Marty has scored enormous percentage gains in every year since he turned full time trader in 1979, but he has done so without ever losing more than 3 percent of his equity on a month-end to month-end basis. In the US Investing Championships held by Stanford University Professor Norm Zadeh, his performance was nothing short of astounding. In nine of the ten four-month championships he entered, he made more money than all the other traders combined. His average return in these nine contests was 210 percent – non annualized! In his single entry in a one-year contest, he scored a 781 percent return.
“I turned from a loser to a winner when I was able to separate my ego needs from making money. When I was able to accept being wrong. Before that, admitting I was wrong was more upsetting than losing the money.”
”When I became a winner I went from ‘I figured it out, therefore it can’t be wrong’ to ‘I figured it out, but if I’m wrong, I’m getting the hell out, because I want to save my money and go on to the next trade.”
”By living the philosophy that my winners are always in front of me, it is not so painful to take a loss. If I make a mistake, so what! “
”Before taking a position always know the amount you are willing to lose.”
”The most important thing is money management, money management, money management. Anybody who is successful will tell you the same thing.”
”I always take my losses quickly. That is probably the key to my success.”
”The best advice I can give to the ordinary guy trying to become a better trader is Learn to take losses. The most important thing in making money is not letting your losses get out of hand.
The Cardinal Sin Of Trading
Q: Do you believe in the rule of not letting a winning position turn into a loser? If you do, how do you handle a situation where a stop out at the ATR would cause you to take a loss on a position that was a winner at one time?
A: This has been called the cardinal sin of trading – to let a profitable position turn into a loser. But, it happens. And, just because it does happen, doesn’t mean that it provides you with an excuse not to take your medicine and own the loss.
When we are wrong and we do have a good trade go against us, our top priority remains capital preservation. Therefore, if when painful, we cannot let a small loss grow into a larger one. The worst thing in the world is letting a bad trade turn into an investment and being held hostage by the break-even curve. That’s why stops are important and why sticking to them, even if it requires you to exit with a loss, is mandatory.
Buy The Dippers
Q: You sometimes refer to the “buy the dippers” in a what seems to me to be a negative tone and yet you also describe part of your style as buying on pullbacks. How do you distinguish these two ideas?
A: That’s funny you mention this and I appreciate it especially as you say I fall well within the “buy the dip” camp. I have no problem with the buy the dippers as long as they’re present and in charge of the tape, we’ll be just fine. But, the problem is, of course, that if every dip gets bought, at some point Mr. Market will figure out a way to roll back that trade and gain back some respect for his ability to cause the most amount of frustration to the majority. This will ultimately lay the foundation for a nasty bull trap scenario where everyone is long at the wrong time and then caught with their pants down in a sizable reversal. In my experience, when any trade becomes a routine money-maker, you have to expect the market to throw you a monkey wrench. There’s no room for complacency and whenever I have something that works like clockwork and others have figured out the same, I get nervous.
When you are developing your trading skills and trading mindset have fun at it, and treat it like a game. Develop a stress free environment where practicing and learning are fun. This is where “Paper Trading” can help you. “Paper Trading” is a great way to practice your trading in a stress free environment where you can have fun while learning and improving. When you ready to trade with real money, trade to win! Be relaxed yet focused. Don’t get too serious or you will lose your edge and become uptight and stressed. Instead flow with the markets but make no mistake about it, you are there to win! The Navy Seals have a great saying, “It Pays To Be A Winner!”, and “Second Place Is First Loser!”, and this is true for trading as well.
Taking losses is a tough part of doing Day Trading and no one is immune to making mistakes. In fact, professionals know that the sin isn’t in taking a loss, but rather not taking a loss and letting a loser continue to eat away at the equity in a portfolio.
Losers not dealt with are like a cancer which can quickly spread throughout the body if it is left untreated.
Cut losses short is the sister rule to the let profit run, and is usually just as difficult to implement. In the same way that profitability comes from a few large winning trades, capital preservation comes from avoiding the few large losers that the market will toss your way each year. Setting a maximum loss point before you enter the trade so you know before-hand approximately how much you are risking on this particular position is relatively straightforward. You simply need to have a exit price that says to you this trade is a loser and I will exit before it gets any bigger. Due to gaps at the open, or limit moves in futures we can never be 100%
certain that we can get out with our maximum loss, but simply having the rules, and always sticking to it will save us from the nasty trades that just keep on going and going against our position until we have lost more than many winning trades can make back.
If you have a losing position that is at you maximum loss point, just get out. Do not hope that it will turn around. Given that trades are either winners or losers, and this one is shouting Loser at you, the chances that it will turn around and become a large winner is tiny. Why risk any more money on this losing trade, when you could simply close it out (accept the loss) and move on. This will leave you in a much better place financially and mentally, than holding the position and hoping it will go back your way. Even if it did do this, the mental energy and negative feelings from holding the losing position are not worth it. Always stick to your rules and exit a position if it hits your stop point.
You go long and the market immediately goes down – you go short and the market immediately goes up. That’s 2 consecutive losses AND you are getting a little ‘anxious’ so you don’t take the ‘next’ trade and it of course works. BUT to make the situation worse you then ‘chase’ the entry and it immediately reverses – another loss AND this is 3 in a row. Ok 1 more try – this can’t happen on every trade can it – pray mode?
This time though you will be real clever. You have at least noticed that the market is in a range AND it’s the bounce from the low/retrace from the high that is causing all the problems. So this time the next trade you take will be a range extreme fade AND the hell with your trading method. The market is at the range low AND per your new ‘on the fly’ plan you go long AND the range immediately breaks out giving you consecutive loser #4 – trading against a method trade that is going far enough to pay for the previous 3 losers and make you net ahead.
Now what are you supposed to do – QUIT? AND to be sure that there is no more temptation – your throw your computer out the window and dive out right behind it. You are in a trading psychology spiral.
As Mark Douglas points out in his great book about trading psychology is that the majority of traders lose because of wrong thinking, misplaced emotions, and wanting to be right. We know fear and greed drive the market prices far more than fundamentals do. However fear makes traders do the wrong things at the wrong time. Here are four great examples of fear over ruling sound trading strategies.
Here are more thoughts about these four fears:
The fear of being wrong: Traders fear being wrong so much they will hold a small loss until it becomes a huge loss. Even adding to the loss in the hopes of it coming back and getting to even. Don’t do this, holding on to a loser after it hits your predetermined stop loss is like being a reverse trend trader. Do not be afraid of being wrong small be afraid of being wrong BIG.
The fear of losing money: New traders hate to lose money, they do not quite understand yet that they will lose 40%-60% of the time in the long term. We should come to expect the small losses and wait for the big wins patiently. Many times traders fear this so much that they have a hard time taking an entry out of fear of losing. If you can’t handle the losses as part of the business, you can’t trade.
The fear of missing out: The opposite of the fear of losing money is the fear of losing potential profits. This causes traders to watch a stock go up and up, miss the primary trend, then not being able to take it any more and get in late just in time for the trend to reverse and lose money. Trade at your systems proper entry point do not chase a stock because you are afraid to miss out on some profits.
The fear of leaving money on the table: When your trailing stop is hit get out of the trade. If your rules tell you to get out after a parabolic run up and stall then exit. You must be disciplined on taking money off the table while it is there. Being greedy for that last few dollars when your system says to sell could lead to major losses of paper profits. Let your winners run but when the runner gets to tired to continue: bank your profits.
Any investor can find and research the “greatest” stock on the market; one with huge potential but if the general indexes are negative, it will most likely be the wrong time to buy. A stock with accelerating earnings, rising sales, an up-trending chart pattern and a strong industry group may sound excellent to buy on the surface but will mean absolutely nothing if the market is positioned to move in the opposite direction of your expectations. As soon as a stock is purchased, the time comes for an investor to make a decision to hold or to sell. If the position shows a profit, hold as your judgment is correct. If the position shows a loss, cut it quickly and don’t rationalize the situation before the loss doubles in size. Timing will play an important role in determining if you are right or wrong.
Losers must be cut quickly, long before they materialize into enormous financial disasters. The company and underlying stock may not be a loser but rather your timing may be premature to a strong movement, forcing you to sell on a pullback. After a stock is cut from your portfolio, the transaction must be forgotten about and eliminated from your subconscious mind and/or emotional bank. This may sound as if I am contradicting myself from Monday but I am not. I said the transaction must be eliminated from your memory bank but not the actual trade. (more…)
Some wise views from Larry Hite:
“We don’t really trade silver…we don’t trade the S&P…we trade the differences. We really are risk managers. We take on risks, try to exploit them and we leave when they turn against us. That is what we get paid for. Basically we are in the risk transfer business. We take on what people want to sell, sell what people want to buy and hope to make a profit. The reason why one goes to a portfolio is because there are real limits to perfect knowledge. I’ll give you an example. Say you knew which commodity, stock or currency would appreciate the most in the following year, and you knew exactly what its price would be. We did this experiment looking backwards in fact in our database. The question of when you take a position is how are you going to trade the line…how much of a position are you going to leverage. Now, if you have perfect knowledge, would you leverage 5 to 1, would you leverage 10 to 1, 2 to 1? Well it turns out that if you leverage more than 3 to 1 that you are a loser. Because we found that if you did 3 to 1 you would have, even with perfect knowledge, you could go down a third. So that, the only perfect knowledge you could have, would be if you knew every wiggle on the line. Then you would know exactly how much to leverage. But you don’t.”