7 Basic Truths of Trading

  1. Well-defined objectives. Are you trying to beat a certain return hurdle, like inflation or an index? Are you trying to generate 5% or 50% returns per year? You have to understand what you are trying to do and then bend your investment process around it. The other way around isn’t possible.
  2. An understanding of the markets that you will be operating in. Stick to what you know. Narrow your focus so as to make the most of your efforts. You need to know everything about the markets where you’re taking positions.
  3.  A clearly defined methodology for getting into and out of positions. This includes which indicators, news items, fundamental data points you look at and when you take action. This is your checklist—you should have it so well defined that you can be sure of the exact steps along the way. You need a game plan so that you stay consistent and disciplined and don’t get flustered under pressure. It should become automatic and engrained.
  4. This methodology must utilize your strengths and skills and suit your personality. A cerebral, research-driven economist should put that to work, instead of becoming a swing trader based on technical analysis. An adrenaline-fueled athlete should be an intraday trader, not be a long-term trend follower. Remember, every successful trader has a methodology of their own which plays to their strengths and their personality.
  5. This methodology has a positive statistical expectancy– the gains from winners more than outweigh the losses on losing trades. Use your own statistics and the Kelly Formula for a rough guide as to whether or not you have positive statistical expectancy.  On average you want to expect to win on an individual trade, meaning that your expected wins outweigh your prospective losses. That doesn’t guarantee that you will actually profit on each trade, it just means that over a sufficiently large quantity of trades, you will come out ahead.
  6. A well-stated risk management policy for when you get out of losing positions and how you manage risk overall. Cut losers. Let winners ride.  Many people have tried to overthink this rule and ended up losing as a result. Furthermore, you never want to put yourself in a position where you can blow up, so you need to be thinking how you can avoid taking excessive risk in the first place. Just remember Warren Buffett’s Two Rules:A framework for sizing positions. This is related to risk management— obviously, you don’t want to take a position that’s over a certain size, ever. But you may also want to size positions according to certain specific critieria, such as your conviction in the position or volatility in the market. Or they could all be the same size. Nonetheless, your methodology has to be able to address it and come up with a well-reasoned answer.
    1. Never Lose Money.
    2. Never Forget Rule #1.
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