6 Reasons Day Trading While at Work is a Bad Idea

May 31, 2014

Written by:
Al Hill

I totally get your motivation of day trading while at work. Odds are you are a logical person and fully understand the risk you are taking by even considering trading as a means of income.

Naturally, you say to yourself, “I have a job and are able to pay my bills, so why place my family’s well-being at risk to day trade? I can just day trade at work, keep my income and make money from the market.”

Sounds simple enough right? In this article, I will lay out 7 reasons why day trading from work is a bad idea and while on the surface makes sense, over the long haul it’s not a highly effective way of mastering the markets.

#1 Your Job is paying you to Work

This is going to sound completely corny, but your job is paying you to perform a specific function. They are not paying you to chase your dreams. You could be saying to yourself, “I don’t take smoke breaks or lunch breaks, so technically I should be able to use this hour and half any way I choose.”

Wrong! Day trading is not like swing trading or investing where you may glance at the ticker on your smartphone every few hours during the workday. Day trading requires enormous levels of focus.

Your employer is paying you for 8 hours of work, yet you and I both know you will spend time throughout the entire day focusing on the market. This means your productivity levels could easily drop below 50%.  Should you really be compensated for 8 hours of work?  For you sophisticated traders that say, “I will only trade for a maximum of 2 hours per day. I will make up the rest of the work hours later on.”  My response to that is if your job allows you to essentially checkout from 9:30am to 11:30am, what about everyone else?
Bob wants to watch his favorite soap operas from 1pm to 3pm every day.  Susie prefers to take a 10k walk from 12pm to 3pm, so she can get a great tan and better manage her health.  See where I’m going with this?  Whether you try to day trade under the table or officially with your boss’ approval, it just gets messy from the employers point of view.  Let’s try to hit this point home from a different perspective.  If you were the employer paying someone to perform a function and they were dreaming about or doing something else during the work day would you be pleased?

#2 Lack of Focus

Trading requires enormous focus. Anyone that tells you otherwise has no idea what they are doing.  No matter how well you think you can manage your day, your job will place demands on you that will distract you from the activity of trading. Below are just a few events that occur during a normal workday, which you may not be able to avoid:

  1. All Hands Meetings
  2. Important Client Meetings
  3. Boss Stops by your desk
  4. Deadlines
  5. Urgent Requests
  6. Phone Calls
  7. High Priority Emails
  8. Disgruntled junior team members

The list goes on and on and on. Let me be honest, my list could be the result of how hard I work on a daily basis, but one or more of these things are likely occurrences for most office jobs.  On the surface, these events could only take 15 minutes or 2 hours.  So, you may say, “What’s the big deal?  I have my smartphone and or tablet at work, so I can manage through the distractions.”  Wrong!

Remember you only need to turn away from your desk for 15 minutes for your account to suffer a significant loss.  You could be thinking, “Well I will use stops to protect myself from losses.”

Right, you could, but what about the times as you are watching the tape and you realize that market conditions have changed and you should raise your stop by .1%.  However, since you were busy discussing this month’s TPS Reports, you missed the signal and instead of ripping down a 3% gain, you end up losing .1%.  This my friend will be a constant occurrence as you try to serve two masters.

#3 Increased Fear and Anxiety

Since you are unwilling to leave your job, odds are on some level you still value your job.  So, you will feel the constant stress, fear and pressure of living a double life at work.  Let me paint a picture for you. Let’s assume you sit in an office or cube, but you are unable to angle your computer screen in such a way that you are the only person that can view the contents on your monitor.

As you hear each footstep walk behind you, you will not know if it’s the office janitor or one of the senior executives from your department.  So, do you minimize your screen every time someone walks by, or do you try to take a quick glance to see who is behind your desk?  Depending on how lively your place of employment, you could have people walking behind you constantly.

How do you think this will impact your ability to make sound and clear trading decisions?

#4 IT is watching

Your job is likely monitoring everything you do on their network.  When you are day trading, your bandwidth usage will likely be much higher than your co-worker next door that is just using the company’s corporate assets.  Depending on the level of IT monitoring and security, your account could be flagged for inappropriate use.  Let’s assume monitoring is not an issue, then the firewall maybe another one.  Many companies will block standalone trading applications from brokerage firms from either being installed on your corporate-issued machine or from you accessing these brokerage firms based on internet protocols.

#5 Bad Trading Days

If you are still on the journey of becoming a master trader, bad days will feel like the love of your life has just broken your heart into a million pieces.  This feeling of hopelessness and anger will only be magnified when at your job. Odds are you will blame your bad trading day on one of the events from work that forced you to take your eye off the ball.

Now that you have this painful experienced ingrained in your mind, you may still have 4 or 6 hours of the normal work day ahead of you.  Do you think you will feel up to battling it out with that jerk in accounting? How do you think you will react to an urgent request from your boss?  Assuming there are 20 to 22 trading days a month, of which you have 3 bad trading days, are you prepared to have 36 workable days or approximately 2 months a year that you are just utterly depressed at work?  The beauty of trading full-time is you can go have a run or go visit a friend for lunch to get your mind off of things.  Work does not afford you this luxury. You will have to quickly pick yourself up and get on with your day, which means you will likely take your bad day home to your family.

#6 You will develop bad habits

Successful trading comes down to figuring out what makes you tick.  This is a long process of placing good and bad trades which over time will help you identify your trading edge.  How will you sharpen your edge if you are not trading the market properly?  Having these distractions from work will force you to adapt your trading style to an ever changing environment.  You will begin to develop trading responses for events like needing to leave your desk for a meeting.  Are these really habits that you should be practicing?  Let’s say you are able to finally breakaway from your job to day trade full-time, how much of your day trading while at work methodology is transferable?  Think about it, 20%, 30% or even 50% of your trading methodology could be centered on you managing these random work events.  How do you replicate the work environment when you are trading full-time?  You will likely spend a lot of time unlearning bad habits from when you were trading at work.

#7 Overtrading

I decided to save the best for last. Let me walk you through the psychological aspects of this setup.  You want to day trade for a living, but you are unable to for a host of reasons.  While you are able to day trade, you are forced to day trade out of the very place you are seeking to escape.  So, not only do you have a constant mental reminder, you also have a physical reminder of how limiting (in your mind) your life has become.  Naturally, the way out of this dire situation is to trade your way out.  Whether you come to this conclusion on a conscious or subconscious level, all roads ultimately lead to you overtrading.  The very real desire to free yourself will lead you to placing trade after trade in hopes changing the course of your life.  This sort of make-it-or-break-it perspective will lead to you potentially blowing up your account.


You are kidding yourself if you think day trading at work will prove beneficial towards your ultimate goal of becoming a successful day trader.  90% of day traders fail. Take a minute to digest that statement.  Now layer on top of this data point the fact you will be day trading while at work.  Think about how that increases the level of complexity.
I liken it to driving at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour on a heavily trafficked highway and deciding that carrying on a long text message conversation is a good idea.

Tags: Day Trading for Beginners

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