Sunday, September 5, 2010

Five Steps to Build a Forex Trading Plan : What Every Trader Should Now

When you go online and start searching for ways in which to become profitable as a forex trader you soon realize that the internet is filled with what seems like very meaningful yet hollow advice. People around forums and educational websites will tell you several key points of advice such as "plan your trade, trade your plan", "cut your loses short" and "follow the trend" but they always fall short of telling you any practical ways in order to achieve the above mentioned objectives. This is one of the main reasons why it is so terribly hard for new traders to achieve success, there is an inherent lack of practical advice online which means that most traders have to learn how to do things from experience, a very lengthy and painful process that usually carries with it a lot of financial loss and frustration.

On today's post I want to make this easier for those out there who have just started or those who are still looking for some guidance in how to become profitable in the long term. In the following paragraphs I am going to highlight the first five practical steps you should go through when building a trading plan. I can guarantee that if you follow these steps it will be much easier for you to become profitable since you will gain a deeper level of understanding of what you are doing and what the outcomes of your trades will possibly be.

But what is a trading plan ? A trading plan is merely a set of rules that allow a trader to make decisions under any possible set of conditions. I allows you to remove emotions from trading and to be able to face different circumstances knowing what you will do in advance independent of the way in which market movements develop. Having a trading plan is the first key to success in trading since it allows you to tackle the market without surprises and without using your emotions when your knowledge fails. Since a trading plan covers all possible scenarios, emotions can be left out completely. How do you come up and make a trading plan ? Keep reading to find out.

Step 1. Figure out the type of market movement you want to capture. The first thing you need to do is figure out what type of movement you will attempt to exploit for profits. Here you need to take into account the amount of free time you have and the amount of stress you can withstand. If you cannot stare at the screen 12 hours a day choosing small time frames will be a bad idea. In general I advice new traders to use the 4 hour or daily time frames as these allow them to have a trading plan that only requires them to be in front of the computer an hour or just a few minutes each day. Aiming for daily or 4 hour trends is a good way to start as a trader.

Step 2. Design your first entry logic. Analyze several trades you would have liked to get into and come up with an entry logic that would allow you to get into the market on those trades. Now you need to take that logic and EVALUATE it over extensive periods of time (5-10 years) so that you can know if your entry does indeed have a positive mathematical expectancy. On this first analysis you merely want to see if price does move in your favor and for how much it moves in your favor when entering trades based on this criteria. The main reason why new traders never use systems that work and second-guess their systems all the time is their lack of statistical analysis. Many traders use systems that don't even have an edge over their entries without ever realizing that this is the case. If you use something that is doomed to fail for the beginning your chance of success will be easily reduces. If you are a manual trader you should consider getting Umaki to help you backtest your discretionary strategy over a long period of time.

Step 3. Make sure your systems is not static. Now that you are going to design the exits for your system you should take into account that systems that are static (for example a system that uses a 20 pip stop loss and a 100 pip take profit) almost always fail as market conditions change since their ability to adapt to the way in which market volatility fluctuates is nonexistent. Your exits should be dynamic (based on indicators or discretionary criteria (S&R levels for example). You can also use volatility adjusted fixed TP and SL levels if you want to or you can design these levels around support and resistance levels (this is the best solution if you are designing a discretionary strategy).

Step 4. Design Exits and Lot sizing. After coming up with an entry logic that has a positive mathematical expectancy in the long term you should now design and evaluate exit and lot sizing criteria to exploit this inefficiency. Since you have already done an analysis of where price goes in average once you enter a trade some exits will be obvious to you. For example price may tend to rally up to the next important support or resistance level or it may go in your favor 50% of the daily range. Once you have an initial mathematical expectancy analysis coming up with exits won't be very hard and it will allow you to build discretionary or mechanical exit points that will work with your strategy.

Step 5. Understand the Risk and Profit characteristics of your plan. The large majority of new traders start trading systems for which the profit and draw down characteristics are absolutely unknown. I have always been amazed at how people can trade a strategy without the slightest idea of how deep draw down periods will be, how monthly returns are distributed or what draw down level will suggest that the plan is no longer working. The MOST IMPORTANT THING you need to do is to evaluate your plan through a LONG period of historical testing so that you know what you will be facing.

In the end your ability to succeed in trading will depend simply on how sound your trading plan is and how capable you are of executing what you have designed. If you have designed your trading plan correctly you can then answer simple questions like :
  • What is your expected maximum draw down ?
  • What is the average draw down period length ?
  • What is the distribution of monthly returns expected to be ?
  • What is the average compounded yearly profit ?
  • What is the probability to have a winning or a losing month ?
If you are unable to answer the above mentioned questions then your trading plan is currently flawed or at least you have not evaluated or understood it very well. Understanding of what you are trading is VITAL for success and failing to know if your trading plan does indeed have a statistical edge and a possibility to survive in the long term will mark a constant failure for most traders. My advice is therefore simple, develop a plan you KNOW has a positive statistical edge, a plan you know and a plan you understand fully from a statistical point of view.

If you would like to learn more about trading plans and how you too can develop mechanical trading systems with a full evaluation of all their statistical characteristics please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

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