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Day traders are some of the quickest-thinking and fastest-acting traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. See more images investing.

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­Some conventional wisdom you'll often hear from financial planners and investment counselors is: You don't get rich quickly -- you get rich slowly, over time. So why are so many people turning to day trading as a way to get rich quickly? Is day trading really a way to turn a few dollars into a small fortune?

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The short answer is probably not. The longer answer requires that you look past the hype to gain an objective picture of how day trading works, who's doing it and what motivates them. When you do, you'll discover that most successful day traders are not greedy bandits and that day trading itself, although much maligned, is neither illegal nor unethical. However, it's risky business and should only be undertaken by people who fully understand the process.

The first step in understanding day trading is defining it in the context of other types of market strategies, which we'll do in the next section.