Addiction isn’t limited to drugs, alcohol, and food. With the advent of easy stock and cryptocurrency trading on your smartphone, you can be addicted to gambling in its various forms, even when you’re not actually in Las Vegas at a blackjack table or slot machine.
Indeed, gambling sometimes looks quite different in the digital age than it did in past generations. Understanding the nature, signs, and consequences of a particular type of addiction, which I call over-trading, can help you avoid the pitfalls of this relatively new but nonetheless devastating phenomenon.
History shows that quality, not quantity, is the key to success in the financial markets. There are good reasons why Warren Buffett is among the wealthiest people in the world. His favorite hold time for investments is “forever,” maybe not literally but his point is well taken.
Meanwhile, people who try to “scalp” trades for quick gains rarely do well over the long term. 30 or 40 years ago, it wasn’t simple or cheap to make many quick stock traders, and cryptocurrency didn’t even exist yet.
Then came smartphone apps, which quickly changed the trading landscape. Around the same time, cryptocurrency gained popularity as an alternative to government-issued currencies.
Bitcoin and Ethereum prices are prone to large and sudden price swings. And, just as it is with practically every other financial asset, a community of avid traders has formed around cryptocurrencies. The volatility of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptos make them alluring as trading instruments for people seeking quick profits.
These cryptos are easily traded on cryptocurrency platforms, which can be accessed on a smartphone nowadays through popular apps like Binance, Coinbase, Kraken, and KuCoin. The per-transaction fees have gotten lower in recent years, so there’s almost no barrier to entry for eager crypto traders.
The same can be said for stocks and, more recently, the variety of Bitcoin ETFs that just became available. All of these can easily be traded on a smartphone with low fees or even no fees.
The truth is, all forms of trading can quickly devolve into outright gambling. This could conceivably happen with physical gold or silver, but that’s comparatively rare.
It’s the ease of access and the volatility of cryptocurrency and certain stocks that makes it particularly enticing for traders with get-rich-quick fantasies. Furthermore, whereas the U.S. stock market isn’t open for regular-hours trading 24/7, the cryptocurrency markets never close.
Thus, crypto trading lends itself to addictive behavior patterns, such as trading for hours on end or wagering larger amounts of money to win back money that’s been lost. Still, this behavior can also occur with stocks, even including blue-chip stocks.
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Even beyond the impacts on one’s relationships and mental health, over-trading can take a toll on your finances rapidly and irreversibly. If a trading platform offers lending (also known as margin) services, you could end up losing all of your money and even owe more money to the broker.
It may be overstating the issue to call any particular trading app/marketplace’s practices “predatory.” However, there is a gamification element that’s in a gray area, ethically speaking.
Courtesy: Finance Strategists
As far as symptomatic red flags are concerned, over-trading isn’t much different from other forms of gambling. Common signs may include trading beyond your financial means, lying about or hiding your financial losses, feeling shame and/or guilt, and borrowing money to trade.
The problem is, some trading apps look more like smartphone video games or casino apps than serious financial platforms. The gamifying of trading apps resembles the changes seen in lottery tickets over the years: they’re more colorful and exciting than ever, and that’s what’s so dangerous about them.
Besides knowing how to activate the reward centers in the brain, some trading platforms offer lending/margin services, as mentioned earlier. Whether this is a “predatory” practice is debatable, but it certainly can feed into traders’ addictive habits.
Additionally, the ultra-convenient access to trading only reinforces the Las Vegas casino analogy. The big difference is that you don’t have to venture out to Las Vegas to get ensnared in the fast-paced world of trading.
That’s why, when I make a stock, commodity, or cryptocurrency recommendation, I typically consider buying and holding it for months or years. I’ve found that people who pay less attention to their trading apps tend to get better results. Being passive, when all is said and done, is nearly always the best way to go.
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