This blog post is for fun – and then again, it’s dead serious.
I remember a wonderful spring day when a friend I hadn’t seen for years was visiting Copenhagen. We had studied together in New York almost two decades earlier.
We were sitting at a winery in Copenhagen, drinking a glass of Chardonnay before dinner while waiting for some more people to join us.
At a moment when she was on the phone to explain our exact wine-drinking location, I discreetly logged into a stock market app on my phone.
“You’re checking the stock market,” she said when she got off the phone, and she sounded completely appalled.
At that moment, I felt like one of the crazy characters in a Woody Allen movie. I could see myself through her eyes. I was like the crazy stockbroker who could only do two things: cheat on his wife and yell “sell” into a phone.
Well. Maybe it was a bit odd to check the stock market. We hadn’t seen each other for so long. She had a lot to tell me. New country, new boyfriend, new career, and a baby. We had to catch up on a decade or more.
I wanted to enjoy the Chardonnay and the warm spring day, and I wanted to hear all about her adventures. But the market was falling, and that opened the possibility for some interesting option trades that I had been waiting to do.
If only I could sneak away for 15 minutes…
It’s so tempting to check on the stocks, and once you check, you can get sucked in.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever checked on your stocks at an inappropriate moment?
Why does this even happen?
I’ll tell you why. When you check your stocks, you get a dopamine kick.
It’s similar to what happens when you check your social media, but much stronger, I would argue.
Seeing your stocks go up affects your primitive brain more than seeing someone like your post.
Some of us even get a kick when we see the stocks go down, because we know that’s when we make money.
The line between checking and getting addicted to checking is a blurry line.
How do you know that you’ve become addicted? Well, here are five signs to look for…
1. You Check the Market Right When the Exchange Opens – Every Day
If you’re knocking at Wall Street’s gate even before it’s really open, and doing that every day, it’s a sign.
It’s fine to check the stock market prices, but you should also be able to tolerate forgetting about it occasionally or doing it later.
2. You Check Your Portfolio Even on the Weekends
You checked the portfolio Friday at market close, and you know the market is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, but it’s just so nice to see those numbers on the screen. All those wonderful green numbers – or even the red ones.
You’re actually looking forward to Monday so the digits start moving around again.
3. You Think There Are Too Many Official Holidays
You get annoyed that the market is closed on holidays, and you’d rather be at work than at home with the stock market closed. You just won’t verbalize it.
Speaking of work, you’ll check the stocks at work too. That’s when the market is open, so you have to right?
4. Life Outside the Trading Platform Feels Dull
You find it hard to focus on reading a book or watching a show.
Even social media seems boring compared with the numbers going red and green.
Some social events feel like a bore too. You’d rather get back to making money.
5. You Check Stocks In Bathroom
Oh, I’ve been there. Remember FAANG stocks getting crushed in late 2018?
I tried hiding from my kids on Christmas Eve so I could buy some Apple stocks that suddenly reached my target price.
I didn’t succeed because my kids were banging on the door and being impatient about Christmas and presents.
After that I promised myself NEVER to do that again.
The Road To Recovery
Did you recognize any of these signs?
If so, then you need rehab.
You have to learn that you can make sound investment decisions without constantly getting a stock market fix.
In fact, your investment decisions will become sounder if you take a step back.
So how do you take a step back?
1. Enter Your Trades as Limit Orders in the Off Hours
You don’t have to enter your trades when the market is open.
In fact, it’s better not to, because all those numbers running up and down sends a signal to your brain that you should act on it.
You’ll be a better investor if you’re less updated. That’s something you’ll have to experience over time to know, but for now you just have to trust me.
2. Go Cold Turkey For 30 Days
Just like with a sugar addiction, you need to reboot yourself by stopping the actual intake for a while.
When I say cold turkey, I mean that you shouldn’t check the market at all in 30 days – not even when it’s closed.
You have to learn that nothing will implode if you’re not updated for 30 days.
During those 30 days, you can arrange for someone to let you know if any of your positions fall more than 20 percent or if the market crashes.
After going cold turkey, you can easily go a day without checking.
3. Force Yourself Into Another Neutral Addiction
Maybe now is the time to watch that Netflix series everyone is talking about?
There are three kinds of addictions: negative, positive, and neutral.
A negative addiction takes a toll on your health, your finances, or your relationships.
This would be something like smoking, gambling, or having extramarital affairs.
A neutral addiction doesn’t harm anyone, but it doesn’t do any good either. This could be watching Netflix or checking your social media accounts.
A positive addiction would be running or going to the gym.
If you could find a positive addiction to replace your stock market fixation, that would be perfect, but it might not be realistic to replace that dopamin kick with chewing veggies.
So the next best thing is a neutral, pleasurable choice like a Netflix series.
Afterwards, you can always take a cold turkey break from Netflix because you’ll have strengthened your willpower and ability to abstain.
If you want to learn about solving intellectual puzzles and investing with a strategy, you can read my e-book Free Yourself here.