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Trading pays off for former teacher

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Eva Spooner spent a week bicycling in the San Juan Islands last year. Most of her 19 fellow cyclists did the university-sponsored trip in pairs or groups, but Spooner signed up alone.

People who meet her for the first time are surprised by the soft-spoken former teacher's adventurous spirit. She's obviously not afraid to try new things on her own. So when she received several thousand dollars' inheritance five years ago, she decided to put her basic knowledge of the stock market to use and began trading online.

After a short time, she was doing so well she quit her teaching job and became a full-time day trader.

"I made a lot more money than I was making teaching," Spooner said. But after several years of full-time active day trading, she has now cut back to three to four hours a day at her computer checking stocks and handling her portfolio.

"At the end of the year, it was a tax nightmare," Spooner said. Reporting profits and capital gains on the many transactions she did online daily was more work than Spooner wanted to do. She continues to make her living on the stock market, but she holds individual stocks longer now and doesn't spend all day punching in "buys" and "sells" on her computer keyboard.

Spooner isn't your average online trader. There are few full-time online traders; even fewer are women. The Chicago Tribune reported in June that only about 4 percent of the 103 million U.S. households have traded online. A study done a year ago at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis, found that single men are the most active traders, buying and selling 67 percent more than single women.

In the beginning, Spooner "went into it kind of slowly," getting some advice from a son who works in the computer business and a son-in-law in patents. They and others helped her understand how to study a particular company, when to buy its stock and when to sell.

"When a good company's stock goes down, that's when you need to get in because it will go back up," she said. And that's where the full-time monitoring comes in.

"You have to keep track every day to realize when the correction is about to happen," she said.

Spooner said anyone can be successful as a full-time stock trader, "with some persistence and common sense." A knowledge of economics doesn't hurt, either.

"There are moving forces internationally that affect stocks; everything about the economy is far-reaching."

And, like most other "self-employed" people, they have to have a commitment to the task.

She said she would like to encourage women, especially, to get into investing.

"It's important for women to know how to manage money and make money, and investing is part of that."

Spooner said it has become a habit for her that she indulges even when she's on vacation.

"Now it's part of my life, it's ingrained," she said. "It's my job."

E-mail: karras@desnews.com