We speak to Marina Villatoro - AKA The Trader Chick - in the latest installment of our Women in Trading series. She has over eight years of experience in trading, and is the founder of The Trader Chick - a website of online trading courses aiming to simplify day trading. We chat about learning trading, the importance of catering to beginners, catering to women, and the difference in mindset between men and women.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Women in Trading: Marina Villatoro
First of all, could you tell me a bit about what interested you about trading in the first place?
Sure, so I’ve always had an interest in the financial markets. I grew up around New York City - so Wall Street and the whole buzz was always there. Then I was a fitness instructor - and I trained and worked in a lot of the corporate offices, so I was able to be around a lot of these people. But twenty five years ago, there was no internet, so it was a lot of little mini workshops, and they wanted thousands of dollars for the course - you have to have $25,000 dollars just to begin. So I never did that. Instead I decided to go into long term investing, and with that I was able to save some money, and with that I began travelling, and after I got married my husband and I settled in Costa Rica. That was when I really wanted to get back into it, and I started to self-educate.
Because we were living in Costa Rica I started a travel blog without knowing that it would take off - it actually became my main business for years, so I became a travel writer. After about five years of pouring my heart and soul into it, before my fortieth birthday I came to a fork in the road. Am I going to be putting more energy and effort into building my travel site, or do I want to do something else?
I realised I was burnt out on the travel, and I decided to go into my other passion, which was day trading, or the financial markets. I wanted to be more proactive on a daily basis, and so for my fortieth birthday, I spent a lot of money on an academy and I went all in, so I’ve been doing it now for over eight years. And that’s pretty much how I got into day trading. It was a slow process.
That’s an interesting story, especially working in travel writing beforehand. What made you decide to begin your website, The Trader Chick?
So after $20,000 dollars’ worth of education, there were several things that I noticed: the first being that women make up less than 1% of the industry. I think now it’s a little bit higher, but back then it was even lower. I really wanted to be around more women because women just have a different take on trading overall. Our mindsets are different. There were very few women so I wanted to start a women’s community, showing that day trading is actually quite simple.
Another main thing I started to realise was that no one talks about the basics. Nobody talks to total beginners, at all. The analogy I use is that if you want to learn how to play the violin, it’s about being taken from step one - understanding how to play the violin - and being thrown into an orchestral pit with the rest of the musicians. It’s impossible, you can’t do that - but the majority of the schools, that’s how they manage it. So the majority of people end up losing and by then the academies all cost like $3,000 to $5,000, and you can’t get your money back, so it’s a failing way of teaching people.
And what I decided after I had a lot of setbacks was that I was never taught the basics. I never had reversal patterns explained to me, or divergences, or sideways markets, or support and resistance. These things are so basic it’s kind of like getting into a car and not knowing where the accelerator is, or where the brakes are. And without realising it, what my strategy was was going for small profits and small risk - now I know it’s called the scalping strategy - but when I just started to share my strategy with people, they were really interested in learning how to do it and I decided to make it into a course. I never expected to - nor did I even really want to - be an educator, it just happened. But those are the two main reasons - for women, and to really talk about the basics.
In your experience, what is it like to be a woman in trading - which is quite a traditionally male-dominated industry?
I’ve never felt any sexism, but I was in many different trade groups and trade rooms; I was pretty much always the only female, maybe one or two others. So the main difference that I found was the way that the guys talk and the analogies they make. You know, they’re a little bit lewd, not on purpose - and also very aggressive. That’s the one thing that I think really did not work to my advantage - they were going for big targets, which looks good on paper but the reality is you have to put up a huge risk and I just didn’t have that in me to do such high risk stuff. Whenever I used to send in my charts without the big targets, they would be like: you need to go higher.
I’m mainly a futures trader, so in futures we trade with contracts, and I recommend everybody on my courses begin with just one contract. Women will start with just one contract, but men will start with four or five. Right away. Quadrupling their risk factor. They don’t have as much patience; women can be much more tolerant - that makes a difference.
Why do you think there are so few women in the trading industry?
Because it’s very scary, and then on top of that is the risk factor - and it is risky, but it’s not a gamble if you have a very strong, solid strategy. But if you’re a woman - we all have our own money stories already to begin with - and then listening to these experts talk, god knows what they’re saying. You do not have to have a high risk, you can go for smaller risks. It’s never talked about to women directly; it’s never explained that you don’t have to put up a lot of money. You can begin with $500. In futures, and in forex I think it’s the same, it’s really low entry, which helps.
How do you think the industry could be more open and welcoming to female traders?
I’m not sure. I guess the number one way would be to explain that there is no discrimination, and that when you’re trading for yourself, the sky is the limit. There are always issues with women not getting paid enough, but in this case you decide.
Letting women know that once you learn how to do it, it’s up to you - there is nobody holding you back. If that’s spoken about more, I think women would be more interested. This particular industry allows you to be in complete control, because it’s you doing everything. There’s nobody telling you what to do.
Want to read more from our Women in Trading series? Read our Q&A with cryptocurrencies trader from Mire B Acosta>>