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This item: Trading for a Living: Psychology, Trading Tactics, Money Management
Trading Psychology: 6 Practical Tips to Master Your Mind and Money
Last Updated on December 9, 2020
Cut your losses and ride your profits.
But when the time comes, you do the exact opposite!
Because of your trading psychology.
When you’re supposed to cut your losses, you hold onto your losses… hoping it turns around so you don’t suffer a loss.
When you’re supposed to ride your profits, you exit your winners… fearing that it might turn into losses.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I get it. I’ve been there myself. I know what you’re going through.
So in today’s trading psychology post, you’ll learn 6 insanely practical tips to master your mind and money.
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I’m not going to give mumbo jumbo advice and tell you to be a more disciplined trader. You know that already.
Instead, the question is… how?
So, here’s what you’ll learn in today’s trading psychology post:
Then let’s begin…
Get a job and overcome most of your trading psychology issues instantly
I know this may sound weird…
…but having a job (or an alternate source of income) improves your trading psychology and results.
- It removes the need to make money syndrome
- It lets you grow your trading account quickly
It removes the need to make money syndrome
Here’s the thing:
If trading is your only source of income, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage psychologically.
Because you will have the need to make money every month.
This cause you to make poor trading decisions like widening your stop loss, averaging into losers, trading too large, and etc.
And that’s why many Professional traders do not rely on trading as their only source of income.
Don’t believe me? Let me prove it to you…
Ed Seykota, a Market Wizard, has a trading tribe that cost $99/month.
Mark Minervini, a stock Market Wizard, offers a master trader program that cost $5000.
Most hedge funds (even the best ones) charge a management fee every year —even if it’s a losing year.
To put things in perspective, if you run a billion dollar hedge fund and take a 2% management fee, it means you get $20m a year — guaranteed.
As you can see, professional traders and hedge funds structure their trading in a way that it’s not their only source of income.
So what can a retail trader like you do, if you want to level the playing field?
Simple — get a job.
If you have a job, you have a source of income every month no matter what. This allows you to focus on your trading without having to worry whether you can pay the bills this month, or not.
And that’s not all because…
It lets you grow your account quicker so you can trade larger and make more money
Here’s the thing:
You need money to make money in trading.
Let’s say your average return is about 20% a year. This means…
On a $1000 account, you’ll make about $200 per year.
On a $100,000 account, you’ll make about $20,000 per year.
On a $1m account, you’ll make about $200,000 per year.
So now the question is…
…how do you increase the size of your trading account?
Well, you can use a portion of your income (from your job) to increase the size of your trading account. This means you can trade larger and make more money.
And in my opinion, this is one of the best things you can do for your trading — having a full-time job.
Backtest your strategy and gain massive confidence in your trading
Here’s the thing:
One of the biggest struggles you’ll face is having the confidence in your trading strategy.
If your trading strategy doesn’t have an edge in the markets, how do you find the conviction to trade it during a drawdown?
And instead, you’ll start looking for the next “best” trading strategy — and the cycle rinse repeats itself.
So here’s the deal:
To break out of the cycle, you must have an edge in the markets so you have conviction in your trading strategy.
So, how can you go about it?
This refers to how your trading strategy works with past data to decide if it has an edge in the markets.
Now, if your trading strategy is proven to work using past data, then there’s a good chance it’ll work in the future — which gives you confidence in your trading, right?
So, here are 2 ways you can do it:
- Manual backtesting
- Systematic backtesting
This refers to backtesting your strategy in a manual fashion. You would literally scroll through your charts and analyze the market as it unfolds bar by bar.
However, there are pros and cons to this approach.
- You don’t need any special skill
- You’ll learn to read the price action of the markets
- The results might not be accurate because of hindsight bias
- You don’t know what’s the overall risk on your portfolio
If manual backtesting is for you, then here’s how to do it step by step…
1. Know the trading setup you’re looking for
Before you can do any backtest, you must know what is the setup you’re looking for (whether you’re trading pullback, breakouts, and etc.).
Then, develop a trading plan so you can identify your trades objectively.
2. Scroll back to the earliest starting date of an instrument
Next, go back to the earliest date you can get on your instrument. For the daily timeframe, you should be able to go back a few years on TradingView or MT4.
3. Move the chart forward one bar at a time and look for your trading setup
This is where the fun begins. Imagine whatever in front of your screen is the “live markets” and you’re trading it in real-time.
This means your Support & Resistance must be plotted, your relevant indicators should be on the screen, and etc.
Then look for your trading setups as the price unfolds bar by bar.
On TradingView, you can move forward (bar by bar) by pressing the arrow key. And for MT4, it’s the F12 key.
4. Journal your trades
Once you’ve identified your trading setup, you want to record your entry, stop loss, exit, and R multiple.
Repeat the process till you arrive at the current date. Then gather all the data you’ve recorded to see if you have an edge in the markets.
If you’re a currency trader, there are tools like Forex Tester 3 that helps you to backtest more efficiently.
Now if manual backtesting isn’t for you, then check out your next option…
This refers to backtesting your strategy is a systematic manner using a programming language like Python, R, and etc.
Here are the pros and cons to this approach:
- You can backtest your strategy in minutes
- You know what your overall portfolio risk is
- You might curve fit past data which leads to a strategy that doesn’t work in the real world
- You require programming knowledge
Now, systematic backtesting isn’t my area of forte so I can’t teach you how to do it.
But here are some resources that could help you…
Codeacademy — Learn how to code for free
Norgate — Premium data provider for your backtesting needs
Amibroker — Powerful backtesting software
Joemarwood – A trading blog that shares practical tips & tricks in systematic trading
If you don’t want to learn, you can always hire someone to systematically backtest your strategy.
Use the Star System and improve your trading results
The Star system is a technique I’ve developed to help traders get consistent results.
But before I get to it, let me ask you a question…
Have you ever tried using a trading strategy and after a few losses, you decide that it isn’t working and start looking for the next best strategy?
That’s a big MISTAKE.
If you are constantly hopping from one trading strategy to the next, how do you expect a consistent set of results?
The bottom line is this:
To have a consistent set of results, you need a consistent set of actions.
But the question is… how?
Let me introduce to use the Star system I’ve developed to help traders be consistent in their actions.
Here’s how I came up with it:
Remember when you were in kindergarten and you did well for an assignment, your teacher will give you a sticker in the shape of a star (rewarding you for a job well done).
And this is how the Star system works…
- Develop a sound trading plan that dictates your entries, exits, trade management, and risk management
- Every time you follow your plan, you get 1 star
- Every time you didn’t follow your plan, you get -2 stars
- The goal of the Star system is to accumulate 100 stars
If you realized, you get penalized badly whenever you deviate from your plan. This is to make sure you follow your plan wholeheartedly and nothing else.
Because here’s the thing:
If you can be consistent with your actions, then you have a good chance of becoming a consistently profitable trader.
Why you should be rich
Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like — Will Smith
When you hear someone talk about traders, you immediately think of Ferraris, Mansions, and hot chicks, right?
But here’s the truth…
An extremely small percentage of it happens in real life (and I’m talking 0.001% kind).
Because here’s the thing:
In trading, you’re dealing with probabilities. You will have winning months and LOSING months.
You want to save up during the good times so you can withstand the bad times — and not get blown out. In other words, be FRUGAL.
But if you’re spending recklessly on material wants, it puts pressure on your own trading.
You’ll have thoughts like…
- How am I going to pay my mortgage of my mansion?
- How can I impress those around me?
- How can I upkeep my Ferrari?
And as you know, this leads to the need to make money syndrome (as mentioned earlier).
So what happens?
You end up making poor trading decisions that cause you to blow up your account.
So the bottom line is this:
The goal of trading is to be rich — NOT act rich.
The Matrix Technique that makes you feel numb to losing trades
Good trading involves following your trading plan and having risk management on every single trade.
There will be wins and losses but, if you have an edge in the markets, you’ll make money over time.
But here’s the thing:
When you’re trading in the NOW, your logic gets thrown out the window and you’re left battling against your emotions.
You watch every tick of the market.
You consider widening your stop loss so you don’t take a loss.
You wonder if you should take profits now in case the market goes against you.
If you think about it, that’s silly right?
Fussing over the outcome of a single trade when it’s random.
So, how can you suppress these emotions in real time and improve your trading performance?
Well, let me introduce you The Matrix Technique.
If you watched the “Matrix” movie, you know that humans are plugged into the matrix and detached from reality.
And this is what you want to do for your trading, to detach yourself from the outcome of your trades.
Whenever you’re emotional over your trades, ask yourself…
“Are you following your trading plan?”
If the answer is NO, exit the trade immediately and stop trading (whether it’s a winner or loser).
If the answer is YES, set your stop loss and walk away from your terminal (knowing you’re doing the right thing and your risk is contained).
This is simple but it works. It detaches you away from the outcome of your trades and keeps you focused on following your plan.
How to overcome the psychological pressure of trading full-time — even if you have a family to support
If you have a family to feed I won’t suggest you trade full-time (unless you know what you’re doing).
The pressure to make money is so high that it harms your trading performance.
You’ve got bills to pay, mortgage, and your kids to feed.
Still, you might want to trade full-time because of the freedom it brings, no boss to answer to, and no politics to deal with.
If that’s you, then here are 6 practical tips to help you out…
1. Have a partner who works full-time and can support the family.
It’s a huge advantage if you have a partner who supports your trading wholeheartedly.
This lets you focus on your trading without worrying about the bills or putting food on the table — and removes a huge pressure off you.
2. Save up 12 months of living expenses before you make the transition
But what if you don’t have a partner?
Well, no worries.
You can save up enough money that covers at 12 months of your living expenses (and this excludes your trading capital).
This allows you to trade in peace knowing that even if you didn’t make money this month, your living expenses are still taken care of.
3. Contribute to the household income once every 6 months
Trading is all about probabilities and you need time for your edge to play itself.
This means you may not make money every month but given a long enough timeline, you should be profitable.
So, a solution to this is to contribute to the household income once every 6 months instead of every month.
4. Work part-time jobs to have an extra source of income
You can take up part-time jobs to supplement your trading income.
For example: Giving tuition, Waitering, Bartending, and etc. Basically, whatever it takes to provide an additional source of income outside of trading.
5. Educate other traders and get paid for it
You can educate other traders through own courses or coaching programs — and get paid for it.
- Conduct a live seminar
- Create an online course
- Conduct a mentorship program
- Offer private 1 to 1 coaching
- Write trading newsletters
It’s a common approach used by many successful traders like Mark Minervini, Andreas Unger, Peter Brandt, and etc.
However, it’s suitable only for those who are consistently profitable. If you’re not, don’t worry because the next option is for you…
6. Recommend trading products and services you believe in
Now I’m sure you’ve got some trading products or services that you enjoy using.
So, why not get paid to refer other traders to use it?
If you’re happy with your broker, you can recommend others to sign up an account and get a referral fee.
Or if you enjoy using a certain charting platform (like TradingView), you can refer others to it and get a referral fee.
You should only refer products or services that you believe in and not because you want to earn a quick buck. That’s your moral obligation.
Here’s what you’ve learned in today’s post:
- Get a job and overcome most of your trading psychology issues instantly
- Backtest your strategy and gain massive confidence in your trading
- Use the Star System and improve your trading results
- Be rich — NOT act rich
- The Matrix Technique — detach yourself from the outcome of your trades
- How to overcome the psychological pressure of trading full-time — even if you have a family to support
Now here’s what I want to know…
Are there any techniques or strategies you’ve tried that improves your trading psychology?
Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.
I always enter with a pending order above the previous candle high for long setups. Stop loss is on previous candle low, so the risk us always 1 ATR. Helps me not to widen stop loss.
For exit I use bigger time frame ATR Channel.
Thanks so much for the advice Rayner. Getting a job and the matrix method made so much sense to me.
Thank you for sharing, Abhinav.
Awesome post Rayner. Thanks for sharing these trading psychology tips in so much detail. I totally agree that without a foundation of good psychology traders will struggle (even if they have a winning system). I’ll be sure to share this post with my followers as some of the things you’ve touched on have made a huge difference for me personally!
Awesome to hear that, Jay.
Glad to hear it helps!
The most real advise I have seen on the Internet about trading….great write I must say…no one can say it better.
I appreciate the kind words, Peter.
Thanks a lot for sharing Rayner. I do something that helps me on my psychology and that´s having a proven and quick method to earn money on the markets to not worry about the results of my trading. In other words, I use a technic that gives me profits everymonth but it is not the trading I like, so I use it only to grow capital and dont feel the preasure to win or earn money, so I can focus on catching a trend as I feel bad everytime I do a good trade but it does not become a trend and It go against me and took me out with loosees. Always using a very low rick so I dont loose capital. Cheer! and be happy!
Thank you for sharing, Erick.
Glad to hear you found something that works for you!
After reading your articles i have realized that there’s much to learn which i have been overlooking . Thanks Brother.
You’re welcome bud.
Don’t hesitate to let me know if you’ve got any questions, I’ll be glad to help.
Very informative and eye-opener, For new trader like us.
Glad to hear that, Dhaval
Thanks for your advice.
Having a good guru will improve one’s trading psychology. A guru who guides you step by step and even informs you when he takes up a trade so that you can follow and discuss with him in detail about the set up.
Thank you for sharing, O.
I read your trading psychology articles and it is valuable asset for me .
You are right to claim not only successful trader but also really “SUPERMAN” .
Thanks so much Rayner. How did you know I was struggling. When I began in a super Bullish market I got a lot of advice. I picked a stretegy and backtested it. Then this August September the Breakouts were all becoming False breakouts. It’s hard to short a post break out stock when it doesn’t break more than 5-6 pips. Doesn’t even cover commisions and slippage. I have been in denial about have a viable , profitable strategy. On top of it my Canadian brokers has a low inventory of short floats. I am lost and losing. And this marvellous email comes into my inbox Yesterday. Thanks so much . You are the best Rayner. Back to the backtesting and I’ll implement the Star system. Getting over my fear of losses is my big challenge and a daily work in progress. Thanks for pointing that out. Cheers. Bruce in Montreal.
I hope it helps, Bruce.
Don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s anything, I’ll be glad to help.
Thanks for the tips and for all you do to help and to educate “we, the traders.”
Your training videos are the best!
I use them to supplement my Apiary Fund training.
I’m glad to hear it helps, Charles.
All the best for your training!
Hello Ray. I’ve only recently read your articles and recommendations.
For over 15 years I am an experienced trader, and I want to congratulate you on your professionalism, honesty and sharing of your knowledge acquired in this area.
I agree 100% with everything you wrote in this article in particular, and I want to thank you for sharing your experiences, because you contribute to form the next generation of traders with more positive and sustained results in time.
I’ll share your articles in my networks and with my followers on linkedln and twitter.
Keep up the great work you’re doing.
Thank you for reaching out. I appreciate your kind words, my friend.
Wow,great article especially to me as I struggle with consistency and I believe the pressure of being broke is the reason. I am definitely getting a job but not loosing focus on the goal.
glad to hear that bud. cheers
Hi, thanks a lot for your postings it’s fantastic to read your suggestions . I have been trading for last 4 years and it has been good experience I am doing better and better with all the help from people like you and trading composer.
I’m glad to be of help
Awesome post sir.
I just wanted to add, that following your plan is paramount, as we cannot control the outcome of our trades. Also having a day job, relieves so much pressure to making a profit every month!
You hit the nail on the head. All of these tips are exactly what contributed to my trading success. Thank for the share! A definite bookmark!
$20 is a 1% stop loss on $2,000. Use the Williams%R when it’s oversold, then buy diversified, commission-free ETFs and immediately use a 1% stop loss order on all of them. The more boring the ETF is the better! Even if one is a “minimum volatility” ETF. Instead of trying to get the “perfect” setup on one stock, get a pretty good setup on 650 out of 775 stocks. At least you probably won’t lose your $20, and most likely make a positive return instead.
Thanks for sharing, Dan.
Thank you so much! Keep sharing …
Thank you for the article. Some very useful tips. I have been trading now for many years, and have read many books and have been on a few courses as well. To-date I have not been able to become a consistent trader, winning some and losing some, and having blown a few accounts along the way. Luckily I have other business interests such as real estate, and my wife has a handsome income so I am not rushed to make money from trading. However, it is frustrating that after sending so much effort and money I cannot become consistent. From my several years of trading, I have filtered my experience into a number of conclusions, which I am sure many traders will already know: (a) Do not over trade. If you are a day trader like me stick to 3 to 4 trades max, anything more than this you begin to give back any gains that you may have made. (b) Be PATIENT. Be patient to wait for your set-up to materialize, do not jump the gun. Wait, wait and wait until your set-up hits you squarely in the eyes. (c) Be PATIENT. Once in a trade be patient and let the trade work out. Don’t be eager to close the trade, wait until it gets to your pre-defined target, and don’t jump out of the trade prematurely at the slightest retrace, the market will always try to get rid of the weak hands. To remove emotions from the trade, which I think is impossible, have a pre-defined stop loss and a predefined profit target. (d) If you’re a day trader, and even for swing or long term traders, once you have hit your stop loss, don’t think about the trade anymore, move onto the next trade. Just try to learn something from the trades that went south or made a profit. Just like me keep learning until you make it….:)
Great list, thank you for sharing. I appreciate it.
Trading Psychology: How To Control Emotions While Trading
Trading is not what most people think it is.
The Hollywood version of trading, where huge sums of money are made effortlessly by smiling traders in a matter of seconds, can often seem alien to anyone who trades for real.
It’s also changed structurally too, with trading now making a huge impact online. It can be done from home, with the same results the Wall Street guys get being available to the guy sitting in his living room in his jeans.
The Ups n’ Downs
One aspect that can prove to be especially traumatic is the ‘rollercoaster’ nature of trading.
This is true for home traders as well as the professionals on the exchanges. The psychological aspect of trading, where your brain has to deal with losing as well as winning, often within a matter of seconds, is the hardest part to get right.
Knowing how to manage your trading psychology and becoming a winning trader is vital. If you can’t take the pressure, you won’t get far. And this is true no matter what your trading strategies are.
Your first step in gaining a trading mindset involves you, and mastering your own emotions. Once you step beyond yourself a little and look at trading objectively, you’ll have a better chance of surviving … and thriving.
There are a few things you need to master to become a consistently profitable trader:
Out of all the mentioned tools, trading psychology is perhaps the hardest thing to get right in trading.
Trading is not an exact science, it’s rather art. While you can create and follow rules with your trading strategy, it becomes quite hard to have strict rules with trading psychology and controlling your emotions. How will you control fear and greed – some of the most devastating emotions in trading – in your next trade?
In the long run, your trading success might depend exactly on the answer to that question.
Do Your Homework: Analyse the Markets
Analyzing the markets and having a good background for each trade that you’re taking can make wonders in controlling your emotions. The more you actually research the markets, the less you have a gambler’s mentality. This will also help keep your emotions under control.
The markets are fascinating things. If you spend time researching industries and companies within them, you will start to understand the context price moves. You’ll also be better placed to manage the rollercoaster of emotions, profits and losses.
For example, if you know things are bad in a certain company, you’ll be confident about short-selling that company or exiting out of your long position.
This should allow you to think more sensibly about markets and trades, and eventually come up with a trading plan. This is where you work out and articulate how you will act and what you will think when you trade.
A good trading plan allows you to work out what your expectations are, what you are like personality-wise as a forex trader, and what to avoid. Knowing the markets and currencies through deep research is a great way to build a foundation for a good trading plan.
Do Some Research into Successful Traders
Knowing how the most successful FX traders work can only give you full and deep insights into the best way to trade. Pretty soon, you’ll understand the objectivity involved in solid trading. Many successful traders treat what they do like running a business.
They don’t let emotions get involved, ever.
The aim is still to make money, but to manage risk at the same time. Studying successful traders will help your own trading in a huge way. You can really benefit from someone who has ‘made it’.
Many traders often talk in terms of absolute returns when they’re asked about their trading performance. However, a much better measure would be to talk in terms of risk-adjusted returns and Sharpe ratios.
It’s not about how much return you can make in absolute terms, but how much you’re risking to achieve those returns. Following and learning from successful traders can show you how to manage your emotions the right way, both when making money and when losing.
Intraday Trading Psychology
Day trading (or intraday trading) is tough.
It is perhaps the one area where fear of loss can have the most devastating effect.
Everything happens on the day, whatever you trade, therefore the minutes and hours can be almost unbearably stressful. The trading psychology behind the life of successful day traders is quite simple though, and once you get the main principles down, you should be better equipped to deal with the roller coaster.
Losing money is OK
First up, remember that you are going to lose money. This is going to happen, and it cannot be avoided in the long term no matter what you do. There are factors outside of your control, and this means that you can prepare as much as you like, something will still go wrong.
Keeping that in mind, remember also that this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you lose money, so be it. The nature of intraday trading is that things move very fast. If you actually expect to lose some of the time, but make larger winning trades when you do win compared to when you lose, then you are making progress and profit.
Remember that business analogy?
If you win, say 60% of your trades, you’re doing well. And because you’re often making big and small trades, your big trades will also come up trumps too. Over time, and with your business mindset, you’ll see that ‘profit and loss’ are perfectly natural partners.
Traders can’t control the markets. The only thing we can control is our risk and our mindset. Even the best traders out there don’t have a success rate of 100%, and the key isn’t necessarily to increase your success rate.
Profitable traders make more on winning trades than they lose on losing trades – that’s it. In fact, many of the most successful traders take a large number of losses along the way until one winning trade makes their month or quarter.
Remember: The key is to make more than you lose, with losses being an integral part of the game.
Only Trade With Money You Can Afford to Lose
This is one of the principles that are part of true trading success.
Everyday, no matter which mood you happen to be in, or what’s happening in your life, you should only ever trade sums you can afford to lose.
Obviously, no one can really afford to lose money, but if you have a certain percentage of your money that you are prepared to lose in the pursuit of large gains, then you should feel better as the day moves on.
Stepping over the line and trading more than you can comfortably afford to lose will simply make you feel more stressed and then this will force your emotions into the driving seat. You’ll make bad decisions, and they can become catastrophic. This applies to all trades, whether on the foreign exchange (forex) or traditional stock trading.
You will feel better if you know the world isn’t going to end if a bad trade happens. This is again all about staying objective and maintaining your business mentality.
The concept of “risk per trade” fits perfectly into this discussion.
To limit your losses and grow your trading account, you should only risk a fixed, predetermined percentage of your trading account on any single trade. Depending on your trading account size, this can be anything from 0.1% to 3%. Each trader has his own rule how much he’s willing to risk on a single trade, but the key is to keep that percentage low.
Imagine risking 10% of your trading capital on a single trade. A losing streak of 5 trades will wipe out 50% of your trading account! In this situation, you’ll need to make a return of 100% only to get back to your previous account size.
As a rule of thumb: The larger your trading account the less you should risk on a single trade, in percentage terms. A trader with a $5,000 account could risk 5%, but a trade with a $500,000 would be better off by risking up to 1% of his account size.
The 6% Rule
If you aren’t controlling your risks effectively, your emotions could kick in and devastate your trading day . It’s important that you focus on making sure that your loss limit is sensible, and one that keeps you able to manage your financial situation effectively.
Most successful traders set a loss limit on all open trades at around the 6% level. This keeps them both afloat and ready to fight another day. It’s a vital part of money management.
If you’re risking 1% of your trading capital per any single trade, you may open up to 6 trade simultaneously. The 6% rule avoids that piranhas – or many losing trades – wipe out your trading account.
This is a crucial principle to make clear.
Sitting back and cutting your losses is actually part of a successful trader mindset. Ignoring this makes no sense.
Set a sensible loss limit and leave it there. Then get on with your trading. This way, no matter what happens, you’re not going to lose the farm even if you have a bad day.
Benefits of Technical Analysis
This point relates to the necessity of analysing the markets in order to control your emotions.
If you look at the biggest traders of all time, people like George Soros, for example, you’re sure to spot the one thing that links them all together. They developed strong technical analysis skills.
By knowing what the markets are like on a daily basis, point for point, and seeing trends over time, you are in a much better position than the vast majority of traders out there. While some traders are flying by the seat of their pants and hoping for the best, you’re picking stocks that you know have some value and clear prospects.
Technical analysis takes time though, and this is something that you need to be aware of. It will help your trading mindset if you’re able to put in the hours and understand technical analysis at a competent level. You don’t have to be a Soros, but you do need to know the basics.
Trust us, having an understanding of technical analysis and being able to apply it to your trading on a daily basis will make you feel less stressed and more able to handle your emotions.
Avoid these Common Mistakes of New Traders
The following areas are the biggest ‘traps’ a trader can face as their career progresses. Take a look at them and bear them in mind as you work to master your emotions.
Fear of missing out (or FOMO). A common problem with inexperienced traders, and perhaps especially new day traders. This is where you see some traders making a big win on a stock or option, and you jump in. You’ve jumped in at the wrong time though, and you end up making a big loss. This can all be avoided if you’ve followed your own rules, and focused on making informed decisions. Never chase the market for trading opportunities. Good setups form over and over again, and your job as a trader is to strictly follow your trading strategy. The FOMO effect can often lead to big losses. Beware of that.
Pace yourself. If you’re doing really well one month and you’re taking a decent amount of money, don’t make the classic mistake of doubling trade amounts in the second month. Graduate your investments, always. This is the best way to build up a business mentality, and to protect your finances. Markets are notoriously volatile, don’t let your finances be the same. Always raise investment levels after careful consideration, and incrementally.
Cool down after a trade. If you have a great trade, relax and read the newspaper. If you have a bad trade, relax and read the newspaper. The best way to let emotions take over your strategy is to keep piling into new trades. This is to be avoided. Take it easy, and focus on each trade as being an individual matter, not an extension of the previous one. Markets are different each day, and what worked yesterday doesn’t have to work in the future. Each trade needs to be a well thought out trading decision, underpinned by macro-fundamentals, technical analysis, and risk management.
The ‘good day’ trap is our last one. This is where you have an exceptional run of good trades and it feels like everything is going rosy. If you’re lucky (and you’ve worked hard to research and analyse) you will see that continuing perhaps right to the end of the day. You may not. Whatever happens, don’t think a run of good trades means anything. There will always be things that are out of your control. Play each trade ‘as it lays’, and focus on making an overall profit. If this means backing off, that’s what you do. When traders experience a series of winning trades, they start to feel invincible in this game. Greed takes over the rational decision making, which often leads to high losses down the road (sometimes higher than the earlier profits made on the string of trade).
The psychology of trading is not as complex as it sounds. Focus on running your trading as a business, and bear in mind that you should always focus on having a clear and sensible stop loss amount, and you should be able to make it a lucrative career.
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Forex trading psychology is a big thing. Often, it is the psychology, and not a lack of academic knowledge or skill in application, that is considered to be the primary originator of trading mistakes. Mistakes are constantly repeated by financial traders of various national, cultural, and social backgrounds, which suggests that it is the common traits shared among us as humans that lie in the base of those mistakes.
That common trait is fear, which creates the ‘fight or flight’ response in humans. Unfortunately, it is this fight or flight response which can cause the downfall of many traders. We cannot change what we have evolved to feel over millions of years, but we can change how we approach these feelings, by studying the psychology of successful Forex traders and then applying the findings. Today, we will look at how we should behave and respond to trading situations from the correct Forex trading psychology point of view.
Fear can have a significantly limiting effect on trading behaviour. Naturally, your mind will want to find the safest option to ensure survival. In terms of trading, this means that if a trade looks like it is going to lose profit, your natural instinct would be to pull out of the trade, so that you don’t incur further losses.
However, this can steer you away from a carefully planned trading strategy. Even worse, it could cause you to make rash decisions, with the hope of turning that losing trade around, causing you to lose much more money than you would have if you had just left it to play out. Instead of focusing on the long term plan, your mind wants to focus on making the best out of this short term losing position.
Understanding the role of psychology within Forex trading will help you to alleviate fear from your decision making process. Becoming aware of fear on the spot will empower you, both as a trader and as an individual. It will also allow you to re-establish the control of logic and reason, which is your ultimate goal.
Different Types Of Trading Bias
It’s easy for traders to feel confident in their ability to remain calm and collected during their trading sessions before the market opens. However, once the clock starts it’s a different story. When faced with real financial decisions, it’s very easy for emotions to come into play. We can’t avoid our emotions, but we can learn to work around them.
Traders cannot afford to give in to feelings of excitement, fear, or greed when trading, as it can cause costly and irreversible mistakes. Evaluate yourself psychologically by identifying if you are exposed to one of the following psychological biases of Forex trading:
- Overconfidence bias – ‘The market will go here’
- Anchoring bias – ‘This probably means that’
- Confirmation bias – ‘This also proves that I am right’
- Loss bias – ‘I hope the price will come back’
Notice how they overlap, because no matter how you look at it each of these biases, they all boil down to fear. Nonetheless, we shall discuss them in detail, because the first key step is to become aware of our emotions.
Before we move on, it’s important to note that the best way of avoiding unnecessary risk when trading is to use a risk-free demo trading account. With a demo account you can trade on the live markets without putting your capital at risk, meaning that you can practice and get on top of your emotions, so that when you are ready to transition to the live markets, you have already conquered the biggest obstacles! To open your FREE demo trading account, click the banner below!
Lesson number one in Forex trading psychology is to watch out for trading euphoria. Humans are naturally self-focused. Our egos want to be validated by proving that we know what we are doing, and that we are better than the average person. Any hint that confirms these thoughts only reinforces our self-image by a distinct feeling of self-love.
The problem is that this is where traders are most likely to succumb to overconfidence bias. It’s not uncommon for traders to complete a winning streak and then believe that they can’t get anything wrong in the future. To believe this is of course unwise, and is only going to end in failure. Make sure you always analyse your trading sessions and look at your wins and losses in detail.
This is the only way you can really stay on top of your trading. Allow yourself to make mistakes – and don’t make the mistake of being scared to prove yourself wrong – you’ll be in a much better position for it in the long run. You have to be comfortable with accepting that mistakes are inevitable, especially in the early stages. It’s all part of the learning curve.
This one is about mental comfort zones created by traders when performing market analysis, by ultimately thinking that the future will be the same as the present, purely based on the reason that the present appears to be like the past. Just as with other biases in Forex trading psychology, this one is directly borrowed from social studies.
Anchoring is a tendency to rely on what is already known to a trader for decision making in the future, instead of considering new situations and the changes that they can bring. At times, anchoring tends to cause traders to rely on obsolete and irrelevant information, which of course won’t help them to trade successfully.
In practical terms, this manifests itself in traders holding losing positions open for too long, simply because they fail to consider the options that are outside of their comfort zone. You must not be afraid of trying new things when trading Forex – be willing to try new strategies, and go against what you know. By anchoring yourself to outdated strategies and knowledge, you’re only increasing the probability of bigger losses.
Confirmation bias is the one factor that is most common amongst professional traders. Looking for information that will support a decision you have made, even if it wasn’t the best decision, is simply a way of justifying your actions and strategies. The problem is that by doing this, you’re not actually improving your methods, and you’re just going to keep making the same trading mistakes. Unfortunately, this can create an infinite loop in Forex trading psychology that can be difficult to break.
The best case scenario in confirmation bias is that a trader will simply waste precious time researching what they already knew to be true. However, the worst case scenario is that not only will they lose time, but also money and the motivation to trade. A trader must learn to trust themself, and be happy to use their intelligence to develop profitable strategies, and then be able to follow them without fear or doubt.
Loss Aversion Bias
Loss aversion bias derives from the prospect theory. Humans have a funny way of evaluating their gains and losses, along with comparing their perceived meanings against each other. For example, when considering our options before making a choice, we are more willing to give preference to a lower possible loss over a higher possible reward. Fear is a much more powerful motivator than greed. In practice, a trader with a loss bias is more akin to cutting profits when they are still low, while allowing bigger drawdowns.
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There is only one piece of advice to solve the problems of traders that can be drawn from studying Forex trading psychology – and that is to develop a trading plan and stick to it. As a trader in doubt, you should absolutely feel free to research every other possible remedy available, but the chances are that you will still come back to a simple trading plan. It’s understandable for traders to feel fear when they are trading.
However, being able to push this fear aside and work through it is absolutely vital for any trader who wants to be successful. Practice trading, make notes, research new strategies and make mistakes. Trial and error is a massive part of the Forex learning curve, and generations of traders have proved that this is the most effective way to eliminate trading fears.
You might want to consider the following example as a point of reference if you start to doubt yourself: Dr. Alexander Elder, in one of his lectures spoke about a story of an old friend of his, a private trader who was inconsistent and experienced periods of wins and losses alike. In a couple of years this trader’s name ended up on the US list of top money managers. When Elder asked ”How, what changed?”, the trader said, ”I am using the same trading strategy that I always have”. ”What changed is that I stopped trading against myself and my strategy”.
That money manager pulled a mental trick on himself. When he was still a private trader and was inconsistently profitable, he pretended that he was employed by an investment firm and had a real boss, who gave him a trading strategy and left for a year, leaving the man in charge with one condition.
Upon the boss’s return, the performance of the trader will be not judged by how much money he made, but by how meticulously he followed the strategy. In other words, he split his trading into two separate roles – the planner, who had no exposure to the market, and the executor, who had no say in planning. What’s more, it worked!
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About Admiral Markets
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This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks.
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