From Beginning to End: A Successful Trader's Journey

Those who dream about trading for a living should read Angela Zhou's story.

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The journey of a successful trader.

 How I Got Interested

In July of 1998 I finished college in South Florida with a Business major. I kept thinking about what I would like to do next; meanwhile I was working as a waitress in a Sushi restaurant to support myself.

The old Chinese traditions taught me to work hard and save for rainy days and I had managed to put an initial investment of $15,000 into a mutual fund.  One day, I received my statement and was surprised to see a 12% return for the year; an $1,800 gain.

  With great joy I told my best friend about it. He answered unemotionally - “Do you know you could have made 5-10 times that if you invested in stocks instead?”

What?  Really? I suddenly became curious about this new discovery. The next day, my friend started showing me reams of paperwork from his seventeen different subscriptions, pointing out that Investor’s Business Daily was his favorite among all of them.

He also showed me a financial TV channel called “CNBC’ that he watched daily.

New-born Calves are not afraid of Tigers aka My Trading Started Nicely

I eagerly opened an online brokerage account with an initial deposit of $2,000.  One day, I saw that a stock called “The Sharper Image” had moved in one day from $8 to $20 on the news that it would open online stores. I wrote down its ticker and kept this price move in mind. A few days later it went back down to $9.00 so I immediately bought 200 shares.

A couple of days after that it shot up to $21 on the same news. I sold it and doubled my initial $2,000 investment.

Unbelievable..!!! I had made a 100% profit in a few days; it was much better and much easier than having my money in a slow-growing mutual fund. The next day, I got out of my mutual fund and sent all the money into my E*TRADE account, which then totaled about $20,000.

I began to buy every trading book out there and read them over and over. I followed IBD diligently, learning about stocks’ fundamentals, and I traded most of high flyers of the day, mainly based on my gut feeling and instinct.  

Then something strange happened.  The price behavior of most stocks began to change.

I remember holding 100 shares of NSOL with a 70 point gain at one time. Two days later, I came back to my desk after having lunch; NSOL started tanking like a falling knife on some negative news.

My heart stopped beating and my hands were shaking and sweating. I was freezing, and I couldn’t move my fingers as I watched it rapidly slice down below my buy point. Luckily it opened up 20 points the next day, so I sold immediately for a $2k gain. But something wasn’t right.

Another morning, as soon as CNBC announced MSTR had accounting issues, the stock dropped 100 points in ten minutes and I dumped my 200 shares for a huge loss. Those wild days taught me to be able to endure big time volatility and also made me mentally tough.

Similar incidents with extremely volatile price moves started happening a lot by late 1999. This was a time when everyone was talking about stocks and acting like experts, which caused me to become alert and cautious about being long stocks.

I started shorting some high flyers.

I shorted YHOO at its exact all-time time high of $500 or $125 post split adjusted price ( it dropped as low as $4 later ); I shorted CMGI at exactly it’s all time high of $300 ( it hit below $1 a year later ). But although my entries were good, I only caught partial gains on those shorts.

From mid 1998 to the end of 2000 despite a roller coaster ride, my initial trading funds went up over 800% for a $150k gain. Being a young female immigrant who used to make only $25k a year working part-time while studying for school, I was very happy with the profit.

Finding a Mentor and Learning Technical Analysis

Like life, my trading journey was not all smooth sailing. A bear market started from September of 2000 to March of 2003 when I found that trading old leaders were not working well. I made money, and then gave it back, and repeated the process. It became evident that I needed to improve my trading skills and to find a mentor if I wanted to be successful in trading.

I paid $1,800 for course materials about day trading from a website, but it didn’t work for me at all. I had to work other jobs outside of trading to make some income, but I didn’t give up my passion for trading.

Then one day in 2004, I was browsing through a trading magazine at the book store and I read an amazing successful story about a former pool contractor who became a multi-millionaire by turning $11k into $42 million in 18 months.  His name was Dan Zanger. Learning about his astonishing story made me so inspired and excited, as if I found the miracle, and I knew he would be my mentor!

Achievement and More Challenges Ahead

I started trading full-time again in 2006. By going through that learning curve of losing and winning repeatedly, my trades finally became more consistent and more profitable. I combined Dan’s trading method with my own style, one which fit my personality. By 2008, the hard work paid off.  I turned my $50,000 trading fund into well over one million dollars in profit by trading market leaders.

Over the years my trading journey has had many ups and downs. But I am a trader who likes to pick myself up after a fall, who aims high after winning, who loves to keep learning, and who always strives to get better. Trading is my career now and my passion in life.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Raphye Alexius/Image Source