Adventures of a Trader

I was always fascinated by trading. In fact, I did my first trade when I was still in High School. I invested all the “risk capital” I had and bought one share of Volkswagen (VW), a German car manufacturer. I think it cost me 50 Deutschmark, which is approximately $50.

There I was: Proud owner of my first stock. This was back in 1989, and I didn’t have a cell phone. I don’t know if cell phones even existed! And I didn’t have a computer with real time data.

At that time, my computer was a Commodore 64 – with ZERO charting capabilities. However, as a “trader” I needed to know how much money I made – or lost. So I called my broker several times a day and asked, “What’s the current price of VW? And how much money did I make?”

On the third day my broker asked: “Markus, how much money do you want to make on this trade?” – I thought for a few seconds, and said “I would like to make $10, because that would mean I made 20% on my initial investment.”

He said “Done! Come to my office tomorrow and I’ll give you 10 Deutschmark, but STOP CALLING ME.”

So that was my first trade and it was a profitable one! But I realized that I didn’t have enough capital to really make a living trading, so I went to college and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Computer Science. 

After college, I worked a couple of jobs at smaller companies, but I quickly realized that a small business can go out of business very quickly. I thought working for a large corporation would give me job security, so I took a job at IBM.

I was young and hungry and didn’t mind working hard. I learned how to play the “corporate game” and climbed the corporate ladder very quickly. At the age of 33, I was about to become the youngest Vice President of IBM in Germany.

Life was good: I was responsible for IBM Global Services in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). I traveled across Europe and the Middle East. IBM allowed me to fly business class and rent fancy cars, and I became a Platinum Member for major airlines, car rentals and hotels.

I was enjoying life in the fast lane and thought I went from here straight into a comfortable retirement. But in 2001,  everything changed. The corporate life was taking a toll on me: I was working 6 days a week, often 10-12 hours a day.

I was only at home for just a few hours on the weekend – many times I came home on a Saturday and left on Sunday. And when I was home, I just wanted to rest. Do you know the feeling when you’re coming home at night from a long day at work, and you just want to watch a little bit TV and then go to bed early?

And on the weekends you have to keep up with chores? Then you know how I felt! I had no time for friends, family, or the things that are really important in life. I was tired, and I realized I was stuck in the corporate rat race. But things got even worse.

In April 2000, the Internet Bubble burst. Working for IBM Global Services became more and more challenging. Sales goals increased, and bonuses started to get smaller. Travel was restricted to economy class, and “cutting cost” was the new mantra.

Finally, in July 2002, IBM announced the purchase of Price Waterhouse Coopers Consulting (PWC) and the merger between IBM Global Services and PWC. And we all know what “merging” means.

In August 2002 IBM announced that it is cutting more than 15,600 jobs worldwide, due to lower demand for its products and services. Time to get out. I thought better to be proactive and quit before getting laid off.

The economy was tough, and many companies cut back. I decided it’s time to get out of the corporate world and pursue my true passion – Trading! While working for IBM, I was able to save some money and I should be able to survive for a year without any income.

But the changes would be radical.

I needed to change my lifestyle: I would have to move into an apartment, sell my nice German car, and buy a used and cheaper one, eat in instead of dining in fancy restaurants, no more traveling … even clipping coupons!

But I was determined: I wanted to get out of the corporate rat race and become a trader. And in September 2002, I left IBM, sold a lot of my stuff, packed a few boxes, a bed, a table, four chairs and moved from Germany to the USA.