The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires trades to be settled within a three-business day time period, also known as T+3. When you buy stocks, the brokerage firm must receive your Government securities and stock options settle on the next business day following the trade. "How do I calculate when the three-day settlement cycle begins and ends?" The first day of the three-day settlement cycle starts on the business day following the day you purchased or sold a security. For example, let's say you bought a stock on Friday at anytime during the day. With T+3 settlement and the requirement to own shares on the dividend record date, a stock must be purchased at least three business days before the record date. A purchase exactly three days early will put the settlement date on the record date and the investor will receive the dividend.