Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Investing or Gambling? Part 3: Why Its Important.

Americans are enamored by wealth. We all dream about being independently wealthy, working as little as possible, and obtaining the most amount of money as possible. But, the harsh reality is that very few of us achieve our goals of becoming millionaires.

For the past few years, the United States has been in a recession. Many individuals have lost their jobs and have remained unemployed for two years or more. At the same time, students graduating from college have found it increasingly more difficult to find employment opportunities. Many students have taken the opportunity to earn a Graduate degree with the hope that they will be more marketable when they finish their advanced education.

People are desperate.

With financial pressures mounting, many unemployed individuals have sought alternate avenues for generating family revenue. Some have become day traders, and others have become professional gamblers.

Temptation is everywhere.

The radio and television advertisements are full of get rich quick schemes, telling us to buy gold, refinance our houses, play the stock market, play the lottery, go to a casino, and more. We are bombarded with stories of successful investors such as Warren Buffet, George Soros, Donald Trump, and Wall Street tycoons who made fortunes playing the markets. At the same time, we see the glamorous lifes of the ESPN World Series of Poker stars, and hear about the fabulous casino and lottery winners.

Taking a gamble.

In the past, the division between gambling and investing was clearly defined. Our images of gamblers were those betting at race tracks, the down on their luck poker player, or the gambling addict. Investors wore suits and ties. They attended meetings and lunches, and put together multi-million dollar deals that rewarded them handsomely.

The internet breaks the barriers.

But with the recent advances in technology, the trading tools previously available only to those in the investment business are now available to all of us. We can now learn to use technical trading tools right in our home for buying and selling stocks. As we learn more, we can buy more exotic products, like options. A few years ago, everyone could play online poker. Although this is now banned, players can continue to refine their skills by playing for fun on a variety of sites.

This past January, 60 Minutes aired a Sports Bedding feature on Billy Walters, a sports betting legend who has never had a losing year.

Because temptation is everywhere, many individuals are attempting to earn a living as either a professional investor or a gambler. I have several friends who stopped working years ago and now earn their income solely from trading stocks. Lately, I've seen a few young college graduates decide to become professional poker players in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, rather than working in the corporate world.

Everyone wants your money.

What I've learned from analyzing lottery games and talking to these individuals is that achieving success is difficult.  Everyone out there wants your money. The more desperate you are, the easier it is to lose everything. Regardless of whether you participate in investing or gambling, you are competing against professionals that have much more money and much more knowledge. They all know the odds of winning and losing, and make their bets accordingly.

Don't be a fool.

Therefore, we felt that it is important to write this series of articles about investing and gambling. In last weeks article, we defined these two concepts and showed how they are different. In subsequent weeks, we will illustrate why the distinction between the two is blurred. In the end, we hope to educate you to the risks of each profession, and to help you keep your hard earned money.

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