Make Money in the Stock Market- Don’t Get Bucked Off the Bull!
We all saw the traders feast on the 5 day rally last week to Make Money in the Stock Market, celebrating Thanksgiving with the renewed hope that the ‘recession’ may have turned the corner. Many people celebrated the 1000 point move up, drinking beer, talking about the new leaders visions that had taken them out of recession, the more they drank the better the times became.
Many however woke up Monday morning in the woods, surrounded by bears.
The bulls that they like so much just days earlier had bucked them off in 2 seconds flat and left them to defend for themselves in the woods after jumping on them some 680 times to re enforce the friendship is over.
This teaches us a very valuable lesson
Position-Sizing: The Key to Survival
The legendary commodities trader Ed Seykota, who turned $5,000 into $15 million over a period of 12 years, was teaching a course in technical trading to a college class many years ago when he decided to conduct an experiment to illustrate to his students the value of money management, or position-sizing – that is, determining how much money you will risk on any single given trade – to the overall success of any trader’s trading plan.
Make Money in the Stock Market, He told his class they were going to compete in a trading contest with each other. Each student would start with a hypothetical equity stake of $100,000. The winner, of course, would be the student with the most money at the end of the contest. However, there was a catch: Each student would buy and sell the same stocks at the same exact time, meaning those stocks would rise or fall exactly the same amount. In fact, Seykota pulled each “stock” out of a hat at the front of the room, and simply told the students whether it had gone up or down and by how much.
How do you conduct a trading contest when everyone buys and sells the exact same stocks at the exact same time? It is all about position-sizing – how much money you are willing to bet on each trade and how to Make Money in the Stock Market. After Seykota chose each stock, but before he announced whether it had gone up or down, each student was required to write down the amount of money he or she was willing to risk on that trade. They could risk as little or as much as they wanted.
The results of the contest provided quite an education for Seykota’s students – and should be remembered by anyone who puts their hard-earned money at risk in the market. By the end of the contest some of the students had lost their entire hypothetical stake and were completely “broke”. Others had come out about even, making a little money or losing a little money. But a few of the best students – the best traders – had turned that hypothetical $100,000 into over $1 million!
Think about it: Two traders start with the same amount of money and buy and sell the exact same stocks at the exact same time. One goes broke. The other makes 1,000%! Therein lies the secret to survival, and ultimately success, as a trader. All the great traders will tell you that position-sizing is the single most important factor in their success.
So how much should you risk on any single trade – in other words, how much should you be willing to lose? It is best to risk a fixed percentage of your account value on every trade, and not vary that percentage from trade to trade for how Make Money in the Stock Market. What that percentage should be depends on several critical factors. The most critical are your win-loss ratio, the size of your average win and the size of your average loss. Given these three numbers, your position sizing will determine whether you live or die as a trader.
The point of position-sizing is to be sure that you don’t break the bank during a losing streak. Even a random coin toss can produce 10 tails consecutively, so make no mistake that even the best traders suffer through losing streaks of equal length. If you risk, say 10% of your account on every trade, and your average loss is 7%, a losing streak of 10 in a row could be devastating. On the other hand, if you are a day trader and your average loss is .5%, you can risk more money on each trade without worrying about a losing streak taking you out of the game.
Seykota says he never risks more than 5% of his account on any single trade. Many other highly successful traders think risking anything more than 3% of your account on a single trade makes you a “cowboy”. A good starting point for beginning traders is probably 1% of your account. The added advantage of lower risk for beginners is that it helps minimize the emotions that often interfere with good trading while Make Money in the Stock Market.
For a detailed discussion of position-sizing, we highly recommend Van Tharp’s book “Trade Your Way to Financial Freedom” and Make Money in the Stock Market. An internationally renowned trading coach, Tharp was profiled along with Seykota in “Market Wizards”, Jack Schwager’s classic collection of profiles of some of the most brilliant traders and trading minds of all time.