NPR Story
12:42 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

12-Year-Old Learns Perils Of Day Trading In New Novel

In her new book for young adults, “The Short Seller,” Elissa Brent Weissman gives us the ultimate “short seller”: 12-year-old Lindy Sachs (excerpt below).

Math bores her until her father starts teaching her how to trade on the stock market.

When Lindy is home sick with a bout of mono, he gives her her very own account and $100 to invest however as she likes, and she quickly gets in over her head.

Once she can see the way math works in the real world, she becomes a stock trading whiz, using all the graphs and math data.
–Elissa Brent Weissman

Weissmann’s first run-in with the thrill of day trading came when her husband asked her to complete an online stock transaction from home.

An exciting idea

After a few clicks and pressing the “refresh” button a couple of times, Weissmann saw her money grow before her eyes.

Although she doesn’t come from a financial career background, the experience got the wheels spinning about how volatile and exciting the world of day trading could be.

“I knew that stock prices went up and down throughout the day, but I had no idea that they changed so quickly — like every second,” Weissman told Here & Now. “I thought to myself, ‘If I bought 10,000 shares right now and sold in 10 seconds, I could make tons of money. Given the way my mind works, I thought anybody could do this and a kid could do this.”

The plot takes a turn

Over the course of the novel, Lindy sinks deeper into trading starts neglecting her friends. Weismann and Here & Now host Jeremy Hobson likened it to the anti-social-yet-social behavior prevalent today, thanks to perpetual connectedness.

“You see parents pushing strollers while they’re talking on phones, families out to dinner, grown adults you know are out with each other but not really out with each other because they’re on mobile devices,” Weissman said. “I think it’s a part of the story. Lindy happens to get involved in day trading, but that really could be a stand-in for anything.”

Girls and finance

Weissman says her intention is not to teach anything with the novel, however, “if it get some girls interested in math that would be great.”

“Lindy in the beginning of book considers herself to be really dense at math — she’s being moved down from the advanced to regular class. Once she can see the way math works in the real world, she becomes a stock trading whiz, using all the graphs and math data, and she sees how important it is. If it gets some girls interested in thinking that finance is something they could do, it would be great,” Weissman said.

Book Excerpt: ‘The Short Seller’

By Elissa Brent Weissman

Chapter 9: Day Trading

Lindy spent the next morning in a blur of stock trades.  She found a stock that cost only $1.16 per share, and she bought ten shares.  She sold them thirty minutes later, when it was up to $1.25 share.  It wasn’t a big profit, but it felt good.  Her confidence growing, she bought 25 shares of a stock that cost $2.03 a share, but it went down every time she hit Refresh for twenty minutes, so when it went up, briefly, from $1.85 to $1.89 she sold it all, even though she took a loss.

After lunch and a half hour of English homework, she found a stock called FHY that had been steadily rising all morning and was now at $3.15 per share.  After five minutes of talking herself into it, she took a deep breath, crossed her fingers on the mouse, and put through an order for 19 shares–$60 worth.  She tried to stay awake to watch it, but her illness was putting up a strong fight, weighing down her eyelids and increasing the gravitational pull of her bed.

She awoke with a jolt when she heard the garage door open.  FHY! she thought.

She reached for the laptop, but it wasn’t on her nightstand.  FHY! she thought again.

“Tracy!” she yelled.  She could hear her talking on the phone through the wall.

“We should probably work on it at your house,” Tracy said.  “My sister has mono.”

“Tracy!” Lindy said again.

“Yeah, right.  She’s only twelve,” Tracy said into the phone.  “I know it’s called that, but that’s because it’s passed through saliva.  You can get it from sharing a drink or something.”

Lindy listened and looked for something to throw at the wall to get her sister’s attention.

“Don’t even say that,” Tracy said.  “If she kissed someone before me, I’ll die.”

Lindy stopped to register that statement.  She smiled.  Then she chucked her pillow towards the wall.

Her dad opened her bedroom door in time to see the pillow crash against the wall and land in a pile of dirty clothes.  He raised his eyebrows.

“Sorry,” Lindy said.  “But Tracy took the laptop.  Can you get it for me?”

Mr. Sachs kept his eyebrows raised.  “Doesn’t Tracy have her own laptop?”

“Yeah, but it’s not here.  Tracy’s always taking things.”

“Hold on a minute,” Tracy said into the phone.  She dropped it on her bed and walked to Lindy’s doorway.  “First of all, I can hear you, you know.  Number two, you’ve got mono, not two broken legs.  You can get out of bed and get things for yourself.  And three, yes, I have my own laptop, so stop accusing me.”

“Then who took it?” Lindy asked as her father backed away.

“I did,” her mother replied, appearing in the doorway with the laptop in her hands.  “It is technically mine.”

“Well,” said Mr. Sachs.  “It’s technically both of ours.”

Lindy felt her face turning red.  “Sorry, Mom.  But do you think I can use it?  I want to check something.”

Mrs. Sachs handed Lindy the computer with a cautious nod.  “I’m going to put in a frozen pizza.  Dinner in fifteen minutes.”

Tracy cleared her throat.

Lindy sighed.  “Sorry for accusing you, Tracy.”

“Not forgiven.”  Tracy started heading back to her room.

“Oh, Trace?” Lindy said innocently.  “You know how you can hear me in your room?  I can hear you, too.  You know, talking about my mono and what causes it and everything.”  Trying not to smile, she opened the laptop and pulled up the browser.

Tracy took a moment to register the comment, then turned red herself and disappeared into her bedroom.

Mr. Sachs eased himself into Lindy’s room and sat at the edge of her bed.  “What’d you need to check, Lind?  We’re past the closing bell.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means there’s no more buying or selling for today.  Market’s closed.”

Lindy opened her eyes wide.  “It closes?  What time does it close?”  What if FHY was way up—or way down?  She couldn’t do anything about it because the market was closed?

“Four o’clock.”

“Four o’clock!” said Lindy.  “The mall is open till ten, but the stock market closes at four o’clock?”

Mr. Sachs laughed.  “It’s closed weekends, too.  But it’ll open tomorrow at nine-thirty.”

“Will the price of things be the same as when they closed?”

“For the most part.  Sometimes stocks jump up or go down first thing in the morning, but they usually stabilize within an hour or so.  And there’s after-hours trading, but that shouldn’t affect things too much.”

“After hours trading?” Lindy asked.  “How do I that?”

Mr. Sachs laughed again.  “You don’t.  What’d you buy?”

Lindy was silent while she logged into the site and waited for her positions to come up.  She prayed that she didn’t lose her $60 when she fell asleep.  I don’t need to make a lot of money, she thought, but please, please, please don’t be way down.

The screen loaded.  Lindy looked.  There was FHY, and it had a little green triangle next to it.  Relief flowed through her, pumping from her heart to her fingertips.  Her eyes followed the line across to see just how much it had gone up.  It was at $4.09.  It had gone up 94 cents!  Almost a whole dollar!  30 percent!  Her $60 had turned into $77.71!

“Hey,” said her dad, peering over her shoulder.  “You made seventeen bucks!”

Lindy grinned.  “I did.”

Her dad patted her on the back and left to complete his pre-dinner routine.  Lindy sat smiling at her portfolio.  Good thing I was asleep, she thought, or else I might have sold it when it was only up 50 cents, or 10 cents!  If only she’d spent her whole $100 instead of just $60.  Then she’d have made $30 instead of $17.  And if she’d spent $3000—what her dad had spent on that first stock she bought for him—she’d have made $900!  But I don’t have $3000, she reminded herself.  I have $100.  Then she smiled.  $117.71 now.

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