I get sick when I think about that day and the mistake that cost me $5,000.
I compare it to something in between smashing my thumb with a hammer to breaking your mother’s most beloved piece of China.
It is something that makes me sick just reliving it.
I actually just puked in my mouth a little bit. <ugh….>
I had been a financial advisor for almost four years so I should’ve known better.
But thanks to a lot of greed and even more ignorance, I got my rear handed to me on a silver platter.
I was meeting with a client who was telling me the story about their daughter’s boyfriend whose dad worked for some mining company.
[Do you see how bad this starts off? I usually make fun of people that will even entertain stories like this. And here I was caught up in the moment. Back to the story…]
The client was telling me how this company had just signed some new deals and since it was a penny stock, otherwise known as an OTC or over-the-counter thinly traded security, there wasn’t a lot of news about it. His theory was that this penny stock could soar pretty quickly.
[Don’t you like how I’m getting advice from my client who really knows nothing about investing. And I'm really considering taking his advice about what the next stock is I’m going to buy? This has “epic fail” written all over it. ]
I had some cash in my investment account (lucky me!) so I thought I might as well give it a shot.
[Seriously, that was my logic: “might as well give it a shot”. I should have hired one of these advisors to punch me in the face.]
I proceeded to place a trade to buy a certain number of shares of this stock that was going to make me millions.
[Hah. Not even close buddy. Not by a long shot.]
Buying an OTC Stock – Woops
When buying an over-the-counter stock, otherwise known as a penny stock, you must be sure to protect yourself and make sure that when you place an order to buy or sell, that you put a specific price on it. I unfortunately put an order in to buy “at market”.
Translating, that means that I put an open order to buy whatever a price that someone is going to sell it to me for. If you think about it in Ebay terms, instead of bidding on the price, I elected to “Buy Now” and the seller could increase the price if they so choose.
In larger stocks that are traded on the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ, that’s typically not an issue because the market will keep that price in check. In the over-the-counter market, it’s a different story. An entirely different story.
The Wild, Wild West
You can think of the OTC market like the Wild, Wild West of trading. Just because the stock is trading at $0.90 doesn't mean that you'll buy or sell those shares at $.90.
If I put a buy order in “at market”, that price could shoot up to $1.90, $3.00; whatever their price might be. Essentially that’s what happened in my case.
I had put in an order to buy say 2,500 shares (I don't remember the exact number) and a few 100 of the shares executed at what I thought was the market price. But I quickly and expensively learned that a lot of them issued at a price double of what I intended to buy it for.
To make matters worse, after the trade settled, the prices were displaying what I thought I was paying for it in the beginning. To summarize:
- I submitted a buy order for 2500 shares of a penny stock “at market” and thought I was buying it for $.90.
- I bought a few hundred shares at $.90 but most executed at least 2 if not 3 times that. That means I made an investment of $5,000 instead of what I thought was going to be $2,250.
- After the trade settled, the price reverted back to the original price of $.90. If I sold it that day I would take an immediate huge loss.
If I’m doing a bad job of explaining how the system works, it’s a further demonstration of why I have no business buying penny stocks. Chances are if you’re reading this, you fit that description, too, so let’s reflect of how I screwed up royally.
Don't Do as I Do, But Do as I Say
Before you start trying to make yourself believe that you can make millions off buying penny stocks, take note of how I screwed up and I let my over-confidence and flat out ignorance get the best of me.
- I listened to advice from someone I had no business getting advice from. My client knew nothing about the stock, knew nothing about the company, other than what his daughter’s boyfriend had told him. Whenever you’re getting investment advice from someone, make sure you consider the source.
- I had no idea how the over-the-counter market works. This system works nothing like logging into my Scottrade account and picking up a stock on the NY exchange. It's more like traveling to Spain, going to a flea market, and trying to bargain with a vendor even though I don’t speak the language. Chances are I’m going to be screwed just like I was in this situation.
- Greed is not always good. I don’t care what Gordon Gekko says, I was doing just fine making a decent return on my boring mutual funds but the chance of quadrupling my money in a short amount of time got the best of me.
That was the last penny stock that I've ever bought and will ever buy again. I don't care if my best friend's uncle's seamstress knows a guy that has an insider at some other company. Never again…