Reader question: How to trade with a day job?

Ok, so here is my question. I’ve been struggling with this all year, but now I start working next week again during the day, so am trying to figure this out. I need to figure out the best way to approach the markets while I’m working. I start at 8:45 and end at 2:45. I can check during the day at lunch, and usually mid-morning and mid-afternoon quickly. Then I’m around for the last hour of the trading day before I work again. I’m unsure of how to look for swing trades over the course of a day or two. That’s what I’d like to do. Buy any suggestions within these parameters, I’m all ears if you have any thoughts. Thanks in advance.

This is a good and practical question. One of the things we must do to trade well is to have a trading style that fits with our lifestyle and other commitments. For instance, someone working a day job while the market is open absolutely cannot have a strategy that requires looking at the screen every minute. This is a recipe for frustration—you’ll miss moves, be tempted to jump into less-than-ideal trades just because you’re at the screen, and, in general, will probably underperform pretty dramatically.

Now, specifically to your question, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t develop a swing trading style that works with your schedule. You said swing trades over 1-2 days; that implies to me that you’re probably actually setting up trades on hourly charts or something. I would widen your timeframe a bit so you’re looking at trades that last “a few days to a few weeks”, and go with that. (If you’re doing some quantitative trading, you might very well be trading the daily and only be in trades 1-3 bars. There are good reasons for that, but I don’t think that’s what your question is about.)

I think literally everything in the free course, the daily stock screens, and the videos I’ve been producing is directed at this timeframe! There are many reasons we focus on this timeframe: people daytrading or long-term investing can incorporate this information, so it’s useful for everyone; it requires little attention to trades during the day, and many traders find success looking at the screen once a day; and there’s objectively a strong edge here.

For your situation, why don’t you look at stocks that are setting up when the market is closed? (That’s good general advice anyway.) Then you can put your entry orders in for the next day, and check existing orders for your current positions. This is a matter of trade management that is very important, and is often overlooked—a certain amount of your work will be purely mechanical. You could also develop a style of trading where you looked to enter trades in the last hour or around the close; this would seem to work well with the schedule you’ve outlined.

Beginning traders often get stuck looking at the screen every second of every day. This reflects nervousness and excitement, and I don’t think you’re going to be very successful while you are ruled by these emotions. This is a natural step in most traders’ progressions, and swing traders can very easily look at trades once a day, after the market is closed. There’s no reason you cannot do this! Good luck and good trading.


Adam Grimes has over two decades of experience in the industry as a trader, analyst and system developer. The author of a best-selling trading book, he has traded for his own account, for a top prop firm, and spent several years at the New York Mercantile Exchange. He focuses on the intersection of quantitative analysis and discretionary trading, and has a talent for teaching and helping traders find their own way in the market.