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The Average Income of Wall Street Day Traders

2013-05-02   Views:6

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The threshold for entry remains high -- the skill set, funds and regulatory oversight weeds out the casual, retail investor from the professional. Making a living as a day trader takes equal measures of discipline, stamina, flexibility and market sma

The Average Income of Wall Street Day Traders

The threshold for entry remains high -- the skill set, funds and regulatory oversight weeds out the casual, retail investor from the professional. Making a living as a day trader takes equal measures of discipline, stamina, flexibility and market smarts. As with any specialised industry, the learning curve and time to master trading principles varies. As does your aptitude. If watching the market, crunching numbers and eating and drinking economic news appeals to you -- day trading has career potential.

Day Trader: Definition

Unlike the occasional trader who might fiddle with his account three or four times per quarter, a day trader buys or sells equities, derivatives, currency, futures and other instruments every day. Sometimes on the order of hundreds of trades per day, but they exit all positions before the end of the trading day. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's definition, pattern day traders execute four or more "day trades" within five days, totalling six per cent of the margin in their account.

Captial Requirements

You have to pay to play with the professionals. The FINRA Rule 2520 mandates that pattern day traders have a minimum of £16,250 in a margin account -- a good faith deposit to guarantee you have funds to cover your trades. That's just the margin. Even if you start with £6,500 to buy and sell, add the margin and we're talking £22,750 in start-up capital. To make moves that make money you need some serious cash. Day traders have a high burn rate; the majority blow up their account in less than one year.

Independent Income

It's possible to crack the six-figures ceiling, but the vast majority of day traders average under £32,500 annually, according to a 2007 Dalbar Research report that tracked trading behaviour and trends. Here's an example of how day traders make money: Let's assume the New York trading session just opened. You buy 1,000 shares of HotTech Co. at £19 per share [1000 x 30 = £19,500]. A few minutes later, the price moves up to £20 and you sell for a profit of £650. Repeat this cycle several times during the day and include the fees.

Trading with a Propriety Firm

The Average Income of Wall Street Day Traders

If you're intending to work for a proprietary day trading company -- where you'll receive a commission and trade for the fund -- you'll need to pass the Series 7 exam. Trading with other people's money offers a larger fund from which to draw, which means bigger positions, but don't ignore the drawbacks. These firms have to file as broker-dealers with the SEC, so check their status if you intend to apply. Read the contract and commission structure carefully, and if possible, get a copy of their financial statements.

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