Volatile markets -- hinging every day on fiscal policies in Europe or economic results out of China - offer temptations, teasing you into taking a risk.
So when temptation strikes, use a "dumb money" account, a simulated or small-dollar brokerage account to take filers, double down on penny stocks, buy long-shot options and play out all of the reckless, foolish maneuvers which usually end up losers.
Think of it as controlled doping.
Virginia Tech researchers confirmed what market junkies already know: stock trading gets you high. While engaged in a stock simulation trading game, subjects' levels of dopamine -- the chemical associated with arousal and euphoria -- tracked changes in the market. The inherent uncertainty of markets is what makes them interesting, fascinating and, potentially dangerous.
Yes, selling tiny winners tiny winners is fun. So is day-trading leveraged ETFs or speculating in penny stocks. A small account, separate from your primary investments, allows you to make all the mistakes that come with bad technique without upsetting your long-term plan.
But, even if tiny wins in your speculative account start to get bigger, consider a lesson from stock trader Jesse Livermore, who in 1917 took a chunk of his profits and put it in trust to benefit his wife and son. "The reason I did this was not alone the fear that the stock market might, take it away from me, but because I knew that a man will spend anything he can lay his hands on" he wrote. "I have fixed it up so that no matter what I want or what my wife wants, that trust holds."
His prescience was uncanny. Twelve years later, Livermore was bankrupt, save the trusts.
To that end, an element of financial control -- gimmick or not -- can instill a semblance of responsibility for those with a tendency to take chances.—Jonathan Hoenig is managing member at (Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC.