Sunday, September 6, 2009

False Alarm

It's 3:49 am right now. As I was about to turn off my computer, I had the vague, uneasy feeling that I was forgetting to do something important. Suddenly, I remembered: I need to check what the markets are up to.

Sorry, that's totally not it. Not only is it not Monday morning, but even if it were, this Monday is Labor Day, and the (US) markets would be closed anyway. Maybe there wasn't anything important to begin with, or if there were, I still can't remember it anyway.

This false alarm does bring up something I've been thinking about, though: Is investing a job or a hobby?

I don't consider myself a professional trader or investor because I don't have the pretensions of one. I don't work for a bank or hedge fund, and I don't spend all day looking at a screen, or shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars on investment newsletters, or move around large chunks of cash. But in some ways, I am one; I know a lot about investing, far more than the average person, and probably more than average person who calls himself an "investor." It all depends on how you define "professional" versus "amateur."

If we're looking at strict definitions, aren't I a professional if it's my profession? It's what I do for a few hours nearly every day. Since I don't have a job, it's pretty much the only way I make money (although I'm not investing my money so I can spend it). On the other hand, as I said, I don't have the professional's pretensions. I'm not investing so I can put food on the table.

Maybe I should consider myself an amateur, then, in the older sense of the word. The word "amateur" sometimes has the pejorative connotation of somebody inexperienced in what they're doing, but some amateurs have made pretty impressive contributions; I'm thinking especially of "gentleman scientists." In this case, there's no difference between a professional and an amateur other than one does it for money (his profession), and one does it for love (amor, the ultimate source of the word "amateur").

On the other hand, I'd be thrilled if I could turn my hobby into a money-making activity -- that is, enough of a money-making activity that I could live off of my investments. So, right now I'm still an amateur. But let's kick it up a notch. I recently made a thousand bucks in a day's work. If I can make $3000 in a day, or achieve a return of 150% in a year, I'll consider myself a professional. Until then, I'm doing this for the love of it.

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