Trading Plan for Traders

The Components of a trading plan:
1. Entering a trade: You must know clearly at what price you plan to enter your trade. Will it be a break through resistance, a bounce off support, or a specific price, or based on indicators? You need to be specific.
2. Exiting a trade: At what level will you know you are wrong? Loss of support, a price level, a trailing stop, or a stop loss? Know where you are getting out before you get in.
3. Stop placement: You must either have a mental stop, a stop loss entered, or a time stop alone, or a time stop with an indicator.
4. Position sizing: You determine how much you are willing to risk on any one trade before you decide how many shares to trade. How much you can risk will determine how much you can buy based on the equities price and volatility.
5. Money management parameters : Never risk more than 1% of your total capital on any one trade. (2% maximum for aggressive traders who can handle bigger draw downs.)
6. What to trade: Trade things you are comfortable with. Swing trading range bound stocks, trend trading growth stocks, or trend following commodities or currencies. Trade what you know.
7. Trading time frames: Choose your time frame, are you a day trader, position trader, swing trader, or long term trend follower? If you are a long term trend follower do not get shaken out of a position in the first day by taking profits or getting scared out, know your holding period and adjust your plan accordingly.
8. Back testing: Do not trade any method until you review charts over a few years to see how you would have done, or for the really savvy run software back testing on historical data for your system for as much as can be quantified. There are also precooked systems like CAN SLIM, The Turtles Trading System, and many Trend Following Systems that can be found online or purchased. You need to enter your trading knowing you have an edge.
9. Performance review: Keep a detailed record of your wins and losses with profits and losses. You need to be sure that your method is working in real trading, review this after each 20 trades. Also if you had any issues with discipline then learn from your mistakes or make needed adjustments to improve your system.
10. Risk vs. Reward: Enter high probability trades where you are risking $1 to make $3, or trade a system that wins big in the long term through trend following.

Greed, Fear, Hope, and Regret

There are four psychological states of emotions that drive most individual decision making in any market in the world. They are greed, fear, hope and regret.

Since the stock market is made up of individual human beings who tend to act in similar manners, a group is formed. It is only the group’s opinion that matters during a trend, but it is the individual trader’s job to identify the subtle clues as to when a market is about to shift direction.

The clues are there, but they are subtle. An awareness and detailed understanding of these emotions is what keeps the astute technical trader out of trouble by providing a means to identify individual weaknesses. We shall now take a closer look at these emotions, and provide examples of how they influence a trader’s ability to consistently make money.

What is Greed?

Greed is commonly defined as an excessive desire for money and wealth.

In trading terminology, it can specifically be defined as the desire for a trade to provide an immediate and unrealistic amount of profit. When greed sets in, all a trader can focus on is how much money they have made and how much more they could make by staying in the trade. However, there is a major fallacy with this type of reasoning. A profit is not realized until a position is closed.Until then, the swing trader only has a POTENTIAL profit (aka. “paper profit”). Greed also frequently leads to ignoring sound risk management practices.

What is Fear? (more…)

What is Hope ?What is Regret ?

What is Hope?

Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It’s an individual’s desire to want or wish for a desired event to happen.

Hope may be the most dangerous of all human emotions when it comes to trading. Hope is what keeps a trader in a losing trade after it has hit the stop. Greed and hope are what often prevent a trader from taking profits on a winning trade. When a stock is going up, traders will often remain in the trade in the “hope” of recouping past losses. Every swing trader hopes that a losing trade will somehow become a winning trade, but stock markets are not a charity. This type of thinking is dangerous because the group (stock market) could not care less about what you hope for, or what is in your best interest. Rest assured, when your thinking slips into hope mode, the market will punish you by taking your money.

What is regret?

Regret is defined as a feeling of sadness or disappointment over something that has happened or been done, especially when it involves a loss or a missed opportunity. (more…)

Ten Anecdotal/Historical Book Ideas for Investors

About a month or so ago, I finally got around to reading Marty Schwartz’s classic, Pit Bull, which I can best describe as a colorful autobiography that uses the 1980s options world as a palette for many amusing anecdotes that are expertly conveyed. The book was such a fun read that I went through the whole thing in no more than 2-3 days, cobbling together bits and pieces of ‘free time’ in order to do so.


Schwartz’s book is pure entertainment and touches only briefly on methodologies and techniques, yet I was able to pull quite a few investment-related nuggets from it in a short period of time, with the added benefit that the learning process was all fun and no pain. The process got me thinking that perhaps the fastest way to effortlessly bombard the brain with useful investment ideas are those easy reads that provide a personal historical window into the markets.

 I am contrasting this process with the process I went through in trying to read and digest the ideas in Alan Farley’s The Master Swing Trader, which, despite the many interesting ideas, is about as fun to trudge through as Hegel.

 With this in mind, I offer the following ten books as relatively effortless ways to cross-pollinate your investment thinking with that of some of the better minds in the field, both past and present.

 Roughly in order of how quick and easy they are to read:

  • How I Made $2,000,000 in the Stock Market (Nicolas Darvas) – You can probably read this book in a little over an hour. There are only a few salient ideas, but these are destined to stick with you long after you have read the book. I also found that the path Darvas took along the way to developing his system bears a strong resemblance to my own.
  • Pit Bull (Marty Schwartz) – A fast-moving and superbly written account of a champion options trader. A great companion for a cross-country plane trip.
  • Reminiscences of a Stock Operator (Edwin Lefevre) – This is on almost everyone’s reading list, so I will say little about it, other than to point out that it is chock full of insight, yet still reads like a novel.
  • A Journey Through Economic Time (John Kenneth Galbraith) – A very different book from the others on this list, this is certainly one of the easiest economics reads out there, yet the survey of the economic landscape from WWI to after the fall of the Berlin Wall will give the reader a lot to think about.
  • My Life as a Quant (Emanuel Derman) – Another physicist who writes extremely well, Derman provides a thoughtful accounting of his personal journey through the (then) unlikely intersection of theoretical physics, finance and risk.
  • Investment Biker (Jim Rogers) and Adventure Capitalist (Jim Rogers) – These two books are probably best read back to back, in chronological order, starting with the Investment Biker’s 1990-1992 world tour, then using the 1999-2001 Adventure Capitalist jaunt to see how the world had changed over the course of a decade. This is first-person global macro analysis at its best, though you may not have the stamina to do your own world tour in one sitting…
  • Market Wizards (Jack Schwager), The New Market Wizards (Jack Schwager), and Stock Market Wizards (Jack Schwager) – I never thought I’d willingly place the Schwager wizards trilogy at the bottom of any list, but they end up here because they are more densely packed than the other books. Like the Jim Rogers duo, these are best consumed in small bites, on an empty stomach, leaving ample time for proper chewing and digestion. Schwager’s interview style and editing is such that he is able to deliver an astonishing amount of information in an easy to read fashion. The best news of all is that while the books are a great place for beginners to start, they somehow manage to improve with repeated reading.

11 Rules for Chart Watchers

LOOKING-CHARTRule 1 – If you cannot see trends and patterns almost instantly when you look at a chart then they are not there. The longer you stare, the more your brain will try to apply order where there is none.

If you have to justify exceptions, stray data points and conflicting evidence then it is safe to say the market is not showing you what you think it is.

Rule 2 – If you cannot figure out if something is bullish or bearish after three indicators then move on. The more studies you apply to any chart the more likely one of them will say “something.” That something is probably not correct.

When I look at a chart and cannot form an opinion after applying three or four different types of indicators – volume, momentum, trend, even Fibonacci – I  must conclude that the market has not decided what it wants to do at that time. Who am I to tell it what it thinks?

Rule 3 – You can torture a chart to say anything you want. Don’t do it.

This is very similar to Rule 2 but it there is an important point to drive home. You can cherry pick indicators to justify whatever biases you bring to the table and that attempts to impose your will on the market. You cannot tell the market what to do – ever.

Rule 4 – Be sure you check out one time frame larger than the one in which you are operating (a weekly chart for a swing trader, a monthly chart for a position trader).

It is very easy to get caught up in your own world and miss the bigger picture getting ready to smack you. It can mean the difference between buying the dip in a rising trend and selling a breakdown in a falling trend.

Rule 5 – Look at both bars (or candles) and close-only line charts to see if they agree. And look at both linear and semi-logarithmic scaled charts when price movements are large. (more…)


Enter every trade with a plan and stick to it.  Understand first who you are as a trader.  Do you like to daytrade?  Do you prefer swing trading?  What is your risk tolerance level?  Everyone has a unique style and situation.  As a result, what might be a great entry point for a swing trader may turn out to be a not-so-good entry for a daytrader.  A trader with a low tolerance of risk might find that trade far too risky.  The key here is to know why you’re entering a trade, what it would take for you to exit (stop loss) and an appropriate target.  These should all be determined BEFORE you enter the position.  Many unsuccessful traders have one or two of these criteria figured out before they enter the trade.  It’s the third one that derails them.
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