Being a day trader is a lot like being a professional athlete, according to Ryan McKenzie.
"You’ve got to keep alert mentally and physically," said McKenzie, 24, who fought against some heavy odds to become a successful day trader.
McKenzie, of Tempe, is listed by Trader Magazine among the Top 30 day traders under age 30 in the nation.
He doesn’t wear suits or ties or carry a briefcase.
Well, he shaved and wore a fancy suit once to pose for the cover of Trader Magazine, but that’s about as far as McKenzie would go image-wise.
"I’m anti-corporate world," he said. "I wear a baseball cap and t-shirt and tennis shoes at work. Just like a professional athlete, I go to bed early so I can get up before the markets open so I feel fresh and alert.
"I don’t drink or smoke and I practice playing video games so my hands and fingers keep loose and fast for when I sit at my computer screen and search the markets."
McKenzie estimates there are about 50 other day traders in the East Valley who daily buy-and-sell stocks, hoping to make a profit but sometimes losing their ... T-shirts.
Most of them work from their homes.
He, like most of the others, are self-employed.
He formed a corporation, No Limit Trading, primarily for tax and other purposes but works primarily for himself from a computer-filled, dimly-lighted office at 11333 N. Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale along with several other slightly older day traders.
"We keep the lights low — its easier on the eyes," he explained.
McKenzie, a native of Stillwater, Minn., helps coach the newer day traders, but, unlike some other more experienced traders, he refuses to charge them a commission.
"Helping them learn is my pay," he said.
The energetic McKenzie figures he makes 350 transactions via computer each day on average.
Some are profitable, some aren’t.
"I don’t think about making profits," he said. "If I did, I’d get greedy and it would slow down my mental process." He paused, then added:
"Being a good day trader is like being a boxer. You need to be balanced mentally and physically. You must train yourself or you’ll lose."
McKenzie knows what its like to "lose."
He had just graduated from Stillwater High School in Minnesota and was preparing to enter the world of day trading with the encouragement of his older brother, Mike, also a day trader.
But he was being discouraged by several others, including his parents, Don and Rosemary Calvert and sister, Colleen and a high school teacher, who, during a class discussion, publicly discredited McKenzie and his chosen career.
"I told the class I wanted to be a day trader," recalled McKenzie. "And my teacher blanched. He said ‘that’s nothing but gambling.’ "
Despite the negative reaction, McKenzie worked at various jobs, including dish washing, buying-and-selling used cars and table-waiting in a local restaurant-bar and saved about $12,000 before moving to Laguna Beach, Calif., where his brother helped him get started as a new day trader.
It couldn’t have happened at a worst time for the stock market — Sept. 11, 2001.
"I lost all my money during the first few months," McKenzie said. "I was eating two-for-99-cent tacos and feeling very depressed, but I kept thinking about my teacher and how I had to prove him wrong."
Eventually, McKenzie’s income improved. He was earning between $50 and $100 a day, paying-off his mounting credit card bills and his financial situation began to turn around.
McKenzie, in fact, worked for a time from the dark closet of his Tempe home and temporarily set up computers for several other young day traders who needed work space.
McKenzie recently purchased another home in a planned community in Wis., not far from Stillwater, Minn., where he soon discovered that his former, critical high school teacher also lived.
In fact, the retired teacher was president of the home owner’s association.
"I was shocked when I learned he lived there," he said. "I took him and his wife out to an elegant supper and gave him an expensive wrist watch as a present," McKenzie said.
"He was flabbergasted. I also thanked him for telling me I shouldn’t — and couldn’t — become a day trader. I told him it gave me something to overcome when things got tough. I showed him the article about me in Trader Magazine and he was at a loss for words. We get along fine now."
He regularly gives talks about day trading around the country, including in his hometown of Stillwater, where he occasionally returns to earn $7-an-hour working at the restaurant-bar where he toiled-and-saved during his teenage years.
"It keeps me focused," he said.
"I plan to retire at age 30, raise a family and remain a day trader. I’m not going to quit day trading when I retire — just continue ... because it’s fun.
"It’s my passion."
Resides in: Tempe
Business: Self-employed day trader.
Company: No Limit Trading
Key achievement: Started buying-and-selling stock at age 19 and today is listed by Trader Magazine among the top 30 Best Traders under 30
Success Philosophy: Do what ever you do in life with passion. And give 110 percent of yourself
Information: (480) 444-0200
What is a day trader?
When you continuously buy and sell investments within a very short time, sometimes as short as a few minutes or perhaps a few hours, and rarely hold them overnight, you’re considered a day trader.