Name your technology, and trading is one of the first applications to find a home on any mobile device. Only a few years ago, it seemed like I was the only one at the airport working orders and watching S&P futures on my iPhone. Now, I look around and I see people staring intently at watch lists, charts and p/1 as we wait to board.
Mobile trading is one of the fastest growing segments in online brokerage. Heck, I'm waiting for a fill as I write this, at 37,000 feet. (Thank you, Uncle WiFi.) If you're not doing it, chances are your friends are. And you probably will, too.
That Five-Letter Word: Trust
If you're hesitant to start trading mobile, think ATMs and email. The idea of pulling money—your money—out of a machine, or trusting the Internet to deliver an important message without fail, wasn't something a lot of folks jumped on immediately. There were early adopters. Then the rest of us recognized the incredible convenience these two game-changing innovations gave us.
Mobile trading takes some getting used to. Are the fast quotes accurate? How does my order actually get sent from my iPhone on an airplane to the exchange? The short answer is really, really smart developers built the technology to be able to place a trade reliably and confidently from anywhere you can get a connection. I'm not a technology geek. But I don't hesitate to travel during trading hours because I know I can stay on top of the markets and my positions. Okay, maybe I don't travel on expiration, but that's mainly because I don't want too many people to hear me yelling.
Tips of the Trade
If you're already trading mobile or about to, there are a few things you need to manage. First, the obvious. You probably know you can't guarantee a mobile connection in the middle of the trading day. And you also know you don't have as much screen real estate as you do when sitting at home in front of your 27” flat panel. As for the not-so-obvious, here are four more tips to get the most out of your mobile trading.
Tip 1: Trading never sleeps
Whether you're a soccer dad in the grocery line or an executive mom on a plane to Tokyo, trading is now 24/7, and everywhere.
Do you trade stocks? Options and spreads? How about futures and forex? TD Ameritrade's Mobile Trader let you route orders and monitor positions in all these products. But it's tougher to integrate the sophisticated screening, back-testing, and analytical tools into mobile apps. That's partly because of the limitations of the processors on the phones and tablets, and partly because it's tough to fit all the controls, and a complete interface, into a much smaller screen. So, if you need to figure out your trading strategy, you might have an easier time with the full functionality of the TD Ameritrade's flagship thinkorswim trading platform.
Tip 2: Serious toys only
Sometimes the reason you're trading while flying, waiting for a meeting, or sitting in a doctor's office, is because you may not think you have much time to trade. So, you end up logging in to TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader, and watching the streaming CNBC feed, or reading the Dow Jones news service.
But have no fear. The layouts of the mobile trading interfaces are designed to maximize trading functionality on limited screen space, without crowding them. Entering complex option-spread orders with two, three, or four legs, or placing conditional orders on your mobile device, is fast and fairly easy—with practice. And you don't need to spend a lot of time implementing your trading strategy. You can take advantage of the time away from home during market hours and trade!
Tip 3: Stay engaged—really engaged
This happens to me frequently when I'm trading mobile: I'm watching the SPUs and they're up 5.00 points. I look away at something. I look back a few seconds later, and they're still up 5.00 points. A few minutes later, same thing—which now seems fishy. How long do the SPUs stay unchanged in the middle of the trading day? So, I check my connection and I see it's dead. Gulp. I re-establish the connection and the quotes refresh. SPUs down 2.00? Oh, and my emails finally get sent.
Losing your wireless connection happens. That's a fact of our mobile age. But when you're talking to someone on your mobile phone, and the conversation suddenly ends, it's pretty obvious you lost the call. And emails you try to send stacking up in your outbox is a sign you need to reboot your wireless card.
But calls and emails don't demand the immediacy of trading. Trading with old prices can mean you're either losing money when you think you're not or maybe even missing opportunities you don't realize you may have. That's why you should get a sense of how often prices of certain stocks, futures, or indices change intraday. SPUs change a lot. T-bills not so much. Practice by using a symbol whose price changes a lot as your connection indicator. The SPUs are handy for this. If they've been sitting at the same price with no change for more than 30 seconds, you've probably lost your Internet connection. Get it restarted pronto.
Tip 4: Think Alternative
Trading stocks or simple option buy strategies is one thing that most mobile trading platforms can handle. But if you need to roll a calendar spread on expiration Friday while sitting on a park bench, or you realize as you're filling your tank with $5-per gallon gas that it might be time to consider crude oil (see page 34), you'll require a platform that can handle your needs. Complex spreads, futures, and forex—TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader's got you covered.
Tip 5: Spread the word to Junior
Math underlies not only trading strategies, but also a lot of online games as well. Now, I'm not going to say that trading and managing your money is a game, but I will say it can often be fun.
So the next time your ‘tween or teen is begging to play a game on your mobile phone while you're on a road trip or waiting in line, show her a chart on your trading app instead. Explain what the S&P 500 is, and see if she can guess whether the next price will be an up tick or down tick. Show her the price of the stocks of some of her favorite products or stores. Heck, log in to the paper-trading mobile app (paper-Money) instead of your “real account found on the log in screen of Mobile Trader. Let her put on a position and watch it. And maybe by the time she's ready to start trading her own money, she'll have the knowledge and tools she needs. Isn't that what parents, strategy, excellent tools, and waiting rooms are for?
Simply download the TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader app right from your phone. Or search the storefront of your smartphone device or iPad and download from there by entering the keywords “TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader.”