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Differences between Trading, Investing, and Gambling

Day trading is a cousin to both investing and gambling, but it is not the same as either. Day trading involves quick reactions to the markets, not a long-term consideration of all the factors that can drive an investment. It works with odds in your favor, or at least that are even, rather than with odds that are against you.

Investing is slow and steady

Investing is the process of putting money at risk in order to get a return. It’s the way that businesses get started, roads get built, and explorations get financed.

Investing is very much focused on the long term. Good investors do a lot of research before committing their money because they know that it will take a long time to see a payoff. Investors often invest in things that are out of favor, because they know that, with time, others will recognize the value and respond in kind.

In contrast to investing, day trading moves fast. Day traders react only to what’s on the screen. There’s no time to do research, and the market is always right when you’re day trading. You don’t have two months or two years to wait for the fundamentals to work out and the rest of Wall Street to see how smart you were. And if you can’t live with that, you shouldn’t be day trading.

Day trading works fast

Trading is the act of buying and selling securities. All investors trade, because they need to buy and sell their investments. But to investors, trading is a rare transaction, and they get more value from finding a good opportunity, buying it cheap, and selling it at a much higher price sometime in the future. But traders are not investors.

Traders look to take advantage of short-term price discrepancies in the market. In general, they don’t take a lot of risk on each trade, so they don’t get a lot of return on each trade, either. Traders act quickly. They look at what the market is telling them and then respond.

They know that many of their trades won’t work out, but as long as more than half work, they’ll be okay. They don’t do a lot of in-depth research on the securities they trade, but they know the normal price and volume patterns well enough that they can recognize potential profit opportunities.

Trading keeps markets efficient because it creates the short-term supply and demand that eliminates small price discrepancies. It also creates a lot of stress for traders, who must react in the here and now. Traders give up the luxury of time in exchange for a quick profit.

Speculation is related to trading in that it often involves short-term transactions. Speculators take risks, assuming a much greater return than may be expected, and a lot of what-ifs may have to be satisfied for the transaction to pay off. Many speculators hedge their risks with other securities, such as options or futures.

Gambling is nothing more than luck

A gambler puts up money in the hopes of a payoff if a random event occurs. The odds are always against the gambler and in favor of the house, but people like to gamble because they like to hope that, if they hit it lucky, their return will be as large as their loss is likely.

Some gamblers believe that the odds can be beaten, but they are wrong. They get excited about the potential for a big win and get caught up in the glamour of the casino, and soon the odds go to work and drain away their stakes.

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