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Day Trader: “If You’re Not Scared....You’re On Public Assistance”

I just talked to my broker, and he said, “I’m sure glad we don’t have windows here.” As crazy as this market is for the heavyweights on Wall Street, imagine how it is for the lowly day trader.

“If you’re not scared right now, you’re already on public assistance,” jokes Tim Cutt, a former actor who now works behind the camera, doing digital graphics from his Manhattan Beach home. Cutt started day trading a few years ago to supplement his income. He admits, “I’m not smart,” but figures, “If I was going to lose any money, I’d rather lose the money myself…if you’re going to lose a horse race, you’d rather do it on your horse than their camel.”

Clearly, being on “their camel” might not have made any difference the last couple of weeks. Still, for Cutt, it's been scary, especially as Lehman went under triggering a series of financial dominoes. The market opportunity was huge. “You knew it was coming,” Cutt says. “You knew that the moves were going to be ‘decade moves’…you were excited about it. You were also scared to death.”

But few days were as scary as September 18th. Cutt usually goes long or short using Apple, a company he loves and which he uses as a NASDAQ barometer. As word came out of a potential bailout package on the 18th, the market started to rally in a big way. Cutt figured it wouldn’t last, “so I took a short position.” But then “the rally kept going and going.” So he decided to cut his losses after the bell, when the worst thing possible happened: Schwab wouldn’t let him trade after hours online. Schwab told us a glitch in a NASDAQ data center made quotes unreliable, so it shutdown online after market trading.

“I thought I was in a dream,” Cutt says. “I didn’t know what to do, besides losing money every tick up. I froze.”

He managed to trade out of his losing bet the following morning. But the nightmare wasn’t over. “I wake up in the morning to see they’ve banned short selling. I’m going ‘This isn’t really happening.’” He called a friend and told him, “I feel like a eunuch at an orgy. There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on and I don’t have any tools to do anything about it.”

What’s Tim Cutt doing with his money today? This morning he decided to go long, again using Apple as his weapon of choice. That’s before the House voted down the bailout package. Another day, another ulcer.

Still, Tim Cutt wouldn’t think of quitting. It’s too fun. “For a day trader, we’re just making a decent living,” he says. “You’re not killing the market, you’re not out buying a Ferrari. I’d like to think that I could, but I know it’s not realistic.”

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