Three Ways to Know You Shouldn’t Trade

  The question of whether someone really should not be a trader is one that’s not often brought up in discussions between market participants. It’s almost as if the baseline assumption is that the sole criteria is that you want to trade. While I’m a believer in the view that just about anyone can learn, there are limits to that. Ignoring the obviously physical and mental disabilities, here are the ones I think are most important.

Lack of Impulse Control
If you cannot keep yourself from acting on impulse – meaning making snap decisions without a plan – then you’re likely not going to do well in trading. Successful trading means applying a consistent edge. That, in turn, requires a plan that is being followed, not making random trades when the mood hits.

There is probably some confusion here when the subject of gut instinct comes into play. Here’s the deal, though. If you’ve only just started trading, you have no gut instict. That comes from long experience. If you’re a rookie making gut trades, for your own good you should stop now. Any success you’ve had to this point is almost certainly a function of luck, not skill.

A Troubled Emotional State
We all go through periods when we’re in a mixed up emotional state. It could be relationship issues, family difficulties, the death of a loved one, stress at work, or any number of other things that put you off your game. These are not good times to trade. Granted, trading can be an escape from the emotional strains in some cases, but that’s only if the trader can consistently execute their normal work and strategy without it being impacted by what’s going on in the rest of their life.

Trading has a way of really exposing emotional problems, even among the most stable of individuals. If you’ve already got some mental strains going on, trading is likely to either make it worse, or to see you feed on that emtion in destructive ways – like trading angry. It is best to stay clear of the markets when these sorts of things happen if there’s any chance of spill-over or distraction.

Looking for a Quick Buck
Trading is not a get rich quick program. Any systems or broker ads that lead you believe otherwise are being deceptive. As any trader who’s been around more than a year will tell you, trading is a marathon, not a sprint. If you come into the market looking to make a fast killing you are almost certainly going to blow your trading account up because you’ll end up taking much too much risk. Basically, you’ll be a gambler rather than a trader. (more…)

Two Key Questions

1) Do the problems that affect your trading also impact other areas of your life? – Let’s say that you find yourself overtrading and taking too much risk relative to your planned exposure. You realize that these lapses of discipline are costing you money and creating significant frustration. The key question to ask is whether these lapses also occur in other spheres of life: in managing personal finances, in failing to follow through on personal responsibilities, or in impulsive decision-making regarding career, relationships, and the future. If so, then you know that this is a general problem that is spilling over into trading. Working with a psychologist or other licensed therapist or counselor could be the best way to go, as this is not uniquely a trading problem. Alternatively, if the problem truly is unique to trading, then it is probably triggered by situational factors related to how you are trading. Relying on a trading coach to review your trading practices and address these factors can be promising.
2) Do the problems primarily result from poor trading, or are the problems a primary cause of poor trading? – This can be tricky to sort out, because the direction of causality often goes both ways. Many times, poor trading practices–such as trading excessive risk–lead to emotional fallout, such as frustration, anxiety, or even depression. Working on changing emotions might be helpful, but the root cause–the faulty money management–needs to be addressed. Conversely, there are times when emotional problems, such as performance anxiety, get in the way of trading plans and trading results. It is very helpful to examine trading problems in a step-by-step fashion, to see where emotions are affecting trading and to see where trading is creating emotional pressures.  (more…)

A Trading Psychology Checklist

How do you know if your trading psychology problem is really just about trading or is a sign of larger problems? Here is a quick checklist:
A) Does your problem occur outside of trading? For instance, do you have temper and self-control problems at home or in other areas of life, such as gambling or excessive spending?
B) Has your problem predated your trading? Did you have similar emotional symptoms when you were young or before you began your trading career?
C) Does your problem spill over to other areas of your life? Does it affect your feelings about yourself, your overall motivation and happiness in life, and your effectiveness in your work and social lives?
D) Does your problem affect other people? Do you feel as though others with whom you work or live are impacted adversely by your problem? Have others asked you to get help?
E) Do you have a family history of emotional problems and/or substance use problems? Have others, particularly in your immediate family, had treated or untreated emotional problems?
If you answered “yes” to two or more of the above items, consider that you may not be alone. More than 10% of the population qualifies with a diagnosable problem of anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. Tweaking your trading will be of little help if the problem has a medical or psychological root. A professional consultation if you answered “yes” to two or more checklist items might be your best money management strategy.

Trader's Emotions

Despair = Losing Money – Trading Better

Do not despair look at your losses as part of doing business and as paying tuition fees to the markets.

Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

Enter trading with realistic expectations. You can realistically expect 20%-35% annual returns on capital with great trading. More than that is possible but unlikely.

Regret = Disappointment in a loss+ Caused by lack of Discipline

If you followed your trading plan and lose money because the market did not move in your direction so be it, but if you went off your plan and traded based on your feelings and opinions then you should feel regret and stop being undisciplined.

Enjoying your Trading = Winning Trades – Fear of Ruin

Trading is much more enjoyable when you are risking 1% of your capital in the hopes of making 3% on your capital with a zero chance of ruin. It is not enjoyable when you are putting a huge percentage of your capital on the line in each trade and are only a few bad trades away from your account going to zero.

Wisdom = Square Root of Experience through years of successful trading

To get good at trading you have to trade real money. Wisdom comes from putting real money on the line for years and proving to yourself that you can come out a winner in the long term.

Faith in your system = Belief through back testing + Experience of winning with it for years

While you have to hold the opinion of whether each trade is a winner or loser it is different for your trading method. A lot of emotional trading can be overcome when you do not have doubts about your method. When you hold an almost religious fervor over believing in your method, system, risk management, and your own discipline you will overcome many of the emotional problems that arise with other traders in the heat of action.

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