Cognitive Biases That Affect Traders

Humans have weaknesses that hamper their trading capabilities. Many were developed in ancient times and were important for survival. I will enumerate the most important:
1) Loss Aversion: the strong tendency for people to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains

2) Sunk Cost Effect: The tendency to treat money that already has been committed or spent as more valuable than money that may be spent in the future

3) Disposition Effect: the tendency for people to lock in gains and ride losses

4) Outcome Bias: The tendency to judge a decision by its outcome rather then by the quality of the decision at the time it was made

5) Recency Bias: the tendency to weigh recent data or experience more than earlier data or experience

6) Anchoring: the tendency to rely too heavily, or anchor, on readily available information (more…)

The 10 Trading Quotes that Will Change Your Trading

Surprisingly rich traders are quick to realize when they are wrong and even sometimes reverse their position. The ability to quickly admit that you are wrong in a trade and get out is very powerful and limits your losses.

“Good investing is a peculiar balance between the conviction to follow your ideas and the flexibility to recognize when you have made a mistake. –Michael Steinhardt

Do not stay bullish or bearish go with the current flow of the market. Be on the team that is making the money.

“There is only one side of the market and it is not the bull side or the bear side, but the right side.” –Jesse Livermore

Putting it all together, it is more than just numbers. Successful traders trade in three dimensions.

“Successful trading depends on the 3M`s – Mind, Method and Money. Beginners focus on analysis, but professionals operate in a three dimensional space. They are aware of trading psychology their own feelings and the mass psychology of the markets. Each trader needs to have a method for choosing specific stocks, options or futures as well as firm rules for pulling the trigger – deciding when to buy and sell. Money refers to how you manage your trading capital.” – Alexander Elder

The money is in the primary market trend, not jumping in and out. (more…)

Quotes on Psychology

The most important single factor in shaping security markets is public psychology. – Gerald Loeb

Wall Street never changes. The pockets change, the suckers change, the stocks change, but Wall Street never changes because human nature never changes. – Jesse Livermore

There is nothing more important than your emotional balance. – Jesse Livermore

There are styles in securities as there are in clothes. A security may be undervalued, but if it is also out of style it is of little interest to the speculator. He is, therefore, compelled to study the psychology of the stock market as well as the elements of real value. – Phil Carret

When events have thinking participants, the subject matter is no longer confined to facts but also includes the participants’ perceptions.  The chain of causation does not lead directly from fact to fact but from fact to perception and from perception to fact. – George Soros

Day Trading Methodology

I have been reading the latest book from Van Tharp, Super Trader and I want to highlight this passage about daytrading methodologies:

“For example, if you are a daytrader, open up a position and either take a small loss or get out at the end of the day. When you do that, you are not tied to the market all day, and you may find that you take small losses and get huge profits. Simplify your entry technique and concentrate on exits”

Now, lets cross this with Jesse Livermore remarks on the speculative line of least resistance:

“It sounds very easy to say that all you have to do is to watch the tape, establish your resistance points and be ready to trade along the line of least resistance as soon as you have determined it.”

So, we have a powerful daytrading methodology in these two market generalizations. But JL added, “But in actual practice a man has to guard against many things, and most of all against himself – that is, against human nature.”

Rings a bell? Maybe we should all print this post and have it by the trading desk.

Words of Wisdom for Traders

Wall Street never changes, the pockets change, the suckers change, the stocks change, but Wall Street never changes, because human nature never changes.” ~ Jesse Livermore

“Wealth and rank are what people desire, but unless they are obtained in the right way they may not be possessed.” ~ Confucius

“Man has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.” ~ Ayn Rand

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

“Men in the game are blind to what men looking on see clearly.” ~ Chinese Proverb

“The most exquisite paradox… as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.” ~ Ram Dass

“If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.” ~ Epicurus

“Most of the time common stocks are subject to irrational and excessive price fluctuations in both directions as the consequence of the ingrained tendency of most people to speculate or gamble… to give way to hope, fear and greed.” ~ Benjamin Graham

“The investor’s chief problem – and even his worst enemy – is likely to be himself.” ~ Benjamin Graham

“The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion.” Bodhidharma

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” ~ Ayn Rand

“Money often costs too much.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Personally, I believe it to be futile to fight greed — something that is ingrained in human nature.  We can only acknowledge greed’s existence, choose our own behaviors as individuals, and react to its occurrence — it can not be prevented.  Greed will simply manifest into a different form.

How to Pick Your Money from Trading

There is a famous saying about trading the markets;

“I just wait until there is money lying in the corner, and all I have to do is go over there and pick it up.”

I always thought that it was first said by Jim Rodgers in Market Wizards, but someone told me the other day that it was actually Jesse Livermore who said it (or a version of it) first.

I really don’t care who said it, so for the purposes of this post let’s just say it was Joey Heatherton who said it after a two-week sold out run at The Sands. (more…)

Trading with the Tao

“The Tao” means different things to different people. It’s generally thought to have been introduced to the world sometime around 500 B.C. in China.  Since then, millions of interpretations have been contemplated. In modern times, everyone from the Dali Lama to Willie Nelson has offered their take on it.

What exactly is “The Tao?”

It’s usually translated directly as “the way” or “the path.”  But most who have studied it agree that it also refers to “the Source” behind everything.  The unseen force in the universe that essentially makes things happen.

A Christian theologian would probably see similarities between the Tao and the “Holy Spirit.”  Physicists likely see it represented as “energy.”  Self-help gurus often compare the Tao to “consciousness.”  Luke Skywalker called it “the Force.”  Had Michael Jordan delved into the world of metaphysics, he probably would have referred to the Tao as “the zone.”

The overriding message of the Tao is that you’re either flowing with it or against it.  You’re either in the zone or out of the zone, using the Force or blocking the Force. However you want to describe it, the point is that you feel good and peaceful when you’re flowing with the Tao and you feel bad and fearful when you’re trying to fight against it. (more…)

Wisdom from Legendary Traders

“I absolutely believe that price movement patterns are being repeated; they are recurring patterns that appear over and over. This is because the stocks were being driven by humans- and human nature never changes”.

-Jesse Livermore (Considered by many to be the greatest stock market operator ever. Made 100 million dollars in 1929 stock market crash. Made several other multi-million dollar fortunes in his trading career).
“You have to cut your losses fast. The secret for winning in the stock market does not include being right all the time. The key is to lose the least amount possible when you are wrong”.

-William J. O’Neil (In my opinion, the best stock market operator in the world today. Has made an incredible fortune trading the stock market. O’Neil is the founder of Investors Business Daily. Much of my stock market education and training has been from William J. O’Neil).

“Whatever method you use to enter a trade, the most critical thing is that if there is a major trend, your approach should assure that you get in that trend”.

-Richard Dennis (Turned 400 dollars into a fortune of at least 200 million dollars by using his remarkable trading skills).
“I am primarily a trend trader. In order of importance to me are: (1) the long-term trend, (2) the current chart pattern, and (3) picking a good spot to buy or sell”.

-Ed Seykota (One of the greatest traders of all time. Turned 5000 dollars into an incredible 15 million dollars or more).
“The most important rule of trading is to play great defense”.

-Paul Tudor Jones (An amazingly consistent and successful trader. In 2006, earned a whopping 750 million dollars).
“Being right 3 or 4 times out of 10 should yield a person a fortune if he has the sense to cut his losses quickly on the ventures where he has been wrong”.
-Bernard Baruch (Fantastic trader who earned ten’s of millions of dollars in the first part of the 20th century).
“The greatest safety lies in putting all your eggs in one basket and watching that basket”.

-Gerald M. Loeb (Amassed many millions in the stock market during his long career).

“I am looking for the strongest stocks in the market, in terms of both earnings and the technical picture”
-David Ryan (Multiple time winner in the stock division of the U.S. Investing Championships).

“Most of my success has been due to my hanging on while my profits mounted. There is the big secret”.
-Arthur W. Cutten (Gained wealth and prominence, early in the 20th century, as a commodity trader, mostly in the wheat market.
“I think the secret is cutting down the number of trades you make. The best trades are the ones in which you have all three things going for you: fundamentals, technicals, and market tone”.

– Michael Marcus (In a ten-year period, he multipled his company account by an incredible 2500 times).

“Whenever I enter a position, I have a predetermined stop. I know where I’m getting out before I get in”.
-Bruce Kovner (One of the world’s largest traders in the 1980’s. Made profits of over 300 million trading for himself).
“I try to assemble facts and decide what kind of scenario I think will unfold”.

-Bill Lipschutz (One of the most successful currency traders ever).

“Virtually every successful trader I know ultimately ended up with a trading style suited to his personality”.

-Randy McKay (Turned $2000 into $70,000 his first year of trading. Went on to double digit million dollar gains).

“The biggest misconception is the widespread belief that it is easy to make a living trading in the stock market”.
-Stuart Walton (Fantastic stock trading track record in the 1990’s).
“If you decide to trade for a living, you have to treat it just like any other business endeavor and go into it with a plan”.

-Mark D. Cook (Great annual returns trading the markets).

Jesse Livermore: Original Trend Follower and Great Trader


The unofficial biography of Jesse Livermore was Reminiscences of a Stock Operator published 1923. Below are selected quotes:

  • Another lesson I learned early is that there is nothing new in Wall Street. There can’t be because speculation is as old as the hills. Whatever happens in the stock market today has happened before and will happen again.
  • I told you I had ten thousand dollars when I was twenty, and my margin on that Sugar deal was over ten thousand. But I didn’t always win. My plan of trading was sound enough and won oftener than it lost. If I had stuck to it I’d have been right perhaps as often as seven out of ten times. In fact, I have always made money when I was sure I was right before I began. What beat me was not having brains enough to stick to my own game- that is, to play the market only when I was satisfied that precedents favored my play. There is a time for all things, but I didn’t know it. And that is precisely what beats so many men in Wall Street who are very far from being in the main sucker class. There is the plain fool, who does the wrong thing at all times everywhere, but there is the Wall Street fool, who thinks he must trade all the time. No man can always have adequate reasons for buying or selling stocks daily- or sufficient knowledge to make his play an intelligent play.
  • It takes a man a long time to learn all the lessons of his mistakes. They say there are two sides to everything. But there is only one side to the stock market; and it is not the bull side or the bear side, but the right side.
  • There is nothing like losing all you have in the world for teaching you what not to do. And when you know what not to do in order not to lose money, you begin to learn what to do in order to win. Did you get that? You begin to learn!
  • I think it was a long step forward in my trading education when I realized at last that when old Mr. Partridge kept on telling the other customers, Well, you know this is a bull market! he really meant to tell them that the big money was not in the individual fluctuations but in the main movements- that is, not in reading the tape but in sizing up the entire market and its trend.
  • The reason is that a man may see straight and clearly and yet become impatient or doubtful when the market takes its time about doing as he figured it must do. That is why so many men in Wall Street, who are not at all in the sucker class, not even in the third grade, nevertheless lose money. The market does not beat them. They beat themselves, because though they have brains they cannot sit tight. Old Turkey was dead right in doing and saying what he did. He had not only the courage of his convictions but the intelligent patience to sit tight.
  • ?the average man doesn’t wish to be told that it is a bull or bear market. What he desires is to be told specifically which particular stock to buy or sell. He wants to get something for nothing. He does not wish to work. He doesn’t even wish to have to think. It is too much bother to have to count the money that he picks up from the ground.
  • To tell you about the first of my million dollar mistakes I shall have to go back to this time when I first became a millionaire, right after the big break of October, 1907. As far as my trading went, having a million merely meant more reserves. Money does not give a trader more comfort, because, rich or poor, he can make mistakes and it is never comfortable to be wrong. And when a millionaire is right his money is merely one of his several servants. Losing money is the least of my troubles. A loss never bothers me after I take it. I forget it overnight. But being wrong- not taking the loss- that is what does damage to the pocketbook and to the soul.
  • What I have told you gives you the essence of my trading system as based on studying the tape. I merely learn the way prices are most probably going to move. I check up my own trading by additional tests, to determine the psychological moment. I do that by watching the way the price acts after I begin.
  • Of all speculative blunders there are few worse than trying to average a losing game. My cotton deal proved it to the hilt a little later. Always sell what shows you a loss and keep what shows you a profit. That was so obviously the wise thing to do and was so well known to me that even now I marvel at myself for doing the reverse.
  • The loss of the money didn’t bother me. Whenever I have lost money in the stock market I have always considered that I have learned something; that if I have lost money I have gained experience, so that the money really went for a tuition fee. A man has to have experience and he has to pay for it.
  • In booms, which is when the public is in the market in the greatest numbers, there is never any need of subtlety, so there is no sense of wasting time discussing either manipulation or speculation during such times; it would be like trying to find the difference in raindrops that are falling synchronously on the same roof across the street. The sucker has always tried to get something for nothing, and the appeal in all booms is always frankly to the gambling instinct aroused by cupidity and spurred by a pervasive prosperity. People who look for easy money invariably pay for the privelege of proving conclusively that it cannot be found on this sordid earth. At first, when I listened to the accounts of old-time deals and devices I used to think that people were more gullible in the 1860’s and 70’s than in the 1900’s. But I was sure to read in the newspapers that very day or the next something about the latest Ponzi or the bust-up of some bucketing broker and about the millions of sucker money gone to join the silent majority of vanished savings.
  • There are men whose gait is far quicker than the mob’s. They are bound to lead- no matter how much the mob changes.
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