Author Topic: I made an investment game, any thoughs?  (Read 3261 times)

patrickza

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I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« on: January 08, 2019, 07:23:44 AM »
So I've finally gotten around to making a game that I've been thinking of doing for the past couple of years: https://theinvestorchallenge.com/

How is it different to other stock market games? Well in this game you're not given a lump sum upfront. Instead you're a wealthy investor with $10 000 a month to invest. If you join the game late, you're given $10 000 for every month since January so it's fair for all. Then you can decide if you'd like some Amazon, Google, Hershey, Mastercard or many other big name companies from the NYSE and the NASDAQ. You can also buy a few of the major index funds, but where's the fun in that! I've even thrown in the option of Bitcoin too to see if it climbs to the moon, or crashes even more!

I try to mirror reality as closely as possible, so the prices are real, the investments costs are real ($4.95 per trade fixed as per many discount brokerages) and there's tax on sales affecting your rankings. 

You can compete against the other players, start a group to challenge your friends, or try to beat the worlds largest index, the S&P 500.

Everything you do is public, but you can delay visibility of your trades by 14 days.

Any thoughts or advice on making the game better/more fun?

Edit: And another rapid 60 second game inspired by the link from @JAYSLOL below. You still have 60 seconds, but it's a 20 year timeframe, and you can buy and sell as many times as you like:
https://theinvestorchallenge.com/games/com_timing.php
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 10:55:09 PM by patrickza »

nereo

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2019, 08:02:29 AM »

Any thoughts or advice on making the game better/more fun?

It could be a lot of fun, but I wouldn't consider it educational.  It suffers from the same inherent problem that other stock-picking games have, namely that it encourages wild speculation instead of investing. 'Winners' will likely be based on luck rather than skill or patience, and smaller-cap stocks are much more likely to 'win' (or lose - it could go either way afterall). If it's a bear market players who join late in the game will probably win simply because they were given all their cash after a downturn. Players could get the wrong idea and conclude that the best strategy for their money is to never put it into the market (this is what happened when my elementary-school participated in such a stock-picking game during a recession).

What I'd love to see is a game that uses real historical prices but speeds the game up so that each day represents 5 weeks of market time. One week of play would represent a year in the market.  The players shouldn't be able to predict what the market will do next (so perhaps a monte-carlo simulation) but at least then several weeks worth of play would represent several years in the market.


JAYSLOL

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2019, 10:01:51 AM »
This one lets you play a random 10 year period of historical returns - played over 60 seconds.  You can sell once and buy back in once

https://qz.com/487013/this-game-will-show-you-just-how-foolish-it-is-to-sell-stocks-right-now/

ChpBstrd

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2019, 11:00:29 AM »

Any thoughts or advice on making the game better/more fun?

It could be a lot of fun, but I wouldn't consider it educational.  It suffers from the same inherent problem that other stock-picking games have, namely that it encourages wild speculation instead of investing. 'Winners' will likely be based on luck rather than skill or patience, and smaller-cap stocks are much more likely to 'win' (or lose - it could go either way afterall). If it's a bear market players who join late in the game will probably win simply because they were given all their cash after a downturn. Players could get the wrong idea and conclude that the best strategy for their money is to never put it into the market (this is what happened when my elementary-school participated in such a stock-picking game during a recession).

What I'd love to see is a game that uses real historical prices but speeds the game up so that each day represents 5 weeks of market time. One week of play would represent a year in the market.  The players shouldn't be able to predict what the market will do next (so perhaps a monte-carlo simulation) but at least then several weeks worth of play would represent several years in the market.

Perhaps adding the ability to manage multiple portfolios / styles, randomly select historical years, and as another person wrote, speed up time. A full-fledged monte carlo simulator is also very much in need.

An alternative direction: the "I could have been a millionaire if" game, where you enter your era and savings rate, and the system spits back the specific investment mix that would have been ideal in that scenario. Moral of the story - you would have been unlikely to guess the optimal index, so quit trying.

Good luck!

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2019, 08:05:20 AM »
It could be a lot of fun, but I wouldn't consider it educational.  It suffers from the same inherent problem that other stock-picking games have, namely that it encourages wild speculation instead of investing. 'Winners' will likely be based on luck rather than skill or patience, and smaller-cap stocks are much more likely to 'win' (or lose - it could go either way afterall). If it's a bear market players who join late in the game will probably win simply because they were given all their cash after a downturn. Players could get the wrong idea and conclude that the best strategy for their money is to never put it into the market (this is what happened when my elementary-school participated in such a stock-picking game during a recession).
True, but my goal isn't actually to make someone a better stock picker, my goal is to show the futility in picking stocks for the average person.

I've run the South African version of the competition for a few years now (2018 results), and it's amazing how quickly people see that they'd be better off just buying the index!

Most now only use the competition to test their skills and buy the index in reality :)
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 08:08:01 AM by patrickza »

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2019, 08:10:44 AM »
This one lets you play a random 10 year period of historical returns - played over 60 seconds.  You can sell once and buy back in once

https://qz.com/487013/this-game-will-show-you-just-how-foolish-it-is-to-sell-stocks-right-now/
That was fun. I hate to say it though, but I'm 4/4 5/5 5/6 6/7 for beating the market, maybe I should try timing in real life ;)
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 08:34:11 AM by patrickza »

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2019, 08:21:49 AM »
It could be a lot of fun, but I wouldn't consider it educational.  It suffers from the same inherent problem that other stock-picking games have, namely that it encourages wild speculation instead of investing. 'Winners' will likely be based on luck rather than skill or patience, and smaller-cap stocks are much more likely to 'win' (or lose - it could go either way afterall). If it's a bear market players who join late in the game will probably win simply because they were given all their cash after a downturn. Players could get the wrong idea and conclude that the best strategy for their money is to never put it into the market (this is what happened when my elementary-school participated in such a stock-picking game during a recession).
True, but my goal isn't actually to make someone a better stock picker, my goal is to show the futility in picking stocks for the average person.


I'm really not trying to be a rain-cloud, and feel free to take or ignore my advice as you see fit.  I applaud you for undertaking such a development task in the first place.

To rephrase my underlying criticism of these kinds of games - it's been my experience that players learn the exact opposite lesson that they should.  If it's played in a bear market they 'learn' that the best way to win is to not play (e.g. hold cash until the very end).  If it's a bull market the people who win are the ones that take stupid risks and invest heavily in small companies that shoot up 25-50%.
The underlying problem is that one year isn't sufficient time to show that - generally - the index fund will come out on top. Hence my suggestions to find a way of 'speeding up' the investment timeframe so it covers multiple years.

That was my experience playing it twice as a kid and once as a teacher.

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2019, 08:30:31 AM »
Thanks, experiences are really useful. I'll give some thought to how a sped up game could work. I really like the one above that JAYSLOL posted, so maybe something like that could be a starting point for a game like that.

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2019, 09:15:28 AM »
You know what I wish I could find on the internet? Historic options prices and charts. For whatever reason this is missing, but it seems like it would be relatively easy to calculate past options prices based on the Black-Scholes equation or similar. There's a multi-million dollar mousetrap if you have the skills to build it!

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2019, 11:43:45 PM »
Wish I knew what that meant, but I've never gone near options... Surely there must be something available online already though?

ChpBstrd

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2019, 07:13:42 PM »
Wish I knew what that meant, but I've never gone near options... Surely there must be something available online already though?

Not that I'm aware of anyway. I spent maybe 2h googling the problem, so it might be out there, but nowhere near the surface. For now, I have no way of knowing if a particular option position would have made money or lost money in the past. There are calculators where you can enter the parameters and calculate a value, but nothing like a historical stock chart. It's so weird because it's such a basic problem, yet unsolved.

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2019, 08:37:57 AM »
Okay, here's my take on the 60 second game inspired by the link from @JAYSLOL above. You still have 60 seconds, but it's a 20 year timeframe, and you can buy and sell as many times as you like:
https://theinvestorchallenge.com/games/com_timing.php

Thoughts?

JAYSLOL

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2019, 12:03:55 AM »
Okay, here's my take on the 60 second game inspired by the link from @JAYSLOL above. You still have 60 seconds, but it's a 20 year timeframe, and you can buy and sell as many times as you like:
https://theinvestorchallenge.com/games/com_timing.php

Thoughts?

That's awesome, I like being able to buy and sell multiple times.  Seems like every time I made a buy and sell the gap got bigger, lol.  Would be cool if you did a dollar cost average vs saving and trying to time buys at dips over a 20 year run too

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2019, 07:47:14 AM »
Thanks JAYSLOL. Since you posted I've added the leaderboard for the quick game I finished last night.

Your idea for the dollar cost averaging is also a good one. I'm thinking a 3 way contest:
1) Investment goes all in right at the start
2) Investment is dollar cost averaged in (I was thinking spread over 12 months, but maybe 24 months is better, any thoughts?)
3) User hits buy when he thinks there's a low enough dip.

What do you think?

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2019, 09:35:10 AM »
Thanks JAYSLOL. Since you posted I've added the leaderboard for the quick game I finished last night.

Your idea for the dollar cost averaging is also a good one. I'm thinking a 3 way contest:
1) Investment goes all in right at the start
2) Investment is dollar cost averaged in (I was thinking spread over 12 months, but maybe 24 months is better, any thoughts?)
3) User hits buy when he thinks there's a low enough dip.

What do you think?

I love it, that's pretty much exactly what I was thinking, except I had in mind more like 20 or 30 years of investing.  Something that would simulate the results of the average working career of getting paid every 2 weeks and having a certain amount left over to invest which would add up in savings until the user hits "buy", which they could do as frequently or infrequently as they like, and investable surplus could even automatically increase over time to keep up with inflation or some other set amount.   Actually, what would be really awesome would be if the User could choose the number of years of work/investing, the starting investable surplus/paycheck, and the rate of increase of that surplus, and even the speed of which the game is played at. 

Ok, dream-wish-list over, haha, I'm headed over to check out the leader board (is there also a hall of shame? Or an Average results board? Those should definitely be a thing, haha)


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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2019, 09:06:23 AM »
Very, very cool and fun.  I beat the index on my second try!

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2019, 11:52:18 PM »
I love it, that's pretty much exactly what I was thinking, except I had in mind more like 20 or 30 years of investing.  Something that would simulate the results of the average working career of getting paid every 2 weeks and having a certain amount left over to invest which would add up in savings until the user hits "buy", which they could do as frequently or infrequently as they like, and investable surplus could even automatically increase over time to keep up with inflation or some other set amount.   Actually, what would be really awesome would be if the User could choose the number of years of work/investing, the starting investable surplus/paycheck, and the rate of increase of that surplus, and even the speed of which the game is played at. 

Ok, dream-wish-list over, haha, I'm headed over to check out the leader board (is there also a hall of shame? Or an Average results board? Those should definitely be a thing, haha)
So over the weekend I tried to see if I could code your wishlist. Take a look here: https://theinvestorchallenge.com/games/com_game_monthly.php

Let me know what you think. If you like it I'll add it to the site menu and give it a scoreboard too.

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2019, 11:54:28 PM »
Very, very cool and fun.  I beat the index on my second try!
Thanks abbysmom.

Yeah it does seem easy enough to beat it every now and then. The trouble is that when I lose to it, I tend to lose in a big way, so I don't think it's something I'd try in the real world!

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2019, 04:04:33 AM »
Very educational and fun.mi beat it only the first try, because i got lucky. :)

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2019, 07:04:17 AM »
Thanks Dakini, fun and educational was pretty much exactly what I was going for. I've got some ideas for other games with different lessons to learn that are in the works.

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2019, 04:46:12 PM »
I love it, that's pretty much exactly what I was thinking, except I had in mind more like 20 or 30 years of investing.  Something that would simulate the results of the average working career of getting paid every 2 weeks and having a certain amount left over to invest which would add up in savings until the user hits "buy", which they could do as frequently or infrequently as they like, and investable surplus could even automatically increase over time to keep up with inflation or some other set amount.   Actually, what would be really awesome would be if the User could choose the number of years of work/investing, the starting investable surplus/paycheck, and the rate of increase of that surplus, and even the speed of which the game is played at. 

Ok, dream-wish-list over, haha, I'm headed over to check out the leader board (is there also a hall of shame? Or an Average results board? Those should definitely be a thing, haha)
So over the weekend I tried to see if I could code your wishlist. Take a look here: https://theinvestorchallenge.com/games/com_game_monthly.php

Let me know what you think. If you like it I'll add it to the site menu and give it a scoreboard too.

Dude, that blows me away!  Thats exactly what i had in mind, so cool!!  I played it a bunch and lost by a little to immediate investing a couple times, lost really hard a couple times and beat it only once by only 1% when i set it to 5 year @ 180 seconds to give me the maximum reaction time.  Great job!

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2019, 05:02:25 PM »
I noticed that it keeps telling me the investing period used is from the 1870's, i'm guessing thats not correct?

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2019, 10:53:53 PM »
I noticed that it keeps telling me the investing period used is from the 1870's, i'm guessing thats not correct?
No it was a bug, should be fine now, thanks for letting me know. I do have data from Jan 1871 up to now, but it should always pick a random period.

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2019, 02:58:57 PM »
I noticed that it keeps telling me the investing period used is from the 1870's, i'm guessing thats not correct?
No it was a bug, should be fine now, thanks for letting me know. I do have data from Jan 1871 up to now, but it should always pick a random period.

Seems to work fine now, thanks!  I shared the game with a friend of mine who mentioned that the saved money fund should earn some interest while sitting around to be more realistic.  Would you be able to add in an option to select an expected interest rate for the uninvested money to earn while waiting for the dips?

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #24 on: January 23, 2019, 02:17:24 AM »
I shared the game with a friend of mine who mentioned that the saved money fund should earn some interest while sitting around to be more realistic.  Would you be able to add in an option to select an expected interest rate for the uninvested money to earn while waiting for the dips?
It's added.

That made me think though, the index values used were excluding dividends. In reality there are dividends, so I've updated both games now to use the total return values.

It's amazing what a big difference dividends have. The graphs look much more exponential, and it's also significantly harder to beat the index.

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #25 on: January 23, 2019, 10:28:57 AM »
Yeah, that is way harder, the difference between say 7% and 9% return is crazy over 20 year timeframes.  Thanks for adding that, i'll let my friend know it's updated.  Any chance you could do half or quarter % points for the savings interest?  Like a scale that goes 1%,1.25%,1.5%... up to say 5%?  10% seems unnecessarily high, lol

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #26 on: January 24, 2019, 01:14:44 AM »
Yeah, that is way harder, the difference between say 7% and 9% return is crazy over 20 year timeframes.  Thanks for adding that, i'll let my friend know it's updated.  Any chance you could do half or quarter % points for the savings interest?  Like a scale that goes 1%,1.25%,1.5%... up to say 5%?  10% seems unnecessarily high, lol
Also done. I've left the big numbers there for future proofing. In 1979 and 1980 the fed rate was a massive 20%...

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #27 on: January 24, 2019, 07:04:33 AM »
Yeah, that is way harder, the difference between say 7% and 9% return is crazy over 20 year timeframes.  Thanks for adding that, i'll let my friend know it's updated.  Any chance you could do half or quarter % points for the savings interest?  Like a scale that goes 1%,1.25%,1.5%... up to say 5%?  10% seems unnecessarily high, lol
Also done. I've left the big numbers there for future proofing. In 1979 and 1980 the fed rate was a massive 20%...

That made me think so i tried to beat the market by just setting the interest on savings to 10% and never hitting "buy" and taking the guaranteed 10%.  I won some and lost some over short periods, but when i set it to longer periods of 40 and 50 years i was more often beaten by the market.  Here is an example, it randomly gave me the time frame between Nov 1962 and Nov 2002, which i had set to save $500/month never increasing for that 40 years.  Interestingly the "Index Investor" won even though they ended their working career fully invested in the S&P500 at basically the lowest point after the DotCom bust and they still beat a 10% return.  DCA FTW. 


ChpBstrd

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #28 on: January 24, 2019, 10:24:25 PM »
Fuck. I'm addicted. This thing costs so much less than TD Ameritrade and real money. Nice job!

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #29 on: January 25, 2019, 09:18:45 AM »
Fuck. I'm addicted. This thing costs so much less than TD Ameritrade and real money. Nice job!
Thanks @ChpBstrd. Are you playing the full year long game buying and selling shares or the quick games? Sounds like it's the full game. Curious as to what shares you've picked?

ChpBstrd

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #30 on: January 25, 2019, 11:27:51 AM »
Fuck. I'm addicted. This thing costs so much less than TD Ameritrade and real money. Nice job!
Thanks @ChpBstrd. Are you playing the full year long game buying and selling shares or the quick games? Sounds like it's the full game. Curious as to what shares you've picked?

I've only dipped a toe in the quick games and they're really good. It's a rare case of a computer game teaching a skill with a six-figure value (not timing, holding through dips) rather than atrophying one's skills. Will get in deeper as time allows.

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #31 on: January 25, 2019, 11:55:12 AM »
It would be really cool if there was a switch you could flip so that the game might randomly select ex-US market histories such as Japan, Australia, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Egypt, an all world index, etc.

When playing the game in the historical US market, most of us know there is a dominant strategy - B&H, but I wonder if that rule holds everywhere? E.g. Argentina or Japan?

People arguing "this time is different" because of demographic change, tech, climate change, the rise of China, etc. would say there are reasons the historical US economy will not resemble the past, and this would diversify things a bit.

2nd observation: do you realize you have about 60% of the pieces in place you would need to create an internet monte carlo strategy simulator? E.g. A tool to answer questions like what if I set a rule to sell when markets drop 5% and buy 7 days later, and ran that rule through 10,000 sample periods? Investors, brokers, and researchers would love such a tool. They currently use Excel!

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #32 on: January 25, 2019, 12:10:40 PM »
It would be really cool if there was a switch you could flip so that the game might randomly select ex-US market histories such as Japan, Australia, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Egypt, an all world index, etc.

People arguing "this time is different" because of demographic change, tech, climate change, the rise of China, etc. would say there are reasons the historical US economy will not resemble the past, and this would diversify things a bit.
It would be really easy code that, all I'd need is the data. I managed to find S&P500 data going back to 1871, but finding long term data for other markets isn't nearly as easy. I'll do some searching though and see what I can find.
When playing the game in the historical US market, most of us know there is a dominant strategy - B&H, but I wonder if that rule holds everywhere? E.g. Argentina or Japan?

2nd observation: do you realize you have about 60% of the pieces in place you would need to create an internet monte carlo strategy simulator? E.g. A tool to answer questions like what if I set a rule to sell when markets drop 5% and buy 7 days later, and ran that rule through 10,000 sample periods? Investors, brokers, and researchers would love such a tool. They currently use Excel!
Very true, the thought did cross my mind, but I didn't give it too much attention because I thought firecalc and cfiresim do it well enough already. I wonder if they've missed something that I could try and deal with here. I'll look into it.

ChpBstrd

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #33 on: January 25, 2019, 12:25:52 PM »
Quote
Very true, the thought did cross my mind, but I didn't give it too much attention because I thought firecalc and cfiresim do it well enough already. I wonder if they've missed something that I could try and deal with here. I'll look into it.
AFAIK, they only allow the assumption of B&H for the US indices with no way to test conditional strategies like the example I mentioned.

I mentioned your site in another discussion about market timing.

patrickza

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Re: I made an investment game, any thoughs?
« Reply #34 on: January 25, 2019, 12:28:49 PM »
AFAIK, they only allow the assumption of B&H for the US indices with no way to test conditional strategies like the example I mentioned.

I mentioned your site in another discussion about market timing.
Sounds like a good challenge, I'll start experimenting, and thanks for the mention!