By Jelena Zaric and Lawson Tanner
Meet the group of young people sharing their knowledge on investment and trading with their peers… while making a few thousand dollars a week in the process.
It’s a Thursday night in a dimly lit meeting room at Carnavon Golf Club in the Western Sydney suburb of Lidcombe. While most millennials would be socialising, studying, working or watching Netflix, one group of young people have gathered here to the discuss the upcoming release of the U.S. Department of Labour’s monthly report, the Non-Farm Payroll.
But, they’re not doing a group assessment for university; this is how they’re making money. The group identify themselves as ‘The Notorious Traders’ or ‘TNT’, and are an arm of a globally growing trend of young traders on the Foreign Exchange market.
Trading is often seen as a somewhat elitist club, reserved for an older generation whose level of financial stability seems unattainable for most twenty-somethings. When we do see young ‘traders’ in the media, it’s often someone like Molly Ramm popping up on Instagram’s meme accounts, paying page admins to promote a luxe lifestyle and easy money that seem much too good to be true.
Although they’re not flaunting the figures of their bank accounts on social media, these youngsters are proving that the dream lives these ‘influencers’ are selling are actually quite attainable and, without posting about it twice daily on your news feed, they echo the same sentiment: a traditional outlook towards considerable wealth accumulation isn’t viable in today’s economic climate.
“Our generation – I think as a whole – we’ve realised that if we think that we can make money the same way our parents made money, we’re doomed. If we’re still thinking that ‘hey, I’m gonna finish uni, get a degree, work nine to five for forty years, pay off my mortgage in thirty years and all that stuff and I’m gonna be happy’ – that’s not going to work,” says Mohammad Al-Rikaby, a 21-year-old medical science student at the University of Sydney and TNT team leader.
Mohammad started trading in February of 2018 and at the time was working five days a week, alongside full-time study. After a year of trading and building his skillset and portfolio, his average profits of 5k a week have made working a hobby more than a necessity. “I work 2 days a week and that’s because I see my friend,” he says, “and I only work six hours, so it’s more of a social thing at this point.”
This isn’t to say that the nature of traditional employment is trivialised by these traders, but that it’s simply not necessary anymore. Ahmed Al-Jabry is a member of the group who started live trading in August of 2017. “If I could put a rough estimate, I would say my weeks range from a grand to two and a half grand.” Ahmed, a 21-year-old biological science student at Western Sydney University, was able to quit his part-time job thanks to Forex. When asked how much he’s made overall he answers with a laugh; “I’m not exactly sure, but more than I ever would working at Woolies.”
And then, there’s Hamza Khan. Hamza was the first cab off the forex rank, getting Mohammad and a few other boys on board and starting up TNT. Hamza’s been in the game a little longer than everyone else and it shows in his profits – or so we think. He doesn’t feel comfortable disclosing his figures, but one can assume from his demeanour and experience in trading and finance that there’s a good reason for that. Well, that and the fact that he described a $1,500 deficit in a trade as ‘peanuts’.
The 22-year-old also took the opportunity to quit part-time employment, after finding forex to be more lucrative than a retail job and is currently deferred from study. “I have about a year to go… I don’t think I’m going to be going back this year,” he says, “my goal of going to uni was basic financial independence, get a job and stuff, and I’m grateful for the position I’m in right now and I’m able to do that through other avenues.”
One might assume that quitting work or cutting down might in part come down to time constraints; how are you supposed to focus on trading when so much of your time is taken up by working? However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. “The time I spend on my chart is maybe an hour a day in total – could be broken down into maybe half an hour at this time, half an hour at that time,” says Mohammad. This seems to be the standard experience, with Ahmed telling us “literally, I entered a trade just before I slept, woke up with almost $800.”
It’s very easy to be skeptical of these sums of money and the ease with which they’re made, especially when all the Instagram traders you see look like they should come with a scam warning. Even The Notorious Traders use a service that has come under fire for being a pyramid scheme. Although TNT run their own meetings, create their own resources and educate based on their own analysis, in order to join the group you have to sign up to an online platform called iMarketsLive (IML).
IML is an online ‘academy’ that will teach you everything you need to know about trading and also offers an array of resources that the members of TNT say have been integral to their success. But it also looks suspiciously like a pyramid scheme. You pay a joining fee and a monthly subscription that’s around $200, but you can only sign up with a referring member’s username and if you pay a little bit extra on your subscription, you can start earning money from people signing under you.
Not everyone is as big a fan of the IML platform as groups like The Notorious Traders. The platform has come under scrutiny from the financial regulation bodies of numerous countries including the UK, France and Belgium, with the Belgian Financial Services and Marketing Authority issuing a warning in January that the system “exhibits features characteristic of a pyramid scheme.” To the pyramid scheme sceptic, CEO Christopher Terry’s attempt to meld foreign exchange principles with network marketing skills he learned through notorious multi level marketing scheme Amway may set off alarm bells in many people’s ears.
But when it comes to ForEx trading, everyone is looking for hole in the story. Whether IML is pyramid scheme or not becomes irrelevant when you consider the fact that no trading or profits from trading go through the site itself; your money and trades are a completely separate entity. At the end of the profits and trades speak for themselves.
Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of The Notorious Traders is that it’s a completely free service. The team leaders prepare presentations out of their own time and pay for the venue out of their own pocket. “It’s one of those things that it’s early days right now and, the way we’re building, we’re focusing on culture, we’re focusing on education, we’re focusing on trading,” says Hamza. “So if we build a team, build an organisation with the right culture, the right vision, we have a long term business and also community.”
Essentially, the dream for TNT is to have a group of entrepreneurially minded, financially independent people within a community that would allow for countless networking, business and investment opportunities. TNT are convinced this is a trend we’ll only see grow in the future, and they’re certainly setting a high bar for themselves. “The end goal is be able to live off investments and not lift a finger,” says Mohammad. “It would be such a great thing if I could retire at thirty.”
Looking forward, Hamza and the group have big plans. “As for the future, a lot of people still think it’s all bullshit and all scams and all that, like it doesn’t work, it’s very risky, no one makes money on it. And I wanna change that and I can only change that through numbers,” he says. “We are looking to be better, we are looking to improve, we’re looking for progress and growth.”