Get rich quick?: Young Indonesians dream of prosperity by becoming traders

As his sessions conclude, Rizki will relax for three hours before returning to YouTube to trade live. Then, he calls it a day and heads to bed.


Starting young: Ilham was introduced to trading in 2012 while in second grade vocational high school. (JP/OHMG) (JP/OHMG)

April 18, 2023

JAKARTA – Stock, forex and futures trading, or in short, trading, has experienced a significant uptick in interest over the past few decades. The dot-com boom of the 1990s and the global financial crisis of 2008 are two events that brought trading to the forefront of public attention and contributed to its increased popularity. Some went the slow and steady route, while others adopted more aggressive approaches.

Rizki Aditama is one among those who opted for the steady trading lifestyle. The 30-year-old trader in Banyuwangi, East Java, has been trading for almost a decade. For him, a typical day begins at 5 a.m. when he gets up and does morning exercise or spends time with his family until 8 a.m. He then spends roughly two hours researching and trading in his home office.

Afterward, Rizki enjoys breakfast with his family and briefly naps during the day. He then resumes his work and trades for two to three hours in the afternoon during the London session.

As his sessions conclude, Rizki will relax for three hours before returning to YouTube to trade live. Then, he calls it a day and heads to bed.

Bandung-based Ilham Juniar Pratama is also among those people. His daily routines are much like Rizki’s. He gets out of bed every morning, turns on his computer, logs into the market, and opens a trading position. The 28-year-old, who has been trading for a living for eight years, only trades once a day because he does intraday.

By societal standards, neither Rizki nor Ilham has the most conventional ways of living, provoking questions and disagreement from their closest ones.

“My family initially didn’t support me delving deep into trading. [I remembered how], in 2014, when [internet access] was not as prevalent as today, I had to rely on internet cafes and worked late,” Ilham recounted.

“My parents became angry with me because I rarely came home. That’s why they didn’t allow me [to trade]. When I earned my first profit in 2015, I handed it to my parents [and they were happy].

“Of course, [they] asked where the money came from, yes I [finally could] explain [that] I rarely came home from internet cafes [because] I learned to trade and [tried to] generate money from trading.”

In Rizki’s case, trading is one of his many dreams because he has always wanted a job that allows him to work wherever he chooses.

“If I weren’t familiar with the world of trading, maybe I would have chosen to start a career in the world of YouTube or other social media because it doesn’t require significant capital at the start.”

“Then, if I had a steady income and enough money saved, I planned to get into real estate. But, since I didn’t grow up in a very wealthy family, it might be hard for me to start a career in real estate,” he described.

The path to success

A friend introduced Rizki to forex trading nine years ago in college. “I was immediately hooked and started learning by testing a demo account,” he said. “I practiced for several years before finally saving a portion of my Rp 200,000 [US$13,15] paycheck and investing it in a brokerage account.”

“At that time, my salary was only Rp 1,000,000 [$65,77] monthly,” he said.

He went to Australia in 2019 to find new opportunities and spent more than Rp50,000,000 ($3,288.59) on forex for training, mentoring and coaching.

“I began increasing my capital to Rp 10,000,000 [$657,72], but unfortunately, the money failed in a week because of [I had] the wrong trading mindset and excessive greed. I [took a more aggressive method] by taking 10 percent risk per transaction,” Rizki explained. More aggressive traders are usually willing to put up to 10 percent of the funds in their account to deal with potential trading risks.

“However, I didn’t give up and deposited again and again until I used up more than Rp 400,000,000 [$26,310,60]. When I lost that money, I immediately fell ill and felt no longer enthusiastic [about anything].”

“I borrowed money from Australian banks and credit cards, so I had to pay quite a hefty monthly interest,” Rizki said. “Thus, I decided to give it another go and [trading] in more carefully by establishing minimal risks and focusing on appropriate risks and rewards.”

He had to resist the urge to act on his greed to earn money quickly by keeping his emotions and logic in check.

“Thank God, with hard work and great patience, my money can be recovered many times over, though it did take quite a while,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ilham was introduced to trading at a younger age than Rizki. His first encounter with trading was in 2012 when he was a sophomore at a vocational high school.

Ilham grew up in a low-income family, so he searched for “ways to make money on the Internet” on the internet. Eventually, he stumbled upon various suggestions.

“What I highlighted at that time was a crypto trading investment,” he said.

Ilham purchased his first Bitcoin in early 2013 after working for years in IT. “The price was around Rp 3,000,000 or $200 per chip. I only bought one chip, which I [then] sold for $1,100 in December 2013,” he explained.

It was a significant move for Ilham since he invested Rp3,000,000 ($197,26), which later became Rp 15,000,000 ($986,31) in only a few months.

“[From then], I began exploring trading for my monthly income, specifically forex.”

Trading for the young generation

Even though trading could provide a stable income, Ilham warned that it was more challenging than some might assume.

“Besides expertise and years of experience, I need adequate funds to attain this level. Trading also demands using primary capital in terms of money,” Ilham said.

“For example, when I started trading in 2014, my monthly living expenses were Rp 3,000,000 [$195.26]. Thus, the capital I needed was Rp 30,000,000 [$1,952,62],” Ilham said.

“Trading is serious business in the end. You can’t have Rp 100,000 [$6,51] or Rp 1,000,000 [$65,09] as your capital. Before you can make trading your main source of income, you need to figure out how much you need to live for a month [and go from there],” he said.

According to Rizki, the younger generation is more familiar with technology and the internet, making it easy to find information and access online trading platforms.

“Many young people want to find additional sources of income, and forex trading can be an attractive option,” he said.

In addition, he believes that younger people are more willing to take risks and actively seek opportunities to boost their income. “Conversely, the older generation prefers realistic and practical investment forms like property, land or gold,” Ilham said.

Ilham believes many are tempted to do trading because they “believe that trading is an easy way to get rich quickly with little capital.” However, that isn’t always the case.

“[There is] a lot of distorted information in various media that indoctrinates the current generation, leading them astray by having them rely on their emotions and the barest of resources.”

For Rizki, forex trading is not merely a means of making money. It is also a chance for him to develop and improve himself personally. “I can pursue opportunities from changes in foreign currency values and improve my analytical and foresight abilities [from there],” he said.

Rizki believes that many erroneously see trading as “a quick route to wealth”. This thinking is perpetuated and made worse by a small yet visible group of people who flaunt their wealth, supposedly earned from trading, on social media.

“Trading, in my opinion, is not a quick and easy way to amass wealth. To succeed in trading, you must study and work hard, just like in any other industry,” he said. “Don’t get ensnared by incorrect trading assumptions that only provide unrealistic expectations.”

Meanwhile, Ilham is concerned about mistaken assumptions regarding trading, especially after binary options, the media widely picked up fraudulent scheme scandals involving trading.

“People view all types of trading as gambling. They also question the legitimacy of trading,” Ilham said.

According to Ilham, forex and cryptocurrency are far different from binary options. “They are legal in Indonesia and worldwide,” he said.

“The binary options case in Indonesia had significantly impacted my social media progress regarding Instagram followers and YouTube subscribers,” he added. “People [should be] more receptive to this case, and traders should provide in-depth information because there are many sorts of trading other than binary options,” he said.

When asked if any investments are more secure than forex trading, Rizki said, “In my opinion, several investments, such as real estate, time deposits, stocks and bonds, are safer than forex.”

“Yet, forex trading is an appealing investment choice that may produce considerable gains if properly managed. But, each investment carries its risks, which we must carefully assess before proceeding.”

The various risks associated with trading make Ria Aresta, 30, still apprehensive about giving it a shot.

“To be honest, trading is something I do not know of. [But I feel like trading] doesn’t necessarily guarantee [financial security],” the English teacher who lives in Padang said.

Regardless, Ilham maintains that the future of trading is bright for everyone, particularly the youth. He predicts people will have to adjust their work practices as they adapt to a new digital way of life.

“And companies will use robots as employees. We, as the younger generation, can’t continue to rely on other people’s businesses,” he said.

Although Ilham initially had different aspirations than trading, life led him on a different path. However, he envisions exploring other avenues, such as sectoral investment, entrepreneurship, or initiating his own business in the future.

“My goal for this year is to stop being a full-time trader and become a trader and an owner of a company,” he said. “I want to create employment openings for those in need, particularly in the IT sector, where I used to work.”

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