Very few people know it but becoming a trader and stockbroker was not really my initial career choice, and I don’t think it pleased my parents at first. I knew from an early age that I did not want to go to college and had told my parents about this. They were at first very disappointed but then they thought I would find myself a decent blue collar career and maybe go to college later in life.
My high school career counselor had recommended that apply for a welding apprentice program with one of the local unions. It sounded great: 4 years of on the job training with very little classroom and exam work and a decent wage when I was finished. There was even the prospect of specialized training that would lead to a high paying welding diver career with upwards of $150,000 annual income.
For a 16-year-old kid that was an amazing prospect, but fortunately I had one encounter while on a train to NYC. I ended up sitting next to a guy in a very fancy suit and a cell phone and laptop. Bear in mind this was the early 90s where such technology meant that you were pretty important and wealthy.
So, I plain out asked him what he did and how he got into it. It turned out he was a commodities broker at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and he was traveling to NY for a conference by train because he hated flying.
He didn’t tell me how much he earned, only that 6 figure bonuses were pretty common. 6 figures was as much as I could hope to earn as a welder, so I was immediately hooked on the idea and wanted find out more. I hounded this poor man for about an hour and with all credit to him he entertained my questions and took the time to explain what it was all about.
That set in stone my career choice and when I finished high school and went and applied to probably every single stock and commodity broker on and around Wall Street asking for intern jobs. I eventually got an intern position as an assistant on a prop-trading desk and I was addicted. From the first day I did not want to leave the office and I was always one of the last people to leave, hounding anyone with questions who would have a minute to talk.
This quickly gave me a reputation and within 6 months I was given a small account and I started my 18 months of training. It was a very intense time where I worked 80 hours a week and spent all weekend researching investments. This was easy for me as I after paying rent and eating I simply had no money to do anything else.
All that changed gradually and by the time I was 28 I had gotten my first 6 figure bonus check. The rush that came over me that day was immense, as I imagined what it would have been like to work a dangerous welding job for an entire year just to earn what I was given as a bonus payment.
The moral of this story is that sometimes you just have to go with your heart and that college is not the solution for riches as it is made out to be.