I’ve been reading these posts on an off for quite some time now and it saddened me to see someone had recently posted their “I quit the game” statement. We all walk through fire to stand in the green valley...and the journey has to be made on foot. And alone. And it’s tough.
In response, I wanted to add a list of pointers for people starting out in this insane game and to address what I’ve learned from over a decade of trading Forex. It’s long-ish but it’s based on reality and not a bunch of meaningless retail junk systems and “insider knowledge” by nitwits on YouTube or some 19-year old “whiz kid” who apparently makes ten billion dollars a week with a mystical set-up that’ll only cost you $1,999 to buy!
I became a profitable trader by keeping everything simple. I lost thousands when I started out, but I look back now and realise how easily I could’ve avoided those losses.
Keep Everything Simple.
For the sake of disclosure, I worked for Morgan Stanley for over a decade in fixed income but learned almost everything I know from the forex guys whom I got to know as good friends. They make
markets but there’s still a lot to learn from them as a small fry trader. I got into all this as a hobby after annoying the traders with questions, and all these years later it still pays me. There are still occasional nightmare accidents but they’re far rarer to the point where they don’t affect my ROI.
Possibly the most clear statement I could make about Forex trading in the large institutional setting is actually a pretty profound one: Forex traders are not what you think they are: every single forex trader I ever worked with (and who lasted the test of time) had the exact same set of personality traits: 1. NOT ONE of them was a gung-ho high-five loudmouth, 2. Every single one of them analysed their mistakes to the point of obsession, 3. They were bookish and not jocks, 4. They had the humility to admit that many early errors were the result of piss-poor planning. The loudmouths last a year and are gone.
Guys who last 5, 10, 20 years in a major finance house on the trading floor are nothing like the absurd 1980s Hollywood images you see on your tv; they’re the perfect opposite of that stereotype. The absolute best I ever met was a studious Irish-Catholic guy from Boston who was conscientious, helpful, calm, and utterly committed to one thing: learning from every single error of judgement. To quote him: “Losing teaches you far more than winning”.
Enough of that. These points are deliberately broad. Here goes:
- Know The Pairs. It amazes me to see countless small account traders speak as though “systems” work across all pairs. They don’t. Trading GBP/CHF is an entirely different beast to trading CHF/JPY. If you don’t know the innate properties of the CHF market or the JPY or the interplay between the AUD and NZD etc then leave them alone until you do. —There’s no rush— Don’t trade pairs until you are clear on what drives ‘commodity currencies’, or what goes on behind currencies which are easily manipulated, or currencies which simply tend to range for months on end instead of having clear trends. Every pair has its own benefits and drawbacks. Google “Tips on trading the JPY” etc etc etc and get to know the personality of these currencies. They’re just products like any other....Would you buy a Honda without knowing a single thing about the brand or its engine or its durability? So why trade a currency you know nothing about?
- Indicators are only telling you what you should be able to see in front of you: PRICE AND MARKET STRUCTURE. Take everything off your charts and simply ask one question: What do I see happening right here and right now? What time frame do I see it on? If you can’t spot a simple consolidation, an uptrend, or a downtrend on a quick high-versus-low time frame scan then no indicator on the planet will help you.
- Do you know why momentum indicators work on clear trends but are often a complete disaster on ranges? If not, why not? Do you know why such indicators are losing you tons of trades on low TFs? Do you actually understand the simple mathematics of any indicator? If the answer to these questions is “no” then why are you using these things and piling on indicator after indicator after indicator until you have some psychedelic disco on your screen that looks like an intergalactic dogfight in Star Wars? Keep it simple. Know thy indicator.
- Risk:Reward Addiction. The greatest profit killer. So you set up your stops and limits at 1:1.5 or whatever and say “That’s me done” only to come back and see that your limit was missed by a soul-crushing 5 pips before reversing trend to cost you $100, $200, $1000. So you say “Ah but the system is fine”. Guys...this isn’t poker; it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game. Get over your 1:1.5 addiction —The Market Does Not Owe You 50 Pips— Which leads to the next point which, frankly, is what has allowed me to make money consistently for my entire trading life...
- YOU WILL NEVER GO BROKE TAKING A PROFIT. So you want to take that 50-pip profit in two hours because some analyst says it’ll happen or because your trend lines say it has to happen. You set your 1:1.5 order. “I’ll check where I’m at in an hour” you say. An hour later you see you’re up 18 pips and you feel you’re owed more by now. “If I close this trade now I could be missing out on a stack”. So what?! Here’s an example: I trade in sterling. I was watching GBP climb against it’s post-GDP flop report and once I was up £157 I thought “This is going to start bouncing off resistance all morning and I don’t need the hassle of riding the rollercoaster all day long”. So I closed it, took the £157, went to make breakfast. Came back shortly afterwards and looked at the chart and saw that I could’ve made about £550 if I’d trusted myself. Do I care? Absolutely not...in fact it usually makes me laugh. So I enter another trade, make another quick £40, then another £95. Almost £300 in less than 45 mins and I’m supposed to cry over the £250 I “missed out on”?
£300 in less than an hour for doing nothing more than waiting for some volatility then tapping a keyboard. It’s almost a sin to make money that easily and I don’t “deserve” any of it. Shut off the laptop. Go out for the day.
Does the following sound familiar? “Okay I’m almost at my take-profit...almost!.....almost!....okay it’s bouncing away from me but it’ll come back. Come back, damnit!! Jesus come back to my limit! Ah for F**k’s sakes!! This is complete crap; that trade was almost done! This is rigged! This is worse than poker! This is total BS!!”
So when you were 50% or 75% toward your goal and could see the trade slipping away why wasn’t $100 or $200 enough? You need more than that?...really?!
So point 6:
- Tomorrow Is Another Day. Lordy Lordy, you only made $186 all day. What a disaster! Did you lose anything? Nope. Will the market be open again tomorrow? Yep. Does London open in just four hours? Yep. Is the NOK/SGD/EUR whatever still looking shitty? Yep. So let it go- there are endless THOUSANDS of trades you can make in your lifetime and you need to let a small gain be seen for what it is: ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL PROFIT.
Four or five solid but small profits in a day = One Large Profit. I don’t care how I make it, I don’t care if it’s ten lots of £20, I don’t care if I make the lot in a single trade in 30 seconds either. And once I have a nice sum I switch the computer off and leave it the Fk alone. I don’t care if Brexit is due to detonate the pound or if some Fed guy is going to crap all over the USD in his speech; I’ve made my money and I’m out for the day. There will be other speeches, other detonations.
I could get into the entire process by which I trade but it’s aggravatingly basic trend-following mostly based on fundamentals. Losing in this business really does boil down to the same appalling combination of traits that kill most traders: Greed, Impatience, Addiction. Do I trade every day? Absolutely not; if there’s nothing with higher probability trades then I just leave it alone. When I hit my target I’m out for the day- the market doesn’t give a crap about me and I don’t give a crap about the market, if you see my meaning.
I played poker semi-professionally for two years and it’s absolutely soul-destroying to be “cold decked” for a whole week. But every player has to experience it in order to lose the arrogance and the bravado; losing is fine as long as you learn from it. One day you’ll be in a position to fold pocket Kings because you’ll know you’re dead in the water. The currency markets are exactly the same in that one regard: if you learn from the past you’ll know when it’s time to get out of that stupid trade or that stupid “system” that sounded so great when you had a demo account.
Bank a profit. Keep your charts simple. Know the pairs. Be patient. Touch nothing till you understand it inside out.
And if you’re not enjoying the game....STOP PLAYING.
[if people find this helpful I might post a thread on the best books I’ve studied from and why most forex books are utterly repetitious bullshit].
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