My dad got me into trading. He didn’t do it actively or knowingly, rather I learned the basics through continuous exposure to his verbal remarks at the TV during my teenage years. I can’t recall what he said, which is probably a good thing. I only recall that my dad was happy when the market was green and was briefly angry when the market was red. The extent of his emotion depended on the greenness or redness of the market. He never took any of his anger out on my mom and I, it was just between him and the TV.

A blue-collar, 9 to 5, worker, my dad was a quality control engineer at the local manufacturing company. He spent over 35 years working for it until they fired him a few years shy of meeting the minimum social security age. My dad worked hard to give my mom and I the best life he could give us, one that I wouldn’t change. Although he never made more than $45,000 per year from his job, which was 100% of our total household income (my mom didn’t work), my dad never complained. He was frugal and stretched his dollars with double and triple coupons, but gave us more than we ever needed to live well, including taking us on two or three week-long vacations per year.

Around 5:30PM every weekday evening, my mom and our two cats would make their way to the mudroom when they heard the rumble of the garage door opening. Like clockwork, he’d close the car door, take-off his shoes and place them on the wall side of the first or second step, open the door to the mudroom and then take-off his hat, hairnet, earplugs and work glasses and place them on the wire shelf fixed to the side of the wall above the washing machine. After my mom and the cats greeted him, he turned on CNBC to see how the DOW, S&P and NASDAQ fared for the day. Then, at dinner, he’d have PBS’ Nightly Business Report playing in the background on the TV in the family room, which was adjacent to the kitchen. It never made any sense to me. I wondered what he found so interesting about it, especially since Paul Kangas spoke monotone. Now, business news is just about the only type of entertainment I watch, read or listen to every day.

Sometime after I began working at IBM and before BIDU started trading, my dad helped me apply for a Schwab One account. He had mentioned it a few times before and said that it’d be good for me since I can benefit from his status, but I hadn’t taken action. I thought about it though, enough to accept his offer during another visit. One of my first stock purchases was BIDU. I was dating a Chinese lady, a year or two younger than me, who had emigrated to America with her family while she was in high school because her father rejected China’s invitation to join the Communist party. When she heard that BIDU was going to start trading, she emphatically told me to sell everything (raise money) and put it all into that stock. I thought about it, but didn’t listen out of disbelief, partly, and since her strategy was counter to diversification, a business principle I had learned about in b-school. I overlooked the fact that she had tested in the top 1% in her home province on the high school entrance exam, studied business and was intellectually superior to most, including me. She ended up selling her position after getting in at market open for a $12,000+ gain. I was able to buy seven shares and made $400. I had also bought GLD later that year and sold it for a loss. My dad completed the taxes forms for both of us that year and had applauded her for her BIDU trade. He told me, “How do you lose money in gold?”


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