Day trading is a trading strategy when you make short-term trades, within the same day, with the goal of making a profit. This means that day traders usually open positions during the day and close their positions each evening, holding no positions overnight. This trading technique is popular for scheduled financial announcements that move markets such as company earnings reports, news about the stock or interest rates.

How much money you make as a day trader is largely determined by:

  1. Which market you trade: Each market has different advantages. Stocks are generally the most capital-intensive asset class, so if you trade another asset class such as futures or forex you can generally start trading with less capital
  2. How much money you start with: If you start trading with $2,000 your income potential (in dollars) is far less than someone who starts with $20,000.
  3. How much time you put into your trading education: To create consistent day trading income—where you have a solid trading plan and are able to implement it—will likely take a year or more if you dedicate yourself to it full-time. If you only practice part-time, it may take a number of years to develop real consistency and attain the type of returns discussed below.

Your income potential is also determined by your personality (are you disciplined and patient?) and the strategies you use. These issues are not our focus here. If you want trading strategies, trading tutorials or articles on trading psychology you can visit the Trading Tutorials page.

Income potential is also based on volatility in the market. The scenarios below assume a certain number of trades each day, with a certain risk and profit potential. In very slow market conditions you may find fewer trades than discussed, but in active market conditions you may find more trades. Over time, the average number of trades balances out, but on any given day, week or month you could have more or fewer trades than average…which will affect the income that month.

Examples of Day Trading scenarios

Now, let’s go through a few scenarios to answer the question, “How much money can I make as a day trader?

For all the scenarios I will assume that you never risk more than 1% of your account on a single trade. Risk is the potential loss on a trade, defined as the difference between the entry price and stop loss price, multiplied by how many units of the asset you take (called position size).

There is no reason to risk more than 1% of your account. As I will show, even with keeping risk  low (1% or less per trade) you can potentially earn high returns.

The numbers below are based purely on mathematical models, and are not meant to indicate you will make this much. The numbers below are used to show the potential, but are not intended to reflect typical returns. As indicated in the first paragraph, most traders fail.

For all the scenarios below we will be using relatively small accounts, as that is what most day traders start with. It is easier to make high percentage monthly returns on a smaller account compared to a larger account. Therefore, it will become continually more difficult to generate these sorts of returns as the account gets bigger and bigger (this is a problem you all hope to have!). That said, as the account grows, your dollar income may continue to grow, even though your percentage return stagnates or declines.

Plug different numbers into the scenarios below and you’ll see different ways to trade (for example, you could reduce the number of trades and try for much higher reward:risk trades). Very small changes can have a huge impact on profitability. For these scenarios we assume a modest 1.5:1 reward to risk ratio, 5 trades per day and a 50% win rate.

How Much Money Can I Make Day Trading Stocks?

Day trading stocks is probably the most well-known day trading market, but it is also the most capital-intensive. In the USA you must have at least $25,000 in your day trading account, otherwise you can’t trade (see: How Much Money Do I Need to Become a Day Trader). To stay above this threshold, fund your account with more than $25,000.

Assume you start trading with $30,000. You use 4:1 leverage, which gives you $120,000 in buying power (4 x $30,000). You utilize a strategy that makes you $0.15 on winning trades and you lose $0.10 on losing trades. This is about a 1.5:1 reward to risk ratio.

With a $30,000 account, the absolute most you can risk on each trade is $300 (1% of $30,000). Since your stop loss is $0.10, you can take a position size of 3000 shares (the stock will need to be priced below $40 in order to take this position size, otherwise you won’t have enough buying power). To get those types of stats from a trade, you’ll likely need to trade stocks that have decent volatility and lots of volume (see How to Find Volatile Stocks for Day Trading).

A good trading system will win 50% of the time. You average 5 trades per day, so if you have 20 trading days in a month, you make 100 trades per month.

  • 50 of them were profitable: 50 x $0.15 x 3000 shares = $22,500
  • 50 of them were unprofitable: 50 x $0.10 x 3000 shares = ($15,000)

You net $7,500, but you still have commissions and possibly some other fees. While this is likely on the high-end, assume your cost per trade is $20 (total, to get in and out). Your commission costs are: 100 trades x $20 =$2000. If you pay for your charting/trading platform, or exchange entitlements then those fees are added in as well.

Therefore, with a decent stock day trading strategy, and $30,000 (leveraged at 4:1), you can make roughly:

  • $7,500 – $2000 = $5,500/month  or about a 18% monthly return.

Remember, you are actually utilizing about $100,000 to $120,000 in buying power on each trade (not just $30,000).  This is simply a mathematical formula, and would require finding a stock where you could make this reward:risk ratio (1:5:1) five times a day. That could prove difficult. Also, you are highly leveraged, and there is a chance of catastrophic loss if a stock where to move aggressively against you and your stop loss became ineffective.

How Much Money Can I Make Day Trading Futures?

To trade an E-mini S&P 500 futures contract you should have at least $7,500 in your futures trading account. That will allow you to trade one contract with a reasonable stop loss and still only risk 1% of capital.

Let’s assume you have $15,000 to start your trading account. Once again you only risk 1% of your capital, or $150, on any single trade.

Each tick–the smallest movement–in an E-mini S&P 500 contract results in a loss/gain of $12.50. If you risk up to $150 on each trade, that means you can trade 2 contracts and risk 6 ticks on each trade for a total risk of $150 (6 ticks x $12.50 x 2 contracts). Your risk is 6 ticks, and you will try to make 9 ticks, as that is a 1:5: reward to risk ratio.

  • A 9 tick win is $112.5 for each contract.
  • A 6 tick loss is $75 for each contract.

A good trading system will win 50% of the time. Assume you average 5 trades per day, so if you have 20 trading days in a month, you make 100 trades per month.

  • 50 of them were profitable: 50 x $112.50 x 2 contracts = $11,250
  • 50 of them were unprofitable: 50 x $75 x 2 contracts = ($7,500)

You make $3,750, but you still have commissions and possibly some other fees. Your cost per trade is $5/contract (round-trip). Your commission costs are: 100 trades x $5 x 2 contracts = $1000. If you pay for your charting/trading platform, or exchange entitlements add those fees in as well (recommended trading platform for futures trading is NinjaTrader).

Therefore, with a decent futures day trading strategy, and a $15,000 account, you can make roughly:

  • $3,750 – $1000 = $2750/month or about a 18% monthly return.

This is simply a mathematical formula, and would require finding five trades a day that offer this reward:risk. That could prove difficult. Also, you are highly leveraged, and there is a chance of catastrophic loss if a market where to move aggressively against you and your stop loss became ineffective.

How Much Money Can I Make Day Trading Forex?

Forex is the least capital-intensive market to trade. Leverage up to 50:1 (higher in some countries) means you can open an account for as little as $100. I don’t recommend this. If you want to make money, start with at least $3000. Only risk 1% of your capital.

Each pip of movement in the forex market results in a$10 gain/loss if you trade a standard lot (100,000 in currency). Each pip with a mini lot (10,000 in currency) is worth $1. Each pip with a micro lot (1,000 in currency) is worth $0.10. “Pip value” varies based on the currency pair you are trading, but the above figures apply to the EUR/USD, which is the recommended currency pair for day trading.

Assume your strategy limits risk to 6 pips, you attempt to make 9 pips on winners (on average) and you have a $5,000 account.

With 6 pips of risk you can trade 8.3 mini lots–which equals $49.8 of risk per trade. This is less than your maximum risk of $50 (1% of $5,000). Notice how highly leveraged this position is. The account has $5,000 in it, and the position taken is $83,000…that close to 17:1 leverage. If uncomfortable with this amount of leverage, reduce the position size.

  • A 9 pip win is $9 for each mini lot.
  • A 6 pip loss is $6 for each mini lot.

A good trading system will win 50% of the time. You averaged 5 trades per day, so if you have 20 trading days in a month, you make 100 trades.

  • 50 of them were profitable: 50 x $9 x 8.3 mini lots= $3735
  • 50 of them were unprofitable: 50 x $6 x 8.3 mini lots= ($2490)

You net $1245.

If day trading forex, use an ECN broker. With the CTFC regulations in the US, lots of brokers don’t accept US clients but for those based outside, do try eToro. ECN brokers offer the tightest spreads, which in turn makes it easier for your targets to be reached. Commissions with a good ECN broker will run between $0.2 and $0.5 for each round trip trade per mini lot. Therefore, commission costs are 100 trades x 8.3 micro lots x $0.5 = $415.

Therefore, with a decent forex day trading strategy, and a $5,000 account, you can make roughly:

  • $1245 – $415= $830/month or 17% monthly return.

Your position size is 8.3 mini lots, which is $83,000. Therefore, to attain that return requires at least 17:1 leverage. Your return on your own capital is very high, but your return on buying power (83,000) is a more modest 1% monthly return. Leverage is very powerful, and makes all the difference here.

This is simply a mathematical formula, and would require finding five trades a day that offer this reward:risk. That could prove difficult. Also, you are highly leveraged, and there is a chance of catastrophic loss if a market where to move aggressively against you and your stop loss became ineffective.