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Forex trading is accessible, exciting, educational, and offers traders lots of opportunities. Despite all this, many traders fail to learn how to become successful traders, and don’t achieve good results in this market. In fact, a high percentage of Forex traders are losing money. Learning to trade Forex and learning how to trade in general can be difficult, and that’s why we have created this article for you.
This article will teach you how to become a successful Forex trader, and how to trade on the live markets. Additionally, it will show you the best trading practices for beginners. In fact, since you’re reading this, you are already on the right path to becoming a successful Forex trader. Below, you will find actionable advice for beginners and pros alike. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
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What is a Trader?
A trader is someone who places orders on the market, sometimes on behalf of financial institutions (big banks, investment funds, hedge funds), or other times, as an independent trader. Exchange orders, such as purchasing or selling stocks, are either in the trader’s own name, or on behalf of clients or for the financial institution or broker that employs them.
There are several categories of traders depending on the traded markets: foreign exchange (forex), equities, bonds, metals, coffee, meat, etc. In today’s world, there is a trading market for almost all goods (meat, coffee, etc.) and commodities. Most existing contracts are settled in foreign currency, and do not deal with physical delivery.
For example, a professional money market trader manages the cash needs and surpluses on behalf of the bank or clients for which they work, in the short or medium term. A forex trader manages currencies based not only on client needs, but also on the various fluctuations expected in the short and medium-term. An equity trader, on the other hand, trades shares in anticipation of market behaviour, as the trader’s goal is to buy before the share price increases and sell before they fall.
Types of Successful Traders
As we mentioned previously, there are two general types of traders:
- Those who trade on behalf of clients
- Those who trade on a personal account
Traders who work for financial institutions or brokers buy and sell shares on behalf of their employer’s clients, and not with their own money. This means that rather than making a profit or a loss on the trading itself, they earn a salary as a trader. In this case, the trader takes virtually no risk in the market – it is on the customer buying or selling financial instruments to cover the risk. The trader’s clients may be anything from individuals to companies that do not have a trading room of their own.
Those who trade on their own personal account are using their own money to earn profit for themselves on each individual trade, and not through a salary. These accounts are funded with their personal funds, and trades are executed through online trading platforms. Even though online brokers offer leverage, the amounts traded by home traders are much smaller than those of a professional trader. Since online trading is often done on the OTC (Over the Counter) market, the success of traders in their own accounts are only estimates.
How to Become a Trader: Defining Success
Now that you know what a trader is, how can you become a trader? Better yet, how can you become a successful trader?
The first thing that you need to do when it comes to trading Forex is to understand what you want to achieve, and how you define success. What do you want to achieve?
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In deciding what you want, you have to be realistic. Set yourself a realistic and quantifiable goal. This could be something like: achieve 20% annual return on investment, earn 5000 USD of profit, get a total of 100 pips per month or something similar. Whatever you decide, your goal should also be easy to measure. What is also important is to set a goal that can be achieved over a long time frame – it is recommended to set an annual goal to achieve rather than a monthly goal.
Once you have set your main trading goal for the year, it is now time to start learning how to achieve it. The best way is to identify which resources are available to you. This may include the size of your deposit, the amount of time you are willing to spend on trading, and the amount of available funds you are willing to spend on trading-related matters (software, etc.).
Once you have a clear vision here, it is time to make an action plan. This action plan should include the currency pairs you are planning to trade and the number of trades you are going to commit to.
This can feel a bit overwhelming for new traders, so the good news is that in this article we share our top 10 tips to help you become a successful trader.
But first, if you’re a rookie trader looking for a place to learn the ins and outs of Forex trading, our Forex 101 Online Trading Course is the perfect place for you! Learn how to trade in just 9 lessons, guided by a professional trading expert. Click the banner below to register for FREE!
10 Beginner’s Steps to Become a Forex Trader
1: Set aside expectations
Problems arise when new traders become obsessed with chasing profits, and this anxiety can lead to mistakes that cause losses.
So the first rule to become a trader is to forget unrealistic goals and objectives. The prospect of earning money in Forex with just a few quick trades is extremely unlikely. Operating in a risky and overconfident way can lead you to lose your initial investment.
By setting a high profit objective, you create great emotional pressure, which could result in one of the biggest errors people make when trying to become traders: falling into excessive actions or overtrading. We will return to this concept in tip #7.
Generally, most veteran traders focus on a single thought: “Earn the money you need and don’t stress about earning more.”
As an alternative to focusing only on how to earn money in Forex, try to focus on learning a trading strategy and researching all the trading tools that are within your reach. This will help you establish a lasting approach so you can become a successful Forex trader.
2: Define your trading risk profile
Before making any substantial commitments, get a good understanding of the fundamental aspects of the market. Assess your capital at hand, read trader testimonials so you have realistic expectations of returns, and research the markets and currency pairs you’re interested in. If you don’t feel comfortable with the dynamics, don’t invest in forex, even if it’s profitable. This applies to any market.
If, on the contrary, you think that your investment approach is in line with the Forex market, go ahead!
But keep in mind the following:
- Invest only what you can afford to lose without affecting your standard of living.
- Diversify your investment, it is recommended that you do not invest more than 20% of your total investment funds in any one market.
- What is your risk profile: Moderate? Aggressive? Conservative?
- Prepare to lose. If after a series of bad trades you are willing to keep trying, forex is your market!
3: Choose a trading strategy
Once you’ve chosen to become a trader, the next step is to come up with a general strategy. There is no right or wrong way to trade, what really matters is that you define the strategy you will use in different situations.
Sometimes you will see that one trading strategy works well for a currency pair in a given market, while another strategy is more suitable for the same pair in a different market, or in other market conditions.
To become a successful Forex trader, try to focus on harmonising your online trading strategy with your risk profile. Research all the trading tools that are within your reach. Study the techniques that seem logical, and think about how they can be used in your strategy. In addition, you can study how markets behave and learn how the industry works.
Finally, if you want to succeed in trading, don’t forget to do extensive tests by backtesting your favorite markets until you feel secure in your strategy.
4: Set aside your emotions
This may sound very simple, but it is necessary. Emotions are the worst enemy of people who want to become traders. Some traders try to see trading as a game where they try to beat the market, and then when they start losing, they feel overcome with disappointment.
First of all, trading is not a game, and you should never treat it as one. Forex trading is a financial activity that is a mix of analysis and discipline. You should not blame the market, or worry about your losing trades.
To become a successful trader, you must understand the mechanics of forex, trust your analysis, and follow the rules and strategy you set. This is the definitive key to reaping the benefits of forex. Emotions can ruin a trader’s experience, so it is vital to set them aside and not involve them in trading.
If you are down, do not trade. The same goes for being excessively confident and excited: refrain from trading, or be knowledgeable about your mental state. Excessive trading confidence can cause great losses.
One of the best ways to prepare yourself for the emotions of trading is by testing your skills on a free demo account.
Instead of heading straight to the live markets and putting your capital at risk, you can avoid the risk altogether and simply practice until you are ready to transition to live trading. Take control of your trading experience, click the banner below to open your FREE demo account today!
5: Set your stop loss and take profit
No matter what your trading strategy is, you should always set a stop loss. This type of order allows you to define the closing price of your trade. Your trade will close once it reaches that level, even when you are not present. In other words, setting a stop loss will give you the peace of mind of not losing more than the limit you defined.
Note that stop losses are not a guarantee, as there may be occasions where the market behaves erratically and presents price gaps. If this happens, the stop loss will not be executed at the predetermined level but will be activated the next time the price reaches this level. This phenomenon is called slippage.
The take profit is the most frequently used order in the forex market. This order allows the trader to close a position automatically when prices reach a predefined level.
In the video below, you can learn how to set stop losses and take profits in MetaTrader 4 and 5.
6: Keep up with the markets
How can you become a successful trader? Staying up to date with market news is vital. Many market movements are driven by news, central bank announcements, political events, or the expectation of any of these. This is what’s called fundamental trading.
Even if you are a technical trader, meaning someone who makes trades based on chart analysis of a market instrument, you should still pay close attention to the fundamentals, since such events are a key factor in market movements. For example, if you have a reliable trading strategy and several technical indicators that indicate a long trade, check the forex calendar anyway to make sure your order matches current events. Even if your technical trading strategy works perfectly, the fundamental news can change everything.
7: Avoid overtrading
Overtrading is the result of seeing opportunities to make money in forex where there really aren’t any. Some people who want to become traders look for opportunities to reach their goal, but on many occasions they may or may not realise they are deceiving themselves, and this wishful thinking and is putting their money at risk.
There are two common types of overtrading:
- Trading too frequently, and
- Trading with too much volume.
Trading too frequently, outside of scalping strategies, is a sure way to lose more money than can be made.
To explain why this can be detrimental, In this Warren Buffett speech entitled ” How to stay out of debt“, Buffett espouses the need for strict discipline when investing:
“In investments, you have to wait until the opportunity is clear, because the markets are not a game. In baseball, sometimes you have to swing at many balls that you don’t expect to hit, but this is not necessary in the financial markets.
There is no harm in waiting for more than a day for an opportunity to arise. You can simply wait until favourable price action arrives, and this shows that you really know what you are doing, and that is when you enter the game. You just need a couple of trades.”
When you’re thinking about becoming a trader, it makes sense to follow this same principle in the forex and CFD market. The lesson is clear: a trader does not have to make a lot of trades to be successful, they just need to make the correct trades.
When you are trading on a live account, you must have a strategy with specific, pre-established conditions for the entry and exit of trades. Simply follow your plan and do not trade on impulse. Trade carefully, and with a lot of volume
The other context for overtrading is to operate with too much volume. For many people, leverage is the culprit.
But is this true?
As we know, forex brokers and CFDs offer significant leverage in their trading accounts. In principle, this exists to give traders the opportunity to earn money in CFDs and forex with small investments. This gives more people the possibility to become Forex and CFD traders, and thus use the services offered by these brokers.
However, in practice, abusing high leverage is still very common among beginner traders who are tempted to maximise their profitability in forex. In reality, what they are doing is maximising their real loss.
High leverage does not inherently mean falling into error. Leverage is simply a tool that allows you to operate with larger trading volumes, resulting in the trades having a larger margin. This is a double-edged sword – if the market moves in your favour, your profits are amplified. If it moves against you, the same is true for your losses.
Trading with excessively high volume makes an account more susceptible to margin calls. The important thing is to learn to avoid overtrading and understand leverage. You can learn more about leverage, you can read all about it in this article, and empower your trading knowledge.
8: Accept that, eventually, you’re going to lose
Every trader wants to become a success. In reality, ‘success’ does not mean that you always win in each trade, but that the average across all your trades end up with a positive balance. Closing each and every one of your trades with a profit is simply impossible. Some professional traders may be consistently profitable on a daily basis, but none can show a trading statement that does not include a single losing trade.
If you lose a trade, do not despair. Some of the most successful traders with decades of experience have confessed that less than 40% of all their trades are profitable, and some even cite less than 20%.
The trick to being a successful trader is for the winning trades are profitable enough that they produce enough profit to cover their losses and maintain a net positive. Keep in mind that this is very common with traders who have participated in the markets for a long time. It takes a lot of mental strength to admit mistakes in decision making, and to close an order with a small early loss.
On the contrary, it also takes a lot of strength to trust oneself and not close an operation with benefits too soon. You need to be patient and follow the trend.
9: Develop a trading plan
There has been much talk about discipline in trading, but very little about being an organised trader. It all starts with your trading routine. You need to have a strict trading plan that covers most of your trading activity, which will help you reduce risk from unforeseen shifts in the market.
Many beginning traders develop negative trading habits. One example is the aforementioned overtrading, in which once a trader starts getting lucky and they continue to trade until they overdraw their account.
On many occasions, some traders have good trades due to chance or luck, which ends up reinforcing the negative habits in trading, resulting in it being nearly impossible to break these bad habits. How can this person become a successful trader if they repeatedly leave the result of their trades to luck?
Many traders believe that luck will not abandon them, but as everyone knows, luck is not infinite and one it runs out, it will create consistent losses. Therefore, it is important to reinforce healthy trading habits, as these will help you achieve your goal of becoming a successful Forex trader.
10: Choose a broker that matches your risk profile
If you are worried about the financial security or reputation of your Forex broker, it can be difficult to focus on your trading. If, on the other hand, you have confidence in your Forex broker, this will free up mental space for you to devote more time and attention to analysis and developing FX strategies.
Research prior to committing to a specific broker can go a long way, and can improve your odds of being a successful trader in the competitive foreign exchange market.
So who is the best broker?
The best broker is not the one that promises to help you become a successful trader. The best broker will have the best answers to these questions:
- Are they regulated by any government entity?
- Will your money be protected and insured?
- How will the customer service be once you open an account with them?
- Are they a good Forex broker for beginners?
- Do they have a good trading platform?
You should take time to research the best broker for you, as will find a lot of reviews on forex brokers and all kinds of online forex broker rankings. When it comes to online forex trading and CFD trading, as well as dealing with forex brokers and CFD brokers, you should always trust yourself, as deciding who is the best Forex broker and who is the best CFD broker will ultimately come down to you.
When it comes to our thoughts on the best Forex broker, we might be biased, but we think that Admiral Markets does a pretty good job.
Admiral Markets offers over 8,000 unique instruments to trade, with industry-leading offers in spreads, low commission, as well as negative balance protection to give clients the best possible experience and chances for success.
Over 100,000 traders have chosen Admiral markets as their broker, and it’s thanks to their continued faith in our product and offering that Admiral Markets has been given numerous awards.
Admiral Markets UK Ltd. is a regulated broker, and you can read reviews of the services provided on the FPA website.
Admiral Markets also offers extensive educational resources, such as free webinars where you can learn to trade from successful professional traders discussing market movements and the fundamentals of trading. Beyond the webinars, we also have an extensive library of educational articles for you to learn every detail, strategy, and fact about the industry and market.
So, if you’re ready to trade the live markets with Admiral Markets, you can open a live account by clicking the banner below!
Bonus tip: The importance of Forex education
The Forex market is constantly changing, so traders need to be able to understand the ups and downs of this market. There is no patterned formula or set of rules to guarantee success in Forex. Instead, it is a combination of many things all at once – and to succeed in this market traders need to be patient, talented and mindful.
Understanding this is the first step in Forex learning. If you are interested in beginning your Forex education, why not consider taking Admiral Markets’ Forex 101 course, so you can learn how to trade on Forex and CFDs with online lessons from experienced professional traders, completely free of charge.
Being able to talk about ratios, charts, indexes and trading should be regarded as a skill to aspire to when you start to learn about Forex trading. In the beginning, it can be tempting to rush through your learning, but it’s important that you step back, take the time you need, and advance at a sensible rate. You need to be able to constantly evaluate your performance, and understand the reasons behind your wins and losses. Now let’s see why should you learn how to trade Forex the right way.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at the steps you need to become a professional Forex trader:
Professional Forex Trading Tips
Pro Step 1: Develop your trading strategy
The most significant step in preparing and protecting long-term participation in the market is to build your personal trading strategy and to stick to it. Once your feel confident that you’ve done enough research on the instruments and technical aspects, gotten a feel for the market with a demo account, and defined a realistic risk profile, it’s time to develop your strategy.
Whether you choose to be a forex scalper or long-term investor, the point of your strategy is to develop consistency and routine. As with every other trade, practice makes perfect. The deeper your knowledge and experience with an instrument or technique, the more you’ll be able to make more consistently successful and thoughtful decisions within it. As you grow as a trader, your strategy will likewise grow with you.
Pro Step 2: Do not overtrade on a demo account
Many people want to become Forex traders, but most never move beyond trading on a demo account. The truth is that, in order to become a successful trader, your trades should consistently be making you money. And the only way they will make money is if you are trading with real money on a live account.
For this reason, it is vital to switch to a live trading account as soon as you’re ready. If you’re going to use a demo account, your goal should be to use the demo account to learn the ropes, with the intention of switching to a live account once you understand how to trade.
For new traders who are trading consistently using their demo accounts, usually a month is enough time to understand the mechanics of the trading platform and to start becoming a professional trader.
It is advisable that traders should not postpone live trading for more than three months after they have started trading on a demo account.
Pro Step 3: How to Become a Successful Trader in Forex
Finally, once you’ve established your trading strategy, and switched to a live trading account, you should move on to the next step—or steps, rather:
- Develop a trading plan and always adhere to it.
- Set stop-losses for every trade. Otherwise, failure is almost certain.
- Don’t risk more than 2% of your margin per single trade.
- Keep your emotions separate from trading.
- Never trade to compensate for your losses.
- Only trade when you feel it’s the right moment.
- Don’t be afraid of losses, every trader has them.
- Try to achieve more profitable trades, and have less unsuccessful trades.
This is the right path to follow in order to become a good Forex trader. You will be facing lots of losses and stress along the way, but don’t give up. With effort and passion, you can make up for any bad experience you may have.
If you would like to learn more about professional Forex trading, you can do so with any of our educational webinars – many of which provide you with the opportunity to learn about advanced trading psychology and candlestick trading in the Forex and CFD markets.
It’s not difficult to begin trading, and you can begin with a demo account from Admiral Markets within minutes. Simply create a Trader’s Room account, download and install the trading platform software of your choice, and begin trading! If you feel confident in your trading ability, you can instead go straight to a live account and upload your funds and start trading the markets in real time.
Being a Forex trader allows you to work from nearly any place with an internet connection. Hotel rooms, cafes, and—thanks to the latest technological developments—even more distant corners of the world. Forex traders are blessed with strong growth potential, and their lifestyle can certainly offer a lot of enjoyment. But if you’ve ever taken this path, you know this gift does not come easily. The sooner you start, the faster you’ll get there. So why not start trading now?
About Admiral Markets
Admiral Markets is a multi-award winning, globally regulated Forex and CFD broker, offering trading on over 8,000 financial instruments via the world’s most popular trading platforms: MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5. Start trading today!
This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks.
10 Great Ways to Learn Stock Trading in 2020
Posted by Blain Reinkensmeyer | Last updated on Apr 5th, 2020 | Published Mar 29th, 2020
March 2020 Update : Join me on Twitter, @InvestorBlain!
Beginners taking their first steps towards learning the basics of stock trading should have access to multiple sources of quality education. Just like riding a bike, trial and error, coupled with the ability to keep pressing forth, will eventually lead to success.
One great advantage of stock trading lies in the fact that the game itself lasts a lifetime. Investors have years to develop and hone their skills. Strategies used twenty years ago are still utilized today. SEE ALSO: How to Invest (2020 Beginners Guide).
When I made my first stock trade and purchased shares of stock, I was only 14 years old. Over 1,000 stock trades later, I am now 33 years old and still learning new lessons.
What is Stock Trading?
First things first, let’s quickly define stock trading. Stock trading is buying and selling shares of publicly traded companies. Popular stocks most Americans know include Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), Disney (DIS), Microsoft (MSFT), Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOGL), Netflix (NFLX), and more recently listed companies such as Uber (UBER) and Pinterest (PINS).
In the stock market, for every buyer, there is a seller. When you buy 100 shares of stock, someone is selling 100 shares to you. Similarly, when you go to sell your shares of stock, someone has to buy them. If there are more buyers than sellers (demand), then the stock price will go up. Conversely, if there are more sellers than buyers (too much supply), the price will fall.
10 Great Ways to Learn Stock Trading as a Beginner
For beginners who want to learn how to trade stocks, here are ten great answers to the simple question, “How do I get started?”.
1. Open a stock broker account
Find a good online stock broker and open an account. Become familiarized with the layout and to take advantage of the free trading tools and research offered to clients only. Some brokers offer virtual trading which is beneficial because you can practice trading stocks with fake money (see #9 below).
2. Read books
Books provide a wealth of information and are inexpensive compared to the costs of classes, seminars, and educational DVDs sold across the web. See my list of 20 great stock trading books to get started. One of my personal favorites is How to Make Money in Stocks by William O’Neil (pictured below), founder of CANSLIM Trading.
3. Read articles
Articles are a fantastic resource for education. My most popular posts are listed on my stock education page. The most popular website for investment education is investopedia.com. I also highly recommend reading the memos of billionaire Howard Marks (Oaktree Capital), which are absolutely terrific. Naturally, searching with Google search is another great way to find educational material to read.
4. Find a mentor or a friend to learn with
A mentor could be a family member, a friend, a coworker, a past or current professor, or any individual that has a fundamental understanding of the stock market. A good mentor is willing to answer questions, provide help, recommend useful resources, and keep spirits up when the market gets tough. All successful investors of the past and present have had mentors during their early days.
Despite being “old school,” online forums are still used today and they can be a great place to get questions answered. Two recommendations include Elite Trader and Trade2Win. Just be careful of who you listen to. The vast majority of participants are not professional traders, let alone profitable traders. Heed advice from forums with a heavy dose of salt and do not, under any circumstance, follow trade recommendations.
5. Study successful investors
Learning about great investors from the past provides perspective, inspiration, and appreciation for the game which is the stock market. Greats include Warren Buffett (below), Jesse Livermore, George Soros, Benjamin Graham, Peter Lynch, John Templeton and Paul Tudor Jones, among others. One of my favorite book series is the Market Wizards by Jack Schwager.
6. Read and casually follow the stock market
News sites such as CNBC and MarketWatch serve as a great resource for beginners. For in depth coverage, look no further than the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. By casually checking in on the stock market each day and reading headline stories, you will expose yourself to economic trends, third-party analysis, and general investing lingo. Pulling stock quotes on Yahoo Finance to view a stock chart, view news headlines, and check fundamental data can also serve as another quality source of exposure.
TV is another way to expose yourself to the stock market. No question, CNBC is the most popular channel. Even turning on CNBC for 15 minutes a day will broaden your knowledge base. Don’t let the lingo or the style of news intimidate you, just simply watch and allow the commentators, interviews, and discussions to soak in. Beware though, over time you may find that a lot of the investing shows on TV are more of a distraction and source of excitement than being actually useful. Recommendations rarely yield profitable trades.
7. Consider paid subscriptions
Paying for research and trade ideas can be educational. Some investors may find watching or observing market professionals to be more beneficial than trying to apply newly learned lessons themselves. There are a variety of paid subscription sites available across the web; the key is to find the right one for you. Here’s a list of the services I use myself. Two of the most well-respected subscription services are Investors.com and Morningstar.
CAUTION – Be careful. Many paid subscriptions marketed online, especially in social media, come from one-off traders that claim to have fantastic returns and can teach you how to be successful. 99.99% of them are a really poor investment and come with higher prices of $99 – $149 per month, or more. The worst damage though comes when you try to do what they do, invest way too much in a stock tip, and get burned when it doesn’t work out. See, Day Trading: 10 Lessons That Changed My Career.
8. Go to seminars, take online courses or live classes
Seminars can provide valuable insight into the overall market and specific investment types. Most seminars will focus on one specific aspect of the market and how the speaker has found success utilizing their own strategies over the years. Examples include Dan Zanger and Mark Minervini, both of which I have attended and reviewed thoroughly here on the site. Not all seminars have to be paid for either. Some seminars are provided free, which can be a beneficial experience, just be extremely conscious of the sales pitch that will almost always come at the end. Whatever is offered, just say no!
When it comes to courses and classes, these are typically pricey, but like seminars, can also be beneficial. Will O’Neil workshops, Warrior Trading, Bulls On Wall Street, and Online Trading Academy provide a variety of courses on investing and trading.
CAUTION – Like paid subscriptions, be very careful with classes and courses. Most are easily over $1,000 and are sold with promises of acquiring valuable knowledge. Their fantastic sales funnels will suck you in, take your money, excite you during the course, then leave you with a strategy that was profitable five or ten years ago, but is no longer relevant today. That, or you simply do not yet have the expertise required to be successful and trade the strategy properly.
9. Buy your first shares of stock or practice trading through a simulator
With your online broker account setup, the next step is to simply take the plunge and place your first stock trade (instructions further down!). Don’t be afraid to start small, even 1, 10, or 20 shares will serve its purpose.
If the thought of trading stocks with your hard earned money is to nerve racking, consider using a stock simulator for virtual trading. Online brokers TD Ameritrade and E*TRADE both offer virtual trading to practice buying and selling stocks.
CAUTION – One of the most common mistakes new investors make is to buy too many shares for their first stock trade; this is a mistake. Taking on too much risk as a beginner who is just getting started will very likely result in experiencing unnecessary losses. Instead, begin with trading small position sizes, then slowly work your way up to buying more shares, on average, each trade.
10. Follow Warren Buffett’s advice, buy and hold the market
For the majority, online trading (especially day trading) will not outperform simply buying the entire market, such as the S&P 500, and holding it for many years. Warren Buffett, the greatest investor of all-time, recommends individual investors simply passively invest (buy and hold) instead of trying to beat the market trading stocks on their own. See: How to Retire with at least $1 Million Dollars.
What is the Stock Market?
The stock market is built around the simple concept of connecting buyers and sellers who wish to trade shares of publicly traded companies. It is a marketplace.
Each publicly traded company lists their shares on a stock exchange. The two largest exchanges in the world are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ; both are based in the United States (Wikipedia). Attempting to grasp just how large the NYSE and NASDAQ both are is certainly not easy. The NYSE has a market cap of nearly $31 trillion and the NASDAQ’s is nearly $11 trillion. And yes, that is not a typo, I said, “trillion”.
Let’s take Apple (AAPL) for example, which is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Apple currently has 4.6 billion shares outstanding, of which 4.35 billion are available to be traded (also known as the “float”). Using today’s closing price of $201.75 (July 11th, 2020), Apple has a market cap of $937.44 billion. That’s a big company! (By the way, market cap is a simple way to gauge the value of a company. If you bought every available share of stock, the market cap is how much it would cost you to buy the entire company.)
More recently, in May 2020, Uber (UBER) went public, listing its shares on the NYSE. As of today’s close, UBER’s stock trades for $43.99 per share and the company boasts a market cap of $74.59 billion.
Once a company has their shares listed on an exchange, then anyone, including you and I, can use an online broker account to trade shares. Whether you are an everyday investor or an institutional hedge fund managing hundreds of millions of dollars in client money, anyone can trade.
There are many strategies for trading stocks. The most common strategy is to buy and hold. You buy shares of stock, then hold them for years and years. The complete opposite strategy would be day trading, which is when you buy shares then sell them the same day before the market closes (for more on day trading, see my day trading guide).
Each strategy has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, day trading can be expensive since you are trading frequently. Furthermore, since your trades are less than a year in duration, any profits are subject to short-term capital gains taxes.
To keep costs as low as possible, famous investors like John Bogle and Warren Buffett recommend buying and holding the entire stock market. Known as passive investing, it is a buy and hold strategy where you buy an entire market index, typically the S&P 500, as a single mutual fund or exchange traded fund (ETF). By buying an entire index, you are properly diversified (have shares in
500 large companies, not just one), which reduces your risk long term. In fact, John Bogle is credited with creating the first index fund.
Three other common strategies you may hear traders refer to include momentum trading (buying shares of very fast growing companies and selling them for a profit before they inevitably peak in price), swing trading (using technical analysis to identify a trading range, and then buying and selling shares as the stock trades within that range), and penny stock trading (buying shares of very small companies whose stocks trade for less than $1 a share).
ETFs and Mutual Funds
By this point, we should already know what a stock is, so let’s break down ETFs and mutual funds. ETFs (exchange traded funds) and mutual funds are similar in that they both represent a collection, or “baskets”, of individual stocks or bonds.
Take for example the S&P 500 market index, which is comprised of 505 companies. Buying shares in 505 different companies would be very difficult to do. Thanks to mutual funds and ETFs, we can simply buy one single security that holds shares in all 505 companies. The largest S&P 500 mutual fund is the Vanguard 500 Index Fund Admiral Shares (VFIAX) and the largest S&P 500 ETF is the State Street Global Advisors SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY).
By buying an ETF or mutual fund, your portfolio is better diversified than just owning shares of one or two stocks; thus, you are taking on less risk overall. This is the primary advantage of buying ETFs and mutual funds over trading individual shares.
The main difference between ETFs and mutual funds is in how they trade. ETFs trade like stocks, which means you can buy and sell them throughout the day and they fluctuate in price depending on supply and demand. Contrarily, mutual funds are priced each day after the market closes, so everyone pays the same price. Also, mutual funds typically require a higher minimum investment than ETFs.
How to Buy Shares – Step by Step Instructions
Once you open and fund your online brokerage account, the process of placing a stock trade can be broken down into five simple steps:
- Choose whether to buy or sell
- Insert quantity
- Insert symbol
- Select order type
- Review order, place trade
1. Choose Buy or Sell
The first step is always to choose what we would like to do, buy shares long or sell shares short. As a new investor, keep it simple, buy shares long!
2. Insert Quantity
Next we enter how many shares we would like to buy or sell in total. To calculate how many shares we can afford, simply take the total amount of cash currently in the account and divide it buy the stock’s last price. So, if stock XYZ is trading at $10 and we have $1000 in our account, we can afford to purchase 100 shares of stock ($1000 / $10).
3. Insert Symbol
The ticker symbol represents the company we are going to trade. For example, Disney has a ticker symbol of “DIS”, Apple is “AAPL”, and Facebook is “FB”. If we are not sure of the company’s symbol, you can click on the Symbol field and search to find it. Tickers are also required to read a stock chart.
4. Choose Order Type
The most common order types: market, limit, and stop (see my guide, Best Order Types for Stock Trading). Market orders buy or sell immediately at the current best market price. Limit orders only buy or sell these shares at, “$xx price or better”. Lastly, stop loss orders are combined with a market or limit to trigger once $xx price hits. For new investors just getting started, I always suggest just sticking with market orders.
5. Review Order and Place Trade
After the basic inputs have been made, the “Place Trade” button will appear to complete the order. By default, a summary screen always appears once this button is clicked to summarize the order and confirm we have enough funds in our account. Once investors have experience and are comfortable with the trade ticket, this confirmation page can be disabled.
Here’s an example of a TD Ameritrade order ticket filled out,
Other fields (Expiration, Special Instructions, Routing)
New investors should ignore these fields and leave them set to their default values. These options give investors more control as to how long certain orders should remain active and how they should be filled. For example, “GTC” for expiration means “good-till-cancelled”.
Regarding routing, 99.9% of orders are routed using the online broker’s automated system. However, day traders will sometimes hand select (direct route) their orders to a specific market center to receive market rebates. See this StockBrokers.com guide for more on order routing.
Tips for Success
Learning from the greats, here are variety of stock trading tips from some very successful investors. By applying any of the following lessons, you can become a better trader. Success takes time, and these rules will lead you in the right direction.
William O’Neil is the founder of CANSLIM investing, Investors Business Daily, and has authored numerous books on investing, with his most famous being, How to Make Money in Stocks: A Winning System in Good Times and Bad.
- As a new investor, be prepared to take some small losses.
- Persistence is key when learning to invest. Don’t get discouraged.
- Learning to invest doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort to become successful at it.
- As a beginner, set up a cash account, not a margin account.
- Concentrate on a few, high-quality stocks. There’s no need to own twenty or more stocks.
- Don’t get emotionally involved with your stocks. Follow a set of buying and selling rules, and don’t let your emotions change your mind.
- Don’t buy a stock under $15 a share. The best companies that are leaders in their fields simply do not come at $5 or $10 per share.
- Learning from the best stock market winners can guide you to tomorrow’s leaders.
- Always do a post-analysis of your stock market trades so that you can learn from your successes and mistakes.
- Stocks never go up by accident. There must be large buying, typically from big investors such as mutual funds and pension funds.
- Replace the old adage, “buy low and sell high” with “buy high and sell a lot higher.”
- History always repeats itself in the stock market.
- Ignore personal opinions about the market.
- Three out of four stocks, regardless of how “good,” will eventually follow the trend of the overall market.
- When starting to invest, keep it simple.
- Short stocks only in a bear market. Use tight stop losses and take profits often.
Jesse Livermore, respected as one of the greatest investors of all time, has been featured in many investment books. The most iconic was Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefevre in 1923. During the course of his life he made and lost millions, going broke several times before committing suicide in 1940. These are his seven greatest trading lessons:
- Cut your losses quickly.
- Confirm your judgments before going all in.
- Watch leading stocks for the best action.
- Let profits ride until price action dictates otherwise.
- Buy all-time new highs.
- Use pivot points to determine trends.
- Control your emotions.
John Paulson, a hedge-fund manager in New York, lead his firm to make $20 billion in profits between 2007 and early 2009. By betting heavily against first the housing market and then later financial stocks, his firm made a killing. Paulson’s success netted him a paycheck of some $4 billion, or more than $10 million a day. His funds during this time had returns of several hundred percent. These are his eight investing lessons:
- Don’t rely on experts, be skeptical.
- Always have an exit strategy.
- Debt markets can do a better job predicting problems than stock markets.
- Always educate yourself on new investment vehicles.
- Don’t underestimate insurance (such as put options).
- Experience counts.
- Don’t fall in love with any single investment, keep emotions aside.
- Don’t risk too much on any single trade, diversify risk.
My Three Favorite Stock Tips
After completing over 1,000 stock trades, representing over 4,000 individual buys and sells, here are three tips I wish I knew and fully appreciated on day one:
- Think win/win. Psychology is a huge aspect of trading. If you have a big winner on your hands and aren’t sure whether you should hold the shares to try for higher prices or sell them to lock in a profit, consider selling half and holding the rest with a stop loss (at worst) back at your original buy price. That way, if the stock drops back to your buy price, you still win because you sold half and made a profit. Similarly, if the stock shoot higher in price, you also win because you still hold half your original position. Heads you win, tails you win too.
- Set strict rules to help you stay disciplined.
- Always know the day and time (pre or post hours) when your stock holdings are posting earnings next!
Something that I always emphasize to new stock traders when they email in is that investing is a life long game. Take your time! There is no reason to rush into the stock market.
Start with a small amount to invest, keep it simple, and learn from every trade you make. If you find yourself emotionally charged with trading, then passively investing in the overall market with a simple index fund (see above, “Trading Strategies”) is likely a better choice.
Hopefully the helps answer some of your questions about stock trading.
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Exploiting the edge from historical market patterns
Thursday, January 30, 2020
What Motivates a Successful Trader
The quest for self-esteem is the surest sign of its absence, as Ayn Rand once observed. The motivation of unsuccessful traders is to become a success. As the recent Forbes article points out, that ego-based motivation makes us vulnerable when we face inevitable losses. This is the problem with what Maslow called deficit motivation. When we seek something to fill a perceived void within us, any disruption thrusts us back into that void. For example, if I feel unlovable and unworthy, I may desperately seek companionship in relationships, but how much will I have to give to those relationships? How well will I be able to navigate challenges in those relationships? If what two people bring to relationships are gifts, they naturally support each other and benefit from their interactions. If two people merely bring needs to relationships, they are always taking from one another and cannot tolerate situations where the other cannot give.
All traders have relationships with the markets they trade.
How well would *your* romantic relationships and friendships go if you interacted with your partner and friends the way you interact with markets? Great relationships bring strengths to interactions. Barren relationships bring needs. When we bring our needs to our trading, those color our decisions, and our relationships with markets become barren.
A great way to identify beginning traders with promise is to focus on the promise they have fulfilled in other areas of their lives. Such traders bring developed strengths to their learning curves. Less promising traders are looking to become successful. They are not looking for self-esteem; they’re not seeking to leverage existing successes and strengths. When I hear a trader talk about their “passion” for trading, I ask about the other passions they are currently fulfilling in their lives. If I can’t get a concrete answer, I know that passion comes from a void desperately needing to be filled.
Trading cannot repair our damaged, bruised, or underdeveloped egos. Just as relationships cannot provide us with the love and esteem we are unable to provide to ourselves, market cannot make us successful. Rather, we leverage the strengths and successes that we already possess to find ways of maximizing opportunities we perceive in markets. Many of those strengths, the recent article notes, are spiritual ones: they come from the soul, not the ego. What that concretely means is that there are certain ways of viewing the world, certain abilities we possess, and certain ways of acting that make us who we are and define us at our best. The developing trader should not be trying to get rich; the developing trader should figure out ways in which he or she is already wealthy in terms of what they do well and who they are and then figure out how to express that in an approach to markets.
What motivates a successful trader is what motivates success throughout life. Success follows from consistently being the person we already are when we’re at our best.
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