What Makes Runaway Trading Possible?

My idea for the Runaway Trader was a long time in coming. I originally dreamed of running away more than 20 years ago after reading a book called Work Your Way Around the World by Susan Griffith. Trouble is, I wasn't really keen on workingespecially at the sort of mundane temp jobs this book suggests to those who are short on cash but long on motivation. So, although I wasn't interested in working my way around the globe, the idea for traveling around the world stuck with me.

Now, a unique set of technologies has come together for the first time, and my idiosyncratic version of Runaway Trader is possible. The Internet and a burgeoning crop of related products and services not only make it possible for ANYONE to run away, but you can also keep on going. You don't have to come back, and you don't have to wash dishes on some ocean liner to make it happen.

The Internet is the Biggest Piece of the Runaway Trading Puzzle

First and foremost, of course, was the creation, “invention” if you will, of the World Wide Web, the Internet, that network of networks that spans the global cyberspace. Literally.

Specifically, the Web is a worldwide, publicly accessible network of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP). Whew! That’s a mouthful. And even if Al Gore didn’t invent it, the Internet has given us access to more information and services than we could use in a hundred lifetimes. Perhaps two hundred.

There are now more than a billion people who use the internet, and millions of Web sites (URLs) to serve them. Lead by Asia and Europe, the U.S. still has more users than Latin America, the Middle East, or Oceania. What’s important for the Runaway Trader, though, is what the Internet has meant for stock traders.

Wall Street has long been the monopoly of elite trading firms that could capitalize on instant access to important trading information and to rapid, low-cost order executions. That was before the Internet. Now everybody who has access to a computer has access to the same info and instant trading menus as the big guys. In fact, I can electronically sell my stocks directly TO the big guys and they to me. Now, individual traders and investors can play the game on a more level playing field and can earn (and lose, of course), as much money as their skills and knowledge (or lack thereof) will let them.

And millions play the stock trading game. After e-mail, online stock trading is the fastest growing consumer use of the Internet. More than 2 million stock trades are placed online each day.

More than 50 million folks like you and me now have online brokerage accounts. In fact, stock trading has become the career choice for millions of entrepreneurs who earn handsome rewards and take total control over their lives and working conditions.

But when I say "working conditions," I mean getting away from it all to enjoy exotic new countries, and difference cultures to match.

Major Advances in Computer Technology

My first computer was an IBM PC. It was a machine of amazing capability at the time. It had no hard drive, of course. And the software it used had to be loaded (and reloaded) every time you used it. Program size was limited to the 128K but I later upgraded to 256K RAM. Wow! Big deal.

In the meantime, I’ve gone through about three or four newer computers and the unit on which I’m pecking out this missive has a 224 gigabyte hard drive. That’s thousands of times more powerful than my original computer and it was thousands of dollars cheaper to buy. (That IBM and its software set me back $4,500).

But the real breakthroughs have been the laptop, the netbook and the smartphone. With these gadgets I can take my online trading to anywhere on the globe that offers Internet access, either hard-wired or wireless, or anywhere that you can find a phone signal.

The meaning is clear:  I don’t have to stay at home, glued to a desktop all day and suffer claustrophobic episodes as the walls begin to close in, no matter how festooned they are with art, posters and photos.

Moreover, nobody has to stay at home. I happen to trade stocks but you could just as easily buy stuff from all over the world and sell itas you go—on EBay. Or you shack up anywhere on the globe and write for a living, or remotely run some online business and sell anything from advice to zebras.  Get the picture?

OK. So I’ve got the Internet, a snazzy laptop, some stock trading experience, and the yen to travel. There’s one other item that I can’t do without:  Plastic. 

Have Plastic Will Travel

And of course, I mean debit or credit cards. Through the miracle of the Automated Clearing House (ACH) Network, brokers can download dollars into its bank account, then to the ACH which dispatches those bucks to your bank, and then into your personal account. You can just as  easily access those bucks with that plastic card I previously mentioned.

Virtually all of the major stock brokerages today offer the ability to download cash through ACH. In fact, brokerages associated with major banks allow you to use a debit card to withdraw directly from your trading account.

In simple terms, you can place an online stock trade from some exotic location,  earn money on the trade, download that extra cash to your bank, and then immediately spend it, on anything your heart's desire:  Charter a scuba diving boat in Indonesia; a helicopter tour of Tanzania's Serengeti, or enjoy a quiet dinner for two at Café de Paris in Monaco. Now what could be slicker than that? I can place a trade this morning and be spending my profits the same day. It’s Rube Goldberg’s answer to the new millennium.

And that’s what Runaway Trader is all about. Savvy stock traders who use the power and sophistication of the Internet, the ease and mobility of the laptop computer and its related gadgetry, and the ready availability of cash and buying power through bank debit cards, to leave cares and woes behind and travel the globe.

The same triad can be used by entrepreneurs with derring-do to ply their skills buying and selling on Ebay, or trading any kind of commodity anywhere in the world. The new technologies have made it all possible. My thanks to you all, who made this new age bonanza possible.  And good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.


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