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Day Trading - Potential Profits vs. Probable Pitfalls

Aug 17, 2007
Day trading in the stock market can provide you with a lot of thrills, excitement, and profits as well as bleeding ulcers and massive losses. Day trading is a fast-paced, high-energy, roller coaster investment ride.

As such, day trading is not right for everybody. You need not only savvy, but also a cast-iron stomach in order to succeed as a day trading professional.

What is Day Trading?

Day trading is a unique form of playing the stock market. Most investors purchase a stock for the long haul. The great investor Warren Buffett once said that his time frame for holding a stock was "life." But people engaged in day trading are not investors at all - they are traders.

What's more, even most traders are in a stock for at least a few days or weeks. Day traders typically hold a stock for less than one day, and in some cases, for only a few seconds!

The Objective of Day Trading

The objective of day trading is different from that of investing. Most investors put away money for retirement or for the future. Usually, they are working or have other source of income to fund their investments. Day traders engage in day trading as their source of income.

The major disadvantage of this is that investors allow their capital to accumulate, while people involved in day trading have to withdraw profits on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis in order to put food on the table.

For most, a successful day of day trading may net anywhere from $100 to $1000. Anything in addition to these amounts is icing on the day trading cake, but there are also the days when day traders lose money.

This is another major disadvantage of day trading as a profession. No matter how poorly you perform at your regular job, your boss never fines you $100 or $1000 on top of your day's pay. This can happen frequently in day trading.

How Day Trading Works

Typically, a day trader will need to start with at least $10,000 in his trading account. Then he will usually place big bets on individual stocks, and hope for a 1-3 percent daily "pop." One percent of $10,000 is $100; 3 percent is $300.

As you can see, anything less than $10,000 would barely yield enough income to survive, and contrary to popular belief, most day traders are not wealthy. In fact, one place where day trading is extremely popular is India, where traders who don't even own computers use local internet cafes to place trades in the hope of making as little as $10 per day.

Pitfalls of Day Trading

In addition to the disadvantages previously mentioned, brokerage commissions are another major pitfall for day traders. Even at $7 per trade, a buy-sell combo would cost $14 - or 14 percent of a $100 profit. On top of that, there are taxes.

While long-term capital gains are taxed at a maximum rate of 15 percent, short-term trading profits (from stocks held for less than one year - an eternity in day trading) are taxed at the trader's ordinary income tax rate. Even worse, if you're engaged in day trading as your full-time job, you may be liable for self-employment tax (an additional 15.3 percent!) on your profits.

By the time Charles Schwab and Uncle Sam get through with you, not to mention Mr. Market, it's almost impossible for you to make a profit - unless you are a day trading whiz.

Are You A Day Trading Whiz?

There's only one way to find out - start trading - for real. Even paper trading does not properly prepare you for the real thing, since you won't have the same emotional investment in your performance, and you won't react, psychologically, the same as you would if your real money were on the line.

The good news is that if you establish a set of rules and stick to them, your potential for losses are minimized. Just because you sink $10,000 into your online brokerage account doesn't mean that it won't ever come out again.

And even when you dump ten grand into a single stock for a quick trade, what's the most you could lose if you hold it for a day? Even the worst performers lose around 25 percent in a given day, and that only happens to a few out of the tens of thousands of stocks each year.

Your $10,000 should easily be able to buy you a great education, and even after commissions and losses, you should still have a good 3/4 of that money left by the time you decide whether or not day trading is for you.
About the Author
William Smith the author provides much more financial information on many subjects as well as the secret to his success in the market along with 5 Free power stock picks emailed daily so grab your Free subscription on his website at Day Trading (All is Free)
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