We walked into a posh building in Sandton because, well, that's where most forex trading seminars in Johannesburg seem to be held. It's all about selling a lifestyle.
A suited-up trainer with his polished English began with these set of questions:
- "Who wants to make serious money in this room?"
- "What are you financially sick and tired of?"
- "Are you tired of getting paid only 12 times in 365 days?"
- "Do you want to be your own boss?"
- "Do you want to earn in a month what you earn in an entire year?"
Classic, huh? I couldn't believe it. I mean, he could have been more creative bakithi instead of using the very same old lines one sees in these numerous pop up forex ads the internet is littered with.
After a few responses from the crowd of about 50 people, he relayed his story to us. How he was at rock bottom, until he met a famous trader. "I was so broke I couldn't pay attention," he said. Right. "And I can tell you how you can potentially change your life, tonight."
He went on to talk about how he doesn't believe that one should work very hard at your career, but rather work on yourself. "Making money should be easy," he said. "You don't have to toil 9-5, but 9 to half-past-9 [catch the rhyme?]." The trainer further promised: "In 15 minutes, you can press a button -- sip your coffee -- make money."
I can tell you that at this point, out probably went all our parents' teachings about the value of hard work and 'easy money easy go' lessons. Because no matter how cheesy the delivery, one becomes at least slightly curious about the 'how'.
Fast-forward to tips on changing our mindsets about wealth, to philanthropy videos, and we eventually got to trading. We were taken through opening a broker account and how trading practically works. Very simply, when you trade, you buy and sell currencies based on market activity.
Forex traders speculate whether the exchange rate will go up or down and just like any other form of speculation, they want to buy a currency at one price and sell it at a higher price in order to make a profit. That's where all the graphs come in, or rather price charts with moving averages I later learnt. They assist in the buying and selling process, specifically when to buy and when to cut your losses.
But of course, it is really not that simple and that's where the training comes in. This training, however, does not come cheap.
I almost fell off my chair when the initial calculation cost for the course was R100,000! Written plainly and boldly on a flip-chart for all of us to clearly see. This supposedly covers software costs, two-day training, coaching fees and a learn-to-trade home starter pack.
This was before they introduced the classic sales pitch "just because it's you", we'll cancel this and that, and you'll end up paying about R25,000, and the offer is only valid for today.
People must really take us more seriously.
Shortly after, the trader coach gave a closing speech and gently, I picked up my things and walked out the door.
What I would've appreciated a bit more are at the very least sprinkles of caution about forex trading, so that we are not completely sold a dream. For example, how risky, volatile, erratic the forex trading market is said to be and the likelihood that you will lose money, a lot of money, as a trader. This is the view shared by the majority of traders and trainers HuffPost SA spoke to.
But again, the Sandton trainer is selling a course and looking to make money, so one can't put that aside. One could also argue that they teach you all the risks of forex trading during the 2-day training.
I couldn't help but wonder if it's really that simple to learn how to trade. What can they give me in two days that I can't teach myself over many days, okay maybe weeks and months?
A more sober post-reflection, however, reminded me that all the attendants (all black might I add) are real people, with real financial struggles. And they just want better for themselves and their families, just like me. And if the recently released Sanlam Benchmark Survey results, that showed that three quarters of South African middle class are under severe financial stress are anything to go by; and the unemployment crisis our country finds itself in, then it's no wonder to me why these seminars seem to often be packed to capacity and why some people put all of their hopes and money on the forex trading promise.
*This is my experience, of only one seminar. It is by no means representative of all seminars.This is not the full experience of trading education as I have not attended any of their training sessions and have not tried my hand at trading. Photos and videos were not allowed during the session and all names are protected for privacy