price is $1,000, and the future price is $1,900. (I’m using a chart from an earlier period.)
You’ll notice there’s a big chunk of data missing. I’ve blocked this out for a reason. You only know the price today, and in three years. The period in between is unknown.
CFD provider IG has a product that will give you leverage of 100 to 1. This means for every dollar gold moves, your account’s value changes by $100. So if you buy one CFD when gold is $1,000, and sell when it’s at $1,900, you’ll pocket $90,000. That’s the power of leverage.
Now, think about this. The price rise is a certainty. Do you play it safe or leverage yourself to the hilt?
Just for fun, work out a hypothetical trade. Use your actual capital base to do the sums. It will be interesting to see how this sure bet plays out for you.
$1,900 or bust
Okay, let’s see how the trade goes…
Source: Commodity Systems Inc.
[Click to enlarge]
There’s no surprise with the end result. Gold rises from $1,000 to $1,900. If you bought gold outright, your account is up 90% — well done.
But what if you chose the CFDs?
Well, you’re potentially up $90,000 per contract. There’s just one question…were you able to hang on?
Yes, we knew gold would hit $1,900. But we didn’t know the course it would take. Look at the decline following our entry point. Gold falls by over $300 per ounce.
Now, this isn’t an issue if you bought gold with capital sitting in your account. You know the fall is temporary. So you just ride it out and wait to collect.
But it’s not so simple if you’re using leverage. You see, the CFD provider adjusts your account daily. It adds money when the price rises, and makes withdrawals when it falls.
Do you remember the amount of leverage on the gold CFD? It’s 100 to 1.
Let’s do the sums on one contract…
Every dollar gold moves creates a $100 adjustment to your account. If gold falls $10, the CFD provider withdraws $1,000. If it falls $100, the withdrawal is $10,000.
In our example, gold drops to $681. That’s a fall of $319. Multiply that by 100 and you get a loss of $31,900. And that’s for just one CFD. How many contracts did you think of buying?
The CFD provider will allow you to keep the trade as long as you can cover the loss. If your account runs out of funds, it’s all over. The trade gets closed. All you get to keep is the loss.
Even knowing the future price doesn’t guarantee a profit when using leverage.
The simple fact is this. You can be the world’s best trader and have a heap of capital. But you still risk ruin if you use too much leverage.
Gold may be on the verge of another big bull market. This could make you a lot of money. But be careful if you use leverage. You can be right, and still lose your capital.
The key to leverage is to be conservative. Keep your trade size under control.
It’s interesting to consider why many traders fail. Often it’s not strategy that lets them down. The biggest problem for many traders is too much leverage.
Wealth creation isn’t something you can rush. A bit of leverage can give you a boost. But don’t hit the accelerator too hard. Things can quickly get out of control.
Until next week,
Editor, Quant Trader
Editor’s note: Are you falling short of your goals? Do you find it a struggle to consistently make good profits? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The stock market can be a tough place to navigate on your own.
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PS: All images are sourced by Quant Trader unless otherwise noted.