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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Trading Plans: A Simple Guide

If you talk to successful stock traders, you'll find one thing in common wigth all of them. All of them have good, workable trading plans that they're comfortable with. When you're planning to go into the stock market, you could do worse by emulating these success stories and having a plan. Let's be clear though, trading plans are more than just rules for trading, when to buy and sell all of those stocks on the open market. Those rules are actually trading strategies and are a subset of a trading plan. Let me run you through to what's essentially a simple trading plan.

Every trading plan starts with a goal. Some trading plans have nebulous goals like: "I want to be rich before retirement," but you quickly find out that plans with such far-reaching goals usually fail. Realistic, measurable goals are what you find in good plans. What do I mean by realistic and measurable? First, the goal is reachable and possible for the trader and also gives a definite gauge for a person's level of success. Experienced traders usually define this goals by setting a profit/loss margin for a particular span of time. Trust me, you'll know if you're a success if you have a definite profit target at the end of the week. Even if you don't reach it, you can see how much you have to go and you'll strive for it.

Another part of a trading plan is having a definite market or field to target. This actually gets even more specific with particular stocks chosen for how they will help a trader achieve a goal. A good trader chooses a field that he's interested in or has easy access to information about. This is because the stock market is a fluid thing and the only way to make sure you don't get any nasty surprises is to always have your ear to the ground for any developments or trends that may affect the price of company stocks. Being interested in a field also translates well into this and most traders have a preferred field or commodity that they focus on. Information is money in the field of stocks and when you're interested, you're more attentive to something.

Finally, entry and exit strategies into a market are formulated to reflect a trader's personality. A daring trader can wish to make his margins of acceptable higher or a more conservative trader would lower his negative sell price a bit higher, so as to avoid a larger loss. All of this is mostly done to assist a trader to accept a trading plan's instructions for them. Going against personal instinct is a hard thing, that's why traders tailor-make their strategies to match their temperament. Any disagreement between a trader's "feelings" and the trading strategy selected can cause a moment of indecision. With the lightning speed of the rise and fall of stocks on the market, that moment may be the difference between thousand dollars of profit or a thousand dollars of loss. \par

There you go, a simple guide to how trading plans work and how to make one. If you're interested into going into the stock market, you better try your best to make a good one and to follow it well. A good plan always succeeds after all.

Sticking To the Plan: The Importance Of Following Your Trading Plan

Making a trading plan is no joke. It takes a whole lot of effort and research to come up with a trading plan that is perfect for you. But the problem is, sometimes, when that ticker or number goes up and up or down and down, we aren't control ourselves and jump the gun on selling whether for profit or loss.

The problem with that attitude is, once you break away from your trading plan, nothing can stop you from doing it again. Rationalizing your violation of the plan by any profit you've earned is just a step away for you. That's pretty much where it begins and it's all downhill from there. Pretty soon, you'll be ignoreing that trading plan you made and just go with the flow of the market. Oh, yes, you'll have a few successes and then you'll be broke, having thrown away your money on sure things.

What some traders don't realize is that trading plans are more than just a few rules and guidelines for you to follow when you start trading. A good trading plan, and I mean a really good one, reflects your personality and should not be easy to break away from. When it is well-made, a trading plan takes into account your personal temperament and should be constructed in a way that all of its instructions  are things that you will be comfortable with. This is why the first part of creating a trading plan is to always determine what are your mental limits are; both in terms of knowledge and in your personal character. A worrier's trading plan will be incredibly different for one made by someone who is more daring. It may not seem like much but watching the stock prices fo up and down can have a heavy toll on a person. That's why making a plan that you're personally comfortable with is important. If you're comfortable with the plan then it will be easier for you to follow it.

Why is it so important then, for you to follow your trading plan? It's pretty simple actually - discipline. Discipline is sometimes a hard thing to have when you're in the middle of a rough-and-tumble market. A good trading plan keeps you on your course and gives you definite goals. A man with a puprpose and a plan to reach that purpose always beats out anyone who just has a vague idea of what he's doing. Traders who don't have a plan, or have plans that are vague, usually end up panicking when bad stuff starts to happen. Even when good stuff happens it can confuse a trader, like suddenly selling all your stock at what you thought was a good price when you could have sold at a higher price later. A good trading plan limits how much you buy and how much you sell at particular levels, maximizing profits or minimizing loss.

This is why you should try your best to follow your trading plan. Keeping that iron discipline and keeping yourself following the plan that you made may be hard at times. It may even cost you in terms of profit, since even plans can't be perfect. However, let me assure you that keeping to your trading plan is the only way to go if you want to be a serious trader.

Plan For Success: A Trading Plan Primer

Let me tell you what's essentialy an open secret for stock traders: a trading plan is pretty much the only way to succeed in the stock market. Actually, it should be pretty obvious: well-made plans have always guaranteed success for anyone who's set out to do something, from a lowly carpenter to a well-respected general. What I'm going to be telling you about now is how to set-up your own trading plan so you can walk that path to profit and success.

Let's start with what a trading plan is not: a trading plan is not some vague instructions on a piece of paper, gathered advice from well-worn trading books, no. That's what you call a roadmap to disaster. The stock market is a treacherous place and going into it with only vague instructions will have you end up bankrupt faster than a blink of an eye. Trading plans, real trading plans, are seriously thought out pieces of self-examination and complete research into a market or a field. They are like mirrors of a trader's personality, guiding him to do actions that would maximize profit and minimize loss.

So, how are these masterpieces created? First of all, good trading plans are made from the bottom up. The foundation for these plans are made when a trader takes stock of himself: what his personality is, what his interests are and what he is aiming for. Goals often define a person and plans are no different. When you're starting to make a trading plan, you should ask yourself this question: what exactly am I hoping to gain with this plan? Financial security's a good answer but it needs something a bit more specific. Setting a weekly profit and loss margin for yourself would be a good start, then slowly working yourself up to monthly, then yearly. Creating goals in this manner give you something to aim for and define a sense of progress for yourself. Of course, you shouldn't aim too high or you'll end up getting disappointed.

Next thing on the agenda is what market and stocks you'll be trading in. There's an old saw that goes that you should get a job you enjoy so it won't feel like work and that holds true here, too: choosing a field that you have prior knowledge about or interest in can help you keep focused on the market's progression. That way you won't suddenly find yourself caught by some new trend and end up losing money. Once you've chosen the market, that's when good-old research comes in. Picking stocks by performance and your goals should be easy, although you sometimes have to dig a bit deep to find any underlying patterns to their progression.

Finally, you should set-up your trading strategies. Trading strategies pretty much hinge on your personality. If you're a bit of worrier, then you'll probably be aiming for conservative strategies, the ones that aim for slow but sure profits over the long term. But if you're the daredevil-type who wanst that big payout immediately, buying and selling volatile stock would probably be more fitting for your personality. Remember to try and make your trading plan's strategies work with your personality, that way it would be easier to follow. Risk-taking trades would probably be too much mentally for a conservative trader and slow, boring ones would put a risk-taker to sleep, with the same end result of you suddenly becoming careless and losing a lot of money.

Well, that's pretty much the basics of trading plans. If you want to know more, there are several good books and resources available on the market and the Internet.

Measuring Twice and Cutting Once: How Trading Plans Help

The business of trading on an open stock market can be a very frightening thing. Mostly because it seems like a big giant casino from the outside. I mean, putting your money on something in the hopes that it will pay off? It suspiciously sounds like what you do at a roulette table. Any beginner may be excused for making that mistake. Another factor that contributes to the trepidation in entering the stock market is the recent meltdown in the global economy. Jumping into it now doesn't seem to be a good idea, does it? But the truth is the risks of trading can easily be ameliorated by using a trading plan.

What is a trading plan? The name itself is pretty self-explanatory. It's a stock trader's personal plan of how he trades. Sounds easy, but it isn't. Solid trading plans are backed by research and discipline. The best trading plans focus a trader on a particular field and helps guide his actions to maximize his profit and minimize his loss. Pretty simple sounding but it takes a knowledgeable person to formulate a decent trading plan. Going in unprepared into the stock market can be deadly for your assets and a good trading plan is probably one of the biggest ways to prepare yourself for entering the market.

So, how exactly does a trading plan help you, the beginning trader? The most basic foundation of a good stock plan is what markets you are targeting. I mean, you have to set out what your goals are: low profit that is stable and steady or are you aiming for high profit but in a more volatile sector, with a greater chance for a loss. That's where you start because different markets mean different strategies and that dictates how you plan goes. Sounds daunting but market data is freely available on the Internet. A few hours and you will notice sectors whose stocks increase meteorically and plummet dramatically. Other sectors will be noticeable in the fact that the stock prices have been inching up by the year with no downward movement. Make a list of these product markets and make a decision on what you're looking for: the quick buck or the stable nest egg.

Having decided on what you're financially aiming for, you should then narrow down the market list you've made. Try to choose sectors where you knowledgeable or have access to information of, this way it can be easier for you to formulate your plans - knowledge is power in stock trading and knowing when one company's products are lagging behind in the market is one of those interesting facts that may help you to decided whether to buy or sell in their stock.

Having decided on which stocks you're interested in, time to flesh out your plan. The basic questions you should be asking yourself are these:

1) How much do I invest in the market and when?
2) How much am I willing to risk?
3) What are the signs that I should stop buying and start selling?
4) How do I get out of the market?

Answering all of these questions is going to take a bit of research and legwork but it will pay in the end. The importance of knowing how much you're willing to trade is important - this determines how much profit or loss you might make in this venture. Strictly following your trading plan can give you a chance at a lot of profit or a chance at making sure your losses aren't that bad. Remember this when you're starting to enter the market with your trading plan.

Marking Out Your Path To Success: Making Your Trading Plan Work

Having a trading plan is not going to make you a sudden millionaire. I mean, there are a dozen things that can possible be go wrong in the market, even with a plan, that a profit isn't exactly guaranteed. But then, it would be a lot easier if you can make the plan work. That's essentially the crux of it all: to make the plan work for you, you have to make it work. It's not some magic genie after all, and it needs a bit of that elbow grease to get the gears turning.

Let's be clear here, when I talk about trading plan, I don't mean a half-assed list of cobbled together advice from a dozen investment books. A working trading plan is more than buy this, buy that, sell this, sell that. A trading plan should be your personality on a piece of paper with a whole lot of work attached to it. You should have put in research for your

The very first thing that you need to make a trading plan functional for you is to make it something that you are willing and able to work with. What does that mean in terms of how it is made? It means you have to know what the trading plan is about and what its goals are. For example, if you've set some unrealistic profit margins for yourself in your trading plan, you'll have no choice but to not meet them. Not meeting those profit margins is very discouraging psychologically and you'll probably start ignoring the plan because of that, which will even more cause you problems. A trading plan starts with realistic and easy-to-meet goals and a market that you can understand. If you were a dentist or a doctor, you'd know all about the pharmaceutical market, the same goes for an engineer for the construction companies and real-estate market. Knowing what you're getting into will always make your trading plan work and you should focus on that.

Next, your trading plan should not make any unreasonable demands on you. This means that you shouldn't write on your trading plan to sell at 1.50 when you really want to sell at 1.75. A person's personality whether it be daring or conservative should both be reflected and slightly reined in by your trading plan. Always try to go for the middle ground when creating trading strategies for your plan. What this means is, you have to bridge that realm of personal instinct and logical trade practices. A good example of this would be if, as a conservative trader, you'd be comfortable at selling at 2.0, hoping to avoid any loss of profit. But your research tells you that the company's shares can peak up at abou 3.0. A safe choice for your selling would be 2.5, that sweet spot right in the middle, with just a hint of risk but still within safety parameters. Trust me, it would be a whole lot better for your mental health, if you can work with your plan than constantly second-guessing it.

All of this, of course, is pretty much aimed at making you follow the trading plan. To be honest, following the plan is  the only thing you need to make it work, but then would you follow a trading plan that you're uncomfortable with? So, if you've done all of your homework, using your plan now should be a piece of cake.

Knowing Your Path: Your Trading Plan And You

Entering the stock market can be daunting and new traders are often advised to have a trading plan. An oft-repeated saying is that ninety percent of all stock traders fail and the remaining ten percent all have trading plans. It's not exactly provable but this should show you how highly regarded trading plans are. A good trading plan can help you through the rough spots when you're trading on the stock market and this means you should try your best to formulate a good one and to stick to it consistently.

So how do we formulate this almighty trading plan then? Well, you should start by assessing yourself. This is simple because a trading plan is more than just any vague idea of how you should behave in the market - it's pretty much a program of how you will behave in the market. There's a very thin difference but that difference can mean the loss of thousand of your dollars or you hitting the mother lode. Knowing exactly what you can do and what your mental state is imperative. A trading plan sets the risk level that you want to go and it can be nerve-shattering sometimes when you see a deal that your trading plan won't let you take. Knowing how you will respond and how fast you can respond to the sudden changes in the stock market is important. This will determine how you should shape your trading plan. If your personality is that of a natural risk-taker and you have the deep pockets to back this up in the market, your trading plan should reflect this.However, if you have a more conservative outlook and don't have much money, a less daredevil trading plan  would probably be more appropriate

Another thing that a trading plan should contain is your short-term and long-term goals. I mean, what is the profit target that you're aiming for? How high a risk-to-reward ratio are you willing to go? Having a set profit target for your trading plan is a very good idea and would help keep you on track. Doing it in weekly, monthly, and yearly increments also provide you with a simple way to determine your performance.

You should also set up some rules for how you get in and into the market. This is pretty simple, actually: you just set a target number when you start buying and another target number, whether in stocks or profit or loss, when you start getting out of it. This is pretty important. The difference of a dollar when you're dealing in thousands of shares can mean riches or ruin. Be sure to strictly to follow the rules that you make for yourself.

Next, regularly update yourself on what's happening in the market. Doing market research is a great way to make sure that you don't get caught with your pants down. Knowing which markets and products are gaining or losing ground will definitely help you avoid any unnecessary risks when you are trading stocks. It also defines your strategy for any upcoming trading day.

However, all of this formulation is of no use, if you won't stick to your trading plan. Remember that a defined trading plan is just a set of instructions and it is still up to you for you to implement it. A good trading plan reflects what you are comfortable with and hopefully a way for you to profit.

Know Your Trade: Trading Plans and You

Going into anything blind is a formula for your failure. This is especially so when you go into the stock market. There's an old saying that goes, "Fail to plan and you plan to fail." Simple words to live by but a lot of people have ignored them and have consequently lost thousands of dollars to the vagaries of the market. If you don't want to end up losing your shirt on the market, you better start your entry into it by formulating a trading plan.

So, how do we go about doing it then? Well, the foundations of a trading plan is this: what are your objective? How much money do you want to earn? It would be best and easiest to start your plan by setting a definite number for you to aim for every month or maybe weekly. This gives you a specific goal to meet and helps you focus on what you want.

Next, you should choose the particulars of your entry into the market. What markets are you interested in going into? What commodities or products? This choice should be based on your knowledge and interests. It's pretty self-defeating to trade in stocks you're in for purely money. That's because lack of interest usually translates into non-interest in current events in that particular product's field. Not knowing what's happening in a market that you're trading in would be disastrous. So focus on markets that you have knowledge of and are willing to learn about.

After knowing what you'll be trading in, it's time to roll up your sleeves and hit the books. Choosing particular stocks in a one field is important and this is done by reviewing the performance of the stocks in a particular market. This defines what stocks you will be getting and what your possible strategies are. Are you going to go for the slow and steady route? Stocks that have consistent performance through the years. Want some quick money? New stocks moving upwards in recent times can be a boon for you.

As I mentioned earlier, choosing stocks goes hand-in-hand with formulating a strategy. These strategies would specify at what price you would start buying a particular piece of stock and how much money to spend on it. They also indicate at positive and negative prices would you start selling the shares that you have accumulated.

Your trading plan should also include some specifics: just exactly what sort of trader would you be? A day trader who is focused on the daily market schedule or a swing trader who goes beyond it? The plan should also specify how exactly are you going to trade: calling up your broker once in a while or having your own computerized stock ticker on your home PC can make a whole lot of difference to your profit margin. Of course, there's the danger of oever-planning: don't be seduced by all that fancy software being advertised. All you need for stock trading is an accurate way to get stock information and that can be as easy as having Bloomberg TV always on or as involved as the aforementioned stock ticker.

Finally, your plan should have a margin of error or at least a level of adaptability. A whole lot of things happen on the stock market and you can't exactly be expected to take into account everything that might happen in the market. Having your plan be able to handle something you didn't think about can help make sure you don't accidentally lose money.

A good trading plan can mean the difference between losing your savings or having a nice little retirement, so keep this in your mind as you formulate your own.