Forget the conventional wisdom
Guest post from Boris Schlossberg
Ever since I first picked up a trading book -- more years ago than I care to admit -- the one undying advice of conventional wisdom was "Let your profits run and cut your losses short." I would venture to say that this "kernel of brilliance" is responsible for more losses than any other trading tenet ever devised.
In actual markets there is absolutely no way to let your profits run while cutting your losses short. You either cut your profits or cut your losses, but you can't have it both ways. That's because markets -- and especially speculative markets like forex -- almost never move in one direction.
Anyone who has ever been able to "let his profits run" is simply a lucky idiot who like a befuddled lottery winner guessing a random number, just happened to catch that one big breakout and then was stupid enough to believe that it would continue without retrace and then was lucky enough to have that once in decade occurrence actually happen and lastly -- and this almost NEVER happens -- was smart enough to exit before the whole trade went right back to where it started from.
Why the gurus struggle
Don't believe me? Go ahead keep making bets with 3 to 1 4 to 1 5 to 1 payouts and we can talk again when your account equity is down to 10%.
Now "professional gurus" would be horrified at my blasphemy. They would tell you that one of the worst things you can do as a trader is to cut your profits short. After all, how are you supposed to pay for all those stops?
The problem with professional gurus however is that they are great at trading the left side of the chart.They are awesome at picking prime examples of trends AFTER they take place, but I have yet to see any of them succeed in my domain -- at the right side of the chart where fear and uncertainty control every tick and real capital is won or lost on your tactics rather than your theories.
In that world -- the real day trading world of the markets -- taking your wins too quickly is one of the most profitable things you can do.
Because successful day trading is not about making money. It's about NOT LOSING money. There are three basic classes of day trades. There are trades that make money right away -- anywhere between 1 and 30 minutes in duration. There are trades that lose money right away usually in the same short period of time. There nothing much to do about either one of those types of trades and you just take them as they come.
There is however a broad middle ground of trades that appear to be uncertain as to whether they want to be winners or losers and this is where all the bad habits of impatience actually pay off big.
Now as traders whether we are Hindus in New Delhi, a Jews in Tel Aviv, a Moslems in Dubai, Chinese in Singapore or just jolly old rogers in Melbourne -- we are in fact all Anglo Saxon at the core. What I mean is that if we live in the advanced industrialized world we have all internalized the Protestant work ethic and with it the core belief that we must sacrifice in order to succeed.
Patience doesn't always pay
Generally that's a great rule to live by -- except when it comes to day trading. Good things do NOT come to those who wait. We must not endure pain in order to make profit. The speculative markets flip all those long ingrained behaviors on the head.
You got out of the trade a bit early and gave up 10 more pips of upside? Who cares. There is another trade right around the corner. In the meantime, you know what you also did? You got out of trade that could have turned sour and made a 5 pips instead of losing 100. You know what you also did? You freed your capital to look for other opportunities instead sitting in front of the screen paralyzed like a deer in headlights, hoping -- nay praying -- that you can get back to even while other traders are banking profits elsewhere.
The most important thing that you did was NOT invest. Not invest your time. Not invest your money. Not invest your psychological capital. By selling too early you became a true day trader rather than a quasi investor.
So go ahead -- get out too early. Give up the profits. Once you start doing that on a regular basis the only thing you'll regret is not picking up this bad habit earlier.
Boris Schlossberg and Kathy Lien run www.bkforex.com an FX signal service since 2008. She is known as the queen of the macro trade while he has never held a position for more that 24 hours.
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