Do day traders sometimes find their job to be pointless? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Mira Zaslove, Former Commercial Paper Trader at Robertson Stephens, on Quora:

My first job out of college was at Robertson Stephens, a SF based investment bank. I worked on the Treasury desk, and traded Commercial Paper (CP*). This was during the bubble and CP was trading at 6.5% -- now the rate is around 0.6% -- I'm not sure in what capacity this job exists any longer. This answer is written from the perspective of someone who traded at a big firm, and not on their own account.

Did I find this job pointless? Sure, at times. But overall, no, I didn't feel that being a day-trader was "one of the most pointless professions in the word." In fact, rather the opposite. For a couple reasons:

  • Rarely did I wonder, "what is the point of this job." The point is to make money. In fact, friends of mine in other professions, like medicine, often told me how frustrated they were by the amount of time they spent on paperwork and insurance forms, rather than helping patients. As a trader, your job is pretty much what you think it will be. You don't go into day trading thinking you are going to cure cancer.
  • Goals are clear-cut, with defined timelines. When you are a day trader it is obvious how well you are doing. Currently, I work as a Product Manager, and goals and timeliness are much more nebulous and it's much harder to gauge performance. It's easier for a job to feel pointless when you don't really know how well you are doing or how you can improve.
  • Clear structure to the day. As a day trader, my day followed a rigid timeline. I got in, got my coffee, had lunch, and left at the same time each day. The day followed a typical rhythm based on the stock market opening and closing. It was clear what I had to do, and when I had to do it. It's much easier to feel aimless and waste time at my current job. Time goes by quickly and there isn't much downtime to think existential thoughts on a trading floor.
  • I was able to have time off. When the market was closed, I didn't work. And on vacations I was usually the only person who didn't come back to work with a big pile of work to do. While I was on vacation, someone had to cover my job, and I didn't have any back-log when I returned. This was a nice perk, and helped me understand the point of working.

So ultimately, no, there are plenty of downsides to day-trading, but feeling pointless, is not one of them.

*The CP rate is the rate that companies pay to borrow & lend money. I was trading overnight CP in order to borrow & lend Robertson Stephen's money. So when the firm had money to invest, we would invest at around 6.5% and when the firm needed to borrow the rate would be a little higher. I was typically buying and selling over $300 million in CP overnight funds.

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