Ask Chuck: Is Day Trading A Bad Idea?

Dear Chuck,

My son’s college roommate made some money in day trading. Now my son wants in on the action. I’m not sure what to tell him, except to avoid it!

Day Trading Fears 

 

Dear Day Trading Fears,

The Bible talks a lot about investing, so I will be able to give you some of those principles to help direct your son. He is jumping on to a very hot trend among young people right now.

Here is a simple framework of my core beliefs about this topic:

Investing is not gambling.

Day trading is not investing.

Investing should be done according to God’s principles.

Day Trading on the Rise 

Day traders are traders who execute intraday strategies to hopefully profit off of relatively short-lived price changes for a given asset. On the contrary, investors look to maintain ownership of a given asset indefinitely to give it the opportunity to increase in value.

Last week, Felix Salmon at Axios.com wrote: “Never mind saving for retirement. Gen Z has embraced the stock market as a place to make short-term gains.” Technology, social media, and overconfident young people are causing the resurgence of day trading. Barriers to entry are low, numerous apps make trading easy, and they do not fear risk or failure. They only see potential wins.

According to Investopedia, active traders desire to profit quickly from price fluctuations and only hold trades for a brief period of time. They generally focus on stocks, foreign currency, futures, and options. Volume is necessary because price changes may only be in the pennies. Day traders make tens or hundreds of trades per day. Swing traders open or close positions every few days. Active investing is slightly different. It involves ongoing buying and selling activity to beat the market. Portfolios are rearranged to adjust to the market. Passive investing is a buy-and-hold strategy for those interested in long-term investments with minimal trading. It is cheaper, less complex, and for those who desire to build wealth gradually. Each has pros and cons. But beware, some of these methods violate God’s principles.

Investing is Not Gambling

The only thing investing and gambling have in common is they both involve a financial risk. However, they radically differ in one key aspect—how you create a financial gain. Gambling requires that other participants lose in order for you to gain. Investing requires that everyone must win in order for you to gain.

Gamblers do not care if others lose, only that they win. The Bible warns against this attitude.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV)

Day Trading is Not Investing

While not actually gambling in the strict sense, day trading is certainly more akin to it than investing.

The Bible warns: “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 (TLB)

My friend, Tim Macready, former Chief Investment Officer at Christian Super, a pension fund located in Australia, says: “At a personal level, investing represents an opportunity to provide for our future needs by setting aside money today and growing it for the future. At a societal level, the assets we invest can be used for productive purposes—to support the creation of goods, services, and jobs that support human flourishing.”

People fail to recognize that investing is ownership in a company. Robin John, CEO of Eventide Investing, says, “The real issue that we face today is that investors are divorced from their investing.”

Investing is willingly placing your funds into a business, commodity, or other asset to allow it time to grow and increase in value. This takes patience, knowledge, and wisdom.

Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV) says, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

To apply this proverb to investing, we must read, learn, research, study, and understand what we are investing in to create lasting wealth. While many may claim the same approach to day trading, it is difficult to defend rapid trading as a wise approach.

Jonny Wills at FaithDrivenInvestor.org says, “An influx of novice investors is blurring the line between investing and gambling….How should I view the resources God has put in my hands? Is money a toy or is it a tool?”

Invest According to God’s Principles 

Vince Burley, CEO of Vident Financial, says, “Christians should see financial markets as a great test to ensure that their love and security stays with God and are not misplaced with money.”

Unfortunately, day trading is often driven by greed. Combine that with overconfidence, and you’ve got a dangerous situation. In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus told the parable of the rich fool. He said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Encourage your son to be a good steward of what God provides. Suggest that he takes a Crown course to learn more of God’s economic principles, as a foundation for how he approaches his finances. At Crown, we have many resources on learning God’s principles of investing.

I also recommend that he begins to read and learn from some of the great investors before making any trades or investments. Many resources are available, starting with works by Benjamin Graham, Peter Lynch, Sir John Templeton, or Warren Buffet. They offer experienced insights into becoming a serious investor. Young people desire to make a difference in society. Perhaps he would also be interested in learning about impact investing.

If you’re interested in this topic, I encourage you to join us on April 22nd for a brief economic update from Vince Burley during Crown’s Spring update, Renewed Faith. This virtual event is free, but registration is required. Sign up today.