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Guest Blogger Clint Goodrich--View From A Trader

Clint Goodrich began his professional career in horseracing, first as a jockey, then as a trainer, and eventually as an owner. He eventually traded horses for the stock market, first with his own money, and now with the money of a few, well-chosen clients.

I've mentioned him before because he's one of the smartest guys I know. He's also out there in the trenches for hours every day trying to make money, just like millions of you sitting in front of your computer screens. I asked him to write a guest blog on what the last week has been like from his perspective, and many of you can probably relate to it.

Here's part one of Clint's take, on how volatile and difficult it's been. Part two will follow shortly, on what he fears may happen next:

The events of the last few days in the stock and financial markets could cause a person to re-think their relationship with life as they know it. From my home office, I manage money for ten clients, these accounts represent a total of around $25 million dollars, a relatively small amount in money management standards. This figure includes 100% of my own money. My vehicle for money management is the S&P 500 futures-options market. I am an options writer, I sell both sides of the market and collect the premium. I'm like an underwriter, I assume the risk of market moves in either direction for a defined amount of premium. Premium is a fancy term for money.

I learned to do this through lots of hard work over many years. John McEnroe said in his book, "You Cannot Be Serious", "You learn the most when you lose." In the beginning I lost - a lot. As a trader, if you can survive the learning curve, you can make a very good living. I now live in Aspen, Colorado.

The decision and ability to manage money is a choice (not one I take lightly) and a privilege. It's really like being fortunate enough to be a professional athlete, you should never whine about how difficult the season has been for you, how tired you are, or how hard it is to play so many games under such tough conditions (likewise, no one should ever feel sorry for me). My bottom line is, if my clients don't make money, neither do I. If I lose money I must make up those losses before I charge any fees. I am compensated purely on performance. This is the way it is for all traders, and the way it SHOULD be for CEO's and Institutions. Coach Bill Parcells said, "Ultimately, you are what your record says you are". From that statement, there is no escape. Unless of course you are Freddie, Fannie, AIG, Bear Sterns or the numerous CEO's who have the Steve Miller Band classic "Take the Money and Run" on their iPods.

On last Thursday and Friday, September 18th and 19th, the financial markets shook to the very core of their foundations. I could taste the fear, I personally saw my life flash before me eyes. I was having visions of the moving van pulling up to my house, actually, it was a U-Haul. We, meaning the U.S. Financial Markets, had just peered into the abyss. My account balances could not keep up with the market plunge, my margin requirements froze. I had no idea whether to exit positions at what could be the worst possible time, or try to ride out the day and risk being whipped out personally, taking my clients down with me.

It was only 11:00 am in the Rocky Mountains. I wasn't sure I could take it for another 3 hours and 15 minutes. This was probably the closest thing to pure white-hot fright I can ever remember. I began to try scale out of positions, buying back positions I'd sold, trying to buy them back at a huge losses, I couldn't catch up with the "ask", the bid-ask spread kept widening, it kept moving farther away. No one was willing to take the other side of the trade. In cyber-space trading, there was no one out there. I was starting to get nauseous and at the same time trying to keep my composure enough to place my orders for each account accurately. A mistake now would even be more costly, and there are no "do-overs" in trading.

Then at 11:15 am the rumors began to fly about a ban on short selling in the U.K., another U.S. Government bail out in the works for investment banks, and hundreds of billions in market guarantees. The markets started to rebound. The margin calls to traders on the downside exaggerated the selling and caused massive liquidations. Now the exaggerated and violent upsurge in the next two days was going to create margin calls on the upside when traders took positions to protect themselves from the downdraft.

As a trader I cannot control the market, I can only control my place within the market. I can act and react. What I find most difficult is not losing money, that's part of trading. The most impossible thing in the world to do as a trader is to try and trade around the government. When government regulators ignore the rules and let it run wild, then decide at the worst possible moment to step in to intervene, you get caught in the whip-saw. The ricochet will jerk the life out of you. You get into the game of trying to outguess the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Secretary, the Chairman of the SEC, Congress and even the President! Now plug in the political gamesmanship of an election year and, as a trader, the only word that comes to minded is "screwed."

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    • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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