Every investment should start with a plan. These are the elements that are part of the most successful trading strategies.
Much of the work that goes into a trade should be done before the actual trade, not during it.
Crafting the right plan before you start trading is a crucial step to making logical trading decisions. While everyone has a different approach to their strategy, these are some of the most important elements to include in your trading plan.
First, identify your concepts and goals. Ask yourself, why are you trading? What are you hoping to get out of it? Then, determine which instruments you will be using and the timeframes for your trades. These timeframes include the time of day you will trade as well as whether they will be multi-day or intraday swing trades. Finally, establish the realistic profit targets for your day as well as your weekly, monthly, and annual goals.
- PRE-MARKET ANALYSIS
Before the markets open, plan to add a pre-market review to your routine. Set aside time to review major news announcements, earnings reports, and index charts. As you determine your potential trades, create a watch list for those trades and set alerts for when they are near your entry points.
- ENTRY RULES
The bulk of your trading plan lies in this category. As you trade, having a preset blueprint of entry rules can help you choose trades that fit within your overall strategy. These rules include determining the best market indicators for your trade, whether there will be limit orders, and what your stop-loss prices are. Furthermore, preparing a back-up plan for your trades may keep you more organized than having to make a plan B in the moment. If anything happens during a trade that isn’t your ideal scenario, you can react quickly if you develop a contingency plan.
- EXIT RULES
Your exit rules are just as important as your entry rules. While it may be tempting to stay with a trade past your original plan if the markets are moving favorably, they could change before you have a chance to exit. In your plan, note where you will place your stops as well as your risk management rules. What percent of your capital are you willing to risk? Knowing your numbers can limit the potential risk of losing more than you anticipated.
- POST-MARKET ROUTINE
Your day of trading shouldn’t end when the markets close. Be sure to log all of your trade information into your trading journal, including the market conditions, the value of the profit or loss, and the percent of the account risk. Finally, review any open trades for the next day and plan your schedule, including the time you will begin and finish trading for the day.
The more thought you put into your trading plan, the more you can set yourself up for success. Keeping a cool head and remembering your strategy minimizes the chance of making the typical trading mistakes.
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