Here's How 14 Investors Made The Trades That Made Their Careers

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John Paulson made more money in 2010 betting on gold than he did shorting the sub-prime mortgage crisis, which is ostensibly the career bet for which he’s best known.

But Paulson’s $3.7 billion year in 2007 got us thinking about other investors and the trades or bets that made their career.

So we rounded up some of the biggest hedge fund managers and traders and found out how many years into their career they made their “career” trades.

Surprisingly, most didn’t make their famous trades when they were young hot shots.

Of course there are a few stand-out youngsters, but most of the men were in the middle of their careers when they made their greatest trades.

Young guys seem to end up in another category.

George Soros

Age: 62

Trade: In 1992, Soros sold short over $10 billion GBP as the Bank of England resisted an interest rate hike or a currency float. When the central bank withdrew the pound from the EERM, he pocketed an estimated $1.1 billion and was dubbed 'the man who broke the Bank of England.'

Firm: Quantam Fund

Carl Icahn

Age: 50s

Trade: Made billions staging buyouts in the 1980s and taking control of positions in those companies.

Firm: Icahn & Co.

Jesse Livermore

Age: 52

Trade: Shorted the entire market ahead of the 1929 crash and earned $100 million doing it.

David Tepper

Age: 52

Trade: made $7 billion in 2009 by investing in distressed bank debt and betting that the economy would avoid another Great Depression.

Firm: Appaloosa Management

Peter Lynch

Age: 45

Trade: Lynch ran Fidelity's Magellan Fund from 1977 and took it from $18 M AUM to $14 B by his retirement in 1990, beginning with a position in a $5 Fannie Mae stock. By '89, 5% of Magellan's assets were invested in Fannie Mae. The stock rose from $16 to $42... and kept rising.

Firm: Magellan Fund at Fidelity

Source: PBS

John Paulson

Age: 51

Trade: He jumped on the real estate bubble early and began betting against the mortgage index in 2006. By shorting subprime he earned $3.5 billion in 2007. His 'Credit Opportunities fund soared 590% net of fees' in '07.

Firm: Paulson & Co.

Andrew Hall

Age: 57

Trade: In 2003, Hall bought long-dated oil-futures that would pay off if crude topped $100 in the next five years. In 2008, it did, and Hall made his Phibro division at Citi a nice big pile of cash (allegedly a huge chunk of Citi's $667 million in 2008 commodities revenue is because of Hall's result, represented 10% of the bank's total net income for that year, and earned Hall $250 Mill)

Firm: Citigroup

James Chanos

Age: 43

Trade: In the summer of 2001, as Enron's stock began to slide, Jim Chanos shorted the company in a massive way and made millions.

Firm: Kynikos

Louis Bacon

Age: 33

Trade: During the first year of his hedge fund's launch, Bacon apparently earned an 86% return on his investments by betting that the Gulf War would cause oil prices to spike.

Firm: Moore Capital Management

Paul Tudor Jones

Age: 33

Trade: He foresaw the stock market crash and Black Monday in 1987, and with large short positions, tripled his wealth, with a 201% gain.

Firm: Tudor Investment Corporation

Willem Van der Vorm

Age: late 30s (he was 17 years into the biz)

Trade: In 2004, as the chief trader at SwissDirekt's High Risk fund, he earned 481% profit on the desk.

Firm: SwissDirekt

Source: SwissDirekt

Steven Cohen

Age: 31

Trade: In October '87, a day after stocks plummeted more than 22%, he bet $50 million on stocks he thought were priced too low; his positions helped his firm recover huge losses (this is not surprising considering on his first day at Gruntal in 1978, he made an $8,000 profit for his desk).

Firm: Gruntal & Co.

Source: WSJ, via EliteTrader

And Steve Cohen... Again (He's just too good)

Age: 42

Trade: When Long-Term Capital Management collapsed in '98, Cohen made bullish bets between August until mid-October and had returns of 49.2% while all the other hedge funds were averaging 2.6%.

Firm: SAC Capital Partners

Sir John Templeton

Age: 88

Trade: Ok, so Sir John Templeton had a few good days as a young man (like when he bought $100 worth of every NYSE-listed stock that was trading under $1 in 1939, or when was one of first to invest in Japan in the mid-60s) but his coolest career trade was shorting a ton of Internet stocks at the ripe age of 88 and selling them ahead of the six-month lock-up expiry after their IPO.

Firm: Templeton Growth

Conclusion: your best bets are made in your early 30s and post 45-years old

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