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Hedge Fund Toddlers

Why wait for that big break when you and a few buds can manage millions now?

The life of a twenty-something on a Wall Street trading desk can be miserable. If you're not slaving over a spreadsheet late into the night, your boss is whacking you on the head with his BlackBerry for botching an options order. So it's no surprise that many beleaguered Gordon Gekko wannabes fantasize about running their own hedge fund -- and, oh yeah, collecting the standard 2% of assets and 20% of profits.

Used to be you had to spend 10 or more years at the feet of a master before striking out on your own. But nowadays some apprenticeships last only a few years. Even kids right out of college are giving it a try. Barriers to entry are low, say experts, though long-term success is another story. "Opening a hedge fund is easy: It's just paperwork," says 30-year-old Jonathan Hoenig, managing partner at Chicago hedge fund Capitalistpig Asset Management, which he founded in August, 2000, following a two-year stint as a futures trader at the Chicago Board of Trade (after dropping out of college). The tough part, Hoenig says, is raising money. After all, who in his right mind would entrust a million bucks to someone born during the third season of Cheers?