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For many, learning how to trade well could be akin to building an additional stream of income. Whether you trade full-time or in your spare time, it’s likely that you will need to allocate some time to monitor potential trade setups and execute them.
At the same time, profits made from trading can be used to supplement one’s lifestyle. This could mean that you have more money to do the things you want to do, like travel the world.
But is it really possible to enjoy the best of both worlds? Can traders consistently generate profits from their trades while still pursuing their dream to travel the world whenever they want?
To answer this question, we talk to a person who is familiar with both trading and travelling.
Spencer Li, aka The Travelling Trader, is the Founder and Head Trainer of Synapse Trading. Spencer started trading in 2007, when he was in university. After graduating from the Singapore Management University (SMU) in 2011 with a Double Degree in Accountancy & Business Management, where he was also on the Dean’s list, Spencer decided to embark on trading full-time instead of getting a corporate job in a bank.
The reason, as he shared on his website, is that he “realised that even though bankers are paid pretty decently, you have to sell your soul to the job, and you won’t get any chance to enjoy that money. This is pretty much the same for any corporate job. Determined not to get stuck in the rat race, I decided that instead of working for the bank, I would tackle the financial markets myself.”.
Since then, Spencer has not only figured out how to conquer the financial markets but has also done so while conquering the world on his travels.
Today, Spencer has travelled to all six habitable continents in the world (North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia & Oceania) and over 70 countries, sometimes spending up to 6 months on a single trip, all while trading on the go.
Timothy Ho (Timothy): As a small country, it’s no surprise that one of the favourite pastimes for many Singaporeans is travelling. Did you travel much in your growing up days and what got you interested in wanting to travel often?
Spencer Li (Spencer): When I was younger, my family used to travel during the school holidays, but this was usually to nearby countries in Asia or Australia/New Zealand. It was only in university that I got the chance to explore further, and the more I travelled, the more I fell in love with exploring the world.
There is always a sense of adventure to discover new places, experience new cultures, and learn about new things. It also broadens your horizons and perspectives when you see how differently people live their lives in other parts of the world compared to what we are exposed to in Singapore.
Timothy: What is the longest time you have spent overseas on a single trip? Share with us more on the experience.
Spencer: My longest trips were back in my University days, and these happened to be the first times I ventured beyond Asia and Oceania.
My first long trip was to the US, where I spent a few months working at the Grand Canyon National Park as a cashier in the gift store. We did a lot of hiking there, and one of the most memorable was a 4D3N “rim-to-rim” hike in which we started from the North Rim, hiked down to the Colorado River, and climbed back up to the South Rim.
Another long trip was my student exchange, which I did in Poland. This was my first time in Europe, so I took the chance to explore many countries nearby.
Now, my long trips tend to be about 1-2 months at most, and my most recent ones were in Eastern Europe (14 countries) and Central Asia (5 countries). You can read more here on how I managed to travel to 14 countries within Eastern Europe in a month!
Timothy: How long did it take before you started becoming consistently profitable in your trades and realised that you can actually do trading full-time?
Spencer: I started trading way back in University, learning from books, getting certifications, and most importantly, through trial-and-error by experimenting with different trading strategies.
After graduation, I spent some time trading for proprietary and private equity funds alongside veteran traders. This gave me a lot of invaluable market experience and helped me figure out which theories I learned actually worked in practice.
But it all really came to fruition only when I struck out on my own to trade independently, and that was also the time when I formulated my own trading strategies and my “15-Minute System” to tackle any market. This was when I realised that I could always have a consistent source of income from the financial markets, and it could be my full-time endeavour.
Timothy: What are some of the asset classes that you usually trade?
Spencer: Throughout my trading career, I have traded almost all the different asset classes and instruments, such as forex, stocks, indices, bonds, ETFs, REITs, commodities, CFDs, options and even cryptocurrencies.
Now, I mainly focus on forex, stock indices and CFDs for trading, but for my long-term investment portfolio, I do hold a wider diversity of products.
My style of trading would be classified as swing trading, which involves holding assets for a relatively short period of time, typically a few days to a few weeks, with the goal of capturing medium-term price movements. It is a type of active trading that falls between long-term investing and day trading, meaning that it doesn’t require me to constantly monitor the market.
I use a combination of technical analysis, such as chart patterns, price action, and indicators, to identify potential trades and look for assets with strong price momentum. One benefit of swing trading is that it allows traders like me to take advantage of both uptrends and downtrends in the market and offers more trading opportunities than long-term investing.
Timothy: As a full-time trader, trading is your main job. Rather than to take a break when travelling, what prompted you to continue trading even when you are on your overseas trips?
Spencer: Good question!
The way the market works is that most of the time it does not actually move much, but the few times that it does, it moves a lot. This means that it’s a waiting game because you may need to wait a while before you can strike at the right time to capture the best gains.
Because I spend an average of 3 to 4 months a year travelling, if I totally ignore the markets during those periods, there is a high chance of missing out on the best market opportunities.
By using technology to monitor the markets and generate real-time price alerts, I can rely on my “15-Minute System” to track the markets for me, so that I only require 15 minutes a day to do my trading activities.
This frees up the rest of my time to focus on my trip, so it doesn’t really interfere much with my travelling.
Timothy: What are some of the challenges that you have to overcome when you are trading overseas?
Spencer: As I travel across different time zones, I need to keep in mind the various trading hours of the markets I am trading, especially if there is important news data at specific times.
Spencer At Desert Safari, Dubai
While traveling, it can be difficult to find good internet, especially if I’m in a place with limited or unreliable internet access. Here are some things I do to find good internet while traveling:
- Research ahead of time: Before I leave, I research the internet access and connectivity in the places I’ll be visiting. I look for reviews or ask locals for recommendations.
- Use a SIM card: Many countries offer prepaid SIM cards with data plans that I can use on my phone or tablet. This can be a convenient and cost-effective way to stay connected.
- Consider using a personal hotspot: A personal hotspot is a small device that creates a wireless internet connection for my devices. I can use it with a SIM card or connect it to a wired internet connection.
- Look for WiFi hotspots: Many restaurants, cafes, and other public places offer free WiFi for customers. I look for these hotspots and connect to them when I can.
- Use a VPN: A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts my internet connection and can help me access websites that might be blocked in the country I’m visiting.
Timothy: Does trading during your holiday also add additional stress during your trips when you are supposed to be taking a break?
Spencer: Because I already have a fixed system, there is no stress from second-guessing my decisions, because all I need to do is follow and stick to my system.
In addition, I usually utilise spare pockets of time, like on long bus rides or while waiting at the airport. I use this time to place trade alerts on my chart, so that when I am actually travelling, I don’t have to spend any time looking at my charts, because I will only need to act when any of my alerts get triggered.
This way, it does not really eat into my travel time or diminish my travel experience.
Timothy: What are some advice that you would share with fellow traders who are also hoping to trade well when they are on extended overseas trips?
Spencer: To stay on top of market movements and make informed trades while traveling, it’s important to use a reliable trading platform that provides real-time market data and analysis and is accessible from your smartphone or laptop.
Stop-loss orders are also essential for managing risk, as they allow you to set a maximum loss threshold and automatically close the trade if that threshold is reached. This also gives you peace of mind as you don’t need to monitor the market all the time, giving you the time to do other things in your life.
To be successful while trading on the go, it’s also helpful to keep your trading plan simple and avoid making rash decisions based on limited information. Have a clear trading plan in place and stick to it, especially while traveling, and stay organised by tracking your trades and reviewing your performance.
Like Preparing For An Overseas Trip, We Need To Be Prepared When Trading The Financial Markets
Whether we are frequent travellers like Spencer or occasional travellers who go overseas once or twice a year, we all understand the importance of being prepared for our trips. We will likely research the places we want to visit, what we intend to eat and look at online reviews for the accommodations we are intending to book. Some of us will even spend time comparing the foreign exchange rates at moneychangers to get the best possible rates.
Similarly, when it comes to trading, we must prepare in the same way that we would prepare for our vacation.
For a start, traders like Spencer have their own trading system that they use to help them monitor the market and generate real-time price alerts. With the use of technology, trading becomes more efficient and less reliant on a trader’s gut instinct.
The use of technology also allows Spencer to reduce the time he needs to spend setting up his trades each day. This gives him more time to focus on other activities that he enjoys while still being able to generate profits from the financial markets based on his trading strategies.
Foreign exchange (Forex) is one of the asset classes that Spencer trades in. As any avid traveller would know, foreign currencies fluctuate all the time, and travellers can get the most bang for their buck if they are able to capitalise on a favourable exchange rate.
In the same way, traders can also make profits if they successfully capture the price difference of the foreign currency pairs that they trade. Through trading platforms like IG, the world’s No.1 CFD provider (based on revenue excluding FX, October 2021), we can go long or short on the currency pairs that we trade. Forex is the world’s most-traded financial market, with transactions worth trillions of dollars taking place every day. Do note that a large majority of participants in the Forex market are not financial traders hoping to profit from everchanging prices, but users that need to convert their funds from one currency to another for commerce.
Trading on the go also means that it’s important for our trading platform to be easily accessible across multiple devices, all the time. With IG, traders are able to execute their trades on the web-based platform or on their IG Trading mobile app. This way, as long as there is internet access, traders like Spencer can stay connected to the financial markets wherever they are in the world. Furthermore, with IG, they can also get, 24/5 technical support.
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