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Penny Stock Basics

Stock Trading Rules & Regulations: Everything You Need to Know

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Updated 6/3/2021 12 min read

Do you know all the stock trading rules and regulations that can impact your trading? 

If you don’t, start learning now.

Stock trading rules affect the number of day trades you can make, the types of patterns you can trade, and the strategies you can use.

So don’t wait until you lose money — or worse, have your account locked — to learn them.

Learn these rules before you start trading. When you know what they are, you can make your own trading rules.

In this post, I’ll break down the stock trading rules and regulations you need to know and how they can affect your trading. Plus, I’ll show you why you need your own stock trading rules and share some of my stock trading rules to live by.

Let’s do this!

What Are Stock Trading Rules?

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The most well-known day trading rule for accounts under $25,000 is the pattern-day trader (PDT) rule.

It restricts the number of day trades you can make with a small account. It only affects traders who trade through margin accounts.

Cash accounts aren’t subject to the PDT — but they take more time for funds to settle. That could restrict the number of trades you can make if you use a large portion of your account in each trade.

More on the PDT rule shortly … If you want to know more about margin requirements, go to the FINRA site.

Day Trading Rules Over $25K

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There are no day trading limits if you keep at least $25,000 in your margin account.

But as soon as you take a few losses and your account goes down to $24,999.99 … Yep, you’re subject to the PDT.

SEC Day Trading Rules

The SEC approved the FINRA pattern day trader rule in 2001 after the dot-com bubble burst and many amateur traders and investors took huge losses.

FINRA created the rule in an attempt to protect new and uneducated traders.

Pattern Day Trading Rule

The PDT rule restricts traders to three day trades per rolling five-day period.

It only affects traders with less than $25,000 in a margin account. Because of the rules restricting day trading, many new traders wonder…

“Is pattern day trading illegal?” 

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Not in the sense that you’ll go to jail for doing it. But your broker can freeze your account for up to 90 days if you break the rule. If that happens, you’ll have to wait it out, fund your account with $25,000, or open and fund a new account.

A lot of traders hate this trading rule. I think it’s great.

It helps prevent new traders from overtrading. There’s no reason to be in and out of positions all day. You should focus on finding your best setups and growing your account with small gains over time.

I always encourage new traders to start small. Even if you have enough funds to start with $25,000, don’t risk it all. Start with $2,000 or $5,000.

Better yet, paper trade before you put your hard-earned money at risk.

StocksToTrade has an awesome paper trading feature. You can customize it to match your real account size and commission structure.

I love StocksToTrade because it’s specifically designed for trading penny stocks. It has awesome charts, built-in scans, watchlists, and social media feeds. And its Breaking News Chat add-on feature alerts me to breaking news FAST. It also has broker integration so you can research stocks and trade on one platform.

Get a StockToTrade 14-day trial for only $7 or get it with the Breaking News Chat for only $17!

(Quick disclaimer: I proudly helped design and develop StocksToTrade and am an investor in it.)

Can You Buy a Stock and Sell It the Next Day?

Buying a stock one day and selling it the next isn’t considered a day trade. You can make unlimited overnight trades, even with a small account.

That’s why patterns like my first green day OTC work great for traders starting with a few thousand dollars. You could make five overnight trades a week and still have three day trades.

Many of my Trading Challenge students are under the PDT. That’s why I teach patterns and strategies you can use to potentially grow a small account over time.

It takes a lot of discipline. You can’t let emotions affect how you trade. And that’s where your rules come in … They can help you stay focused on your risk and your goals when you’re in a trade. But you must be disciplined enough to follow them…

Learn to embrace trading rules. If you trade without them, you’re gambling.

You have to accept the regulatory stock trading rules — and your own rules — for each trade. Here are some of mine…

5 Stock Trading Rules to Live By

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Many traders ignore rules and lessons until they start losing money. Then they quickly realize how important they are.

Rules aren’t fun, but they’re essential. They help protect your account when a stock goes against you. And they can help you focus on the best setups, and can prevent overtrading.

You don’t have to be smart to make it in this game, but you MUST be disciplined.

Here are my stock trading rules to live by…

1. Study the Market

All my top students have a passion for the markets. You have to love it. Almost to the point of obsession.

You need to have a hunger for knowledge. A curiosity for what makes stocks move the way they do. And why some have potential, while others don’t.

Then you have to study your butt off. Knowledge doesn’t come overnight. There’s a reason most of my millionaire students are in year three or four of their trading journeys.*

It takes thousands of hours of watching charts in real time to get a feel for price action. So don’t try to rush success. You don’t even have to trade in the beginning…

Watch the market while studying my thousands of video lessons on Profit.ly, all my DVDs, and my 1,400+ videos on YouTube.

(*Please note that these kinds of trading results are not typical. Most traders lose money. It takes years of dedication, hard work, and discipline to learn how to trade. Individual results will vary. Trading is inherently risky. Before making any trades, remember to do your due diligence and never risk more than you can afford to lose.)

2. Use the Right Broker

When it comes time to trade, you need the right broker to execute your trades. I use E-Trade and Interactive Brokers. That’s not because they’re the best … they just suck the least for my needs. They work for me and my trading style.

Find the one that works best for you.

If you want to trade OTCs or short sell penny stocks, you’ll need a broker that allows that and has good executions. Do your research before you deposit any money.

I’d avoid trading apps like Robinhood and Webull. I don’t think they give you the best options for day trading low-priced stocks.

Don’t use an offshore broker in an attempt to get around the PDT rule. It’s an unnecessary risk. Next…

3. Have a Plan

A trading plan is imperative to trading success. Without it, you’re gambling. And you’re more likely to let emotions take over, which leads to mistakes.

You should have a plan before you risk any money.

Use my Sykes Sliding Scale to prepare for every trade. I go over all seven of my trading indicators in detail in my “Trader Checklist Part Deux” DVD. Some don’t even have to do with the stock or patterns. You have to consider how other factors, like your trading psychology, can affect your performance.

The most important part of your trading plan should be to…

4. Cut Losses Quickly

Cutting losses quickly is my #1 rule. It’s the best way to protect your account.

Risk management is a must.

I cut losses so fast sometimes I don’t even wait for a loss. If a stock doesn’t do what I want or does something unexpected — I get out. I don’t care if I only make 1% on the trade. I’m not going to wait for a loss to cut a trade that’s not doing what I expect.

Losses are part of trading, but cutting them quickly can keep them small.

Your trading plan shouldn’t only include a plan for cutting losses. You also have to learn to…

5. Sell Into Strength

You should have a goal for your trades — where you’ll take profits.

Learn to sell into strength. Go for singles. Don’t swing for home runs.

Once a stock is doing what you want it’s easy to think, “I’ll just hold a bit longer,” trying to get more out of the trade. Don’t get greedy. Take profits along the way.

It’s OK to sell too soon, but it’s not OK to overstay.

My top students and I don’t catch the bottom and top of every move. I almost always sell too soon. But if you follow this trading rule, your small gains can add up over time.

Take my former Trading Challenge student turned Challenge chat room moderator Matthew Monaco. He’s now a millionaire trader. His average gain is roughly $1,300 per trade.* But that’s added up to over $1.5 million in trading profits.*

I teamed up with Matt to create my 30-Day Bootcamp for new traders. It’s a month’s worth of lessons with daily assignments and homework. Bonus: It comes with “The Complete Penny Stock Course” book and my “Pennystocking Framework” DVD. And you get all three for under $100. Get in my Bootcamp now!

The Stock Trading Rules Conclusion

It’s important to educate yourself on all the stock trading rules and regulations. Ideally, you do that before you start trading. Once you’re trading, you can make your own smart rules.

Your trading rules should align with your trading style, patterns, and personality. They can help you trade to your strengths and minimize mistakes.

Too many traders make mistakes and lose a ton of money before they realize the importance of trading rules. You don’t have to learn the hard way…

You can learn all the stock trading rules I teach my students in my Trading Challenge. I’ve learned my rules through trial and error over my 20+ years in the market.

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If you’re accepted into my Challenge — and not everyone is — you’ll get access to thousands of video lessons and all my DVDs. Plus, you get my weekly live trading and Q&A webinars and over 1,000 archived webinars from me and multiple top traders with years of experience.

Becoming a self-sufficient trader isn’t easy. It takes a ton of hard work, time, and dedication. But it can be so rewarding if you stick with it.

Ready to get started? Apply to my Trading Challenge now. 

What are your top stock trading rules? Let me know in the comments … I love to hear from you!

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Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

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* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (888) 878-3621 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”