Forex Trading Rules: Risk Can Be Predetermined; Reward Is Unpredictable
If there is one inviolable rule in trading, it must be "stick to your stops". Before entering every trade, you must know your pain threshold. This is the best way to make sure that your losses are controlled and that you do not become too emotional with your trading.
Trading is hard; there are more unsuccessful traders than there are successful ones. But more often than not, traders fail not because their ideas are wrong, but because they became too emotional in the process. This failure stems from the fact that they closed out their trades too early, or they let their losses run too extensively. Risk MUST be predetermined. The most rational time to consider risk is before you place the trade - when your mind is unclouded and your decisions are unbiased by price action. On the other hand, if you have a trade on, you want to stick it out until it becomes a winner, but unfortunately that does not always happen. You need to figure out what the worst-case scenario is for the trade, and place your stop based on a monetary or technical level. Once again, we stress that risk MUST be predetermined before you enter into the trade and you MUST stick to its parameters. Do not let your emotions force you to change your stop prematurely. (To learn more on why you need a plan, see The Importance Of A Profit/Loss Plan.)
Every trade, no matter how certain you are of its outcome, is simply an educated guess. Nothing is certain in trading. There are too many external factors that can shift the movement in a currency. Sometimes fundamentals can shift the trading environment, and other times you simply have unaccountable factors, such as option barriers, the daily exchange rate fixing, central bank buying etc. Make sure you are prepared for these uncertainties by setting your stop early on.
Reward, on the other hand, is unknown. When a currency moves, the move can be huge or small. Money management becomes extremely important in this case. Referencing our rule of "never let a winner turn into a loser", we advocate trading multiple lots. This can be done on a more manageable basis using mini-accounts. This way, you can lock in gains on the first lot and move your stop to breakeven on the second lot - making sure that you are only playing with the house's money - and ride the rest of the move using the second lot.
Make the Trend Your Friend
The FX market is a trending market. Trends can last for days, weeks or even months. This is a primary reason why most black boxes in the FX market focus exclusively on trends. They believe that any trend moves they catch can offset any whipsaw losses made in range-trading markets. Although we believe that range trading can also yield good profits, we recognize the reason why most large money is focused on looking for trends. Therefore, if we are in a range-bound market, we bank our gain using the first lot and get stopped out at breakeven on the second, still yielding profits. However, if a trend does emerge, we keep holding the second lot into what could potentially become a big winner. (To learn more, check out Trading Trend Or Range?.)
Half of trading is about strategy, the other half is undoubtedly about money management. Even if you have losing trades, you need to understand them and learn from your mistakes. No strategy is foolproof and works 100% of the time. However, if the failure is in line with a strategy that has worked more often than it has failed for you in the past, then accept that loss and move on. The key is to make your overall trading approach meaningful but to make any individual trade meaningless. Once you have mastered this skill, your emotions should not get the best of you, regardless of whether you are trading $1,000 or $100,000. Remember: In trading, winning is frequently a question of luck, but losing is always a matter of skill.
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