Top 10 Rules For Successful Trading
Most people who are interested in learning how to become profitable traders need only spend a few minutes online before reading such phrases as “plan your trade; trade your plan” and “keep your losses to a minimum.” For new traders, these tidbits of information can seem more like a distraction than any actionable advice. New traders often just want to know how to set up their charts so they can hurry up and make money.
To be successful in trading, however, one needs to understand the importance of and adhere to a set of rules that have guided all types of traders, with a variety of trading account sizes. Each rule alone is important, but when they work together the effects are strong. Trading with these rules can greatly increase the odds of succeeding in the markets.
Rule No.1: Always Use a Trading Plan
A trading plan is a written set of rules that specifies a trader’s entry, exit and money management criteria. Using a trading plan allows traders to do this, although it is a time consuming endeavor.
With today’s technology, it is easy to test a trading idea before risking real money. Backtesting, applying trading ideas to historical data, allows traders to determine if a trading plan is viable, and also shows the expectancy of the plan’s logic. Once a plan has been developed and backtesting shows good results, the plan can be used in real trading. The key here is to stick to the plan. Taking trades outside of the trading plan, even if they turn out to be winners, is considered poor trading and destroys any expectancy the plan may have had. (Learn more about backtesting in Backtesting: Interpreting the Past.)
Rule No.2: Treat Trading Like a Business
In order to be successful, one must approach trading as a full- or part-time business – not as a hobby or a job. As a hobby, where no real commitment to learning is made, trading can be very expensive. As a job it can be frustrating since there is no regular paycheck. Trading is a business, and incurs expenses, losses, taxes, uncertainty, stress and risk. As a trader, you are essentially a small business owner, and must do your research and strategize to maximize your business’s potential.
Rule No.3: Use Technology to Your Advantage
Trading is a competitive business, and one can assume the person sitting on the other side of a trade is taking full advantage of technology. Charting platforms allow traders an infinite variety of methods for viewing and analyzing the markets. Backtesting an idea on historical data prior to risking any cash can save a trading account, not to mention stress and frustration. Getting market updates with smartphones allows us to monitor trades virtually anywhere. Even technology that today we take for granted, like high-speed internet connections, can greatly increase trading performance.
Using technology to your advantage, and keeping current with available technological advances, can be fun and rewarding in trading.
Rule No.4: Protect Your Trading Capital
Saving money to fund a trading account can take a long time and much effort. It can be even more difficult (or impossible) the next time around. It is important to note that protecting your trading capital is not synonymous with not having any losing trades. All traders have losing trades; that is part of business. Protecting capital entails not taking any unnecessary risks and doing everything you can to preserve your trading business. (See Risk Management Techniques For Active Traders for more.)
Rule No.5: Become a Student of the Markets
Think of it as continuing education – traders need to remain focused on learning more each day. Since many concepts carry prerequisite knowledge, it is important to remember that understanding the markets, and all of their intricacies, is an ongoing, lifelong process.
Hard research allows traders to learn the facts, like what the different economic reports mean. Focus and observation allow traders to gain instinct and learn the nuances; this is what helps traders understand how those economic reports affect the market they are trading. (Read about 24 different economic reports in our Economic Indicators Tutorial.)
World politics, events, economies – even the weather – all have an impact on the markets. The market environment is dynamic. The more traders understand the past and current markets, the better prepared they will be to face the future.
Rule No.6: Risk Only What You Can Afford to Los
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