Dealing with Distraction in Forex Trading

Monday, July 16, 2012
When you sit down to place a Forex trade, do you find it difficult to concentrate some days? If so, you probably should do something about it, since trading the currency market when your head isn’t in the game is a pretty good way to lose money. When you’re unfocused, you could make a poor decision which you wouldn’t usually make if you were thinking straight. You might miss key elements of what’s going on if your mind is elsewhere. Here are some tips for dealing with distraction when you’re trading the FX market.
  • When you’re trading, don’t do anything except trade. That doesn’t mean if you’re in a trade for hours, days, or longer than you should sit in front of your computer all day. It simply means when you’re actually placing an entry or sitting down at your computer to analyze the trade you’re in and make a decision about it, that you shouldn’t also be watching television or browsing videos online. It may help you to actually make a list of Forex-related websites which you can browse while you’re trading so you won’t get distracted surfing the internet trying to answer a question.
  • Let other people in your home know what you’re doing. Make it clear to others how important your trading is, and explain that if you are distracted while you’re working, you could lose focus and consequently money. Others should understand you need a quiet, focused environment while you’re dealing with the market.
  • Keep your workplace clean and uncluttered. Try to keep materials around you limited to trading materials while you’re working. Some people also like to put on music while they trade — some music might distract you but other music might keep you focused. Classical music is a popular choice.
  • Deal with potentially stressful activities after you do your trading, if that is possible. If you think you might find a distracting message from your ex in your email inbox for example, it’s probably best not to bother with your email until after you’ve done your trading. The last thing you want to do is trade while thinking about an unrelated and emotionally unsettling issue. In fact, if there’s nothing you can do about being really stressed out right now, you might consider taking a day off trading altogether so you can get your focus back.
The foreign exchange market is a great way to earn consistent profits, but you can only do that if the most important ingredient in your trading system is working — and that’s you. Being distracted while trading Forex is a recipe for disaster, and if you allow it to happen continuously you’ll be building up bad habits. So address issues of distraction now and start building good habits instead. Those good habits will help you to not only become profitable in the short term but also to create long term success and become a more focused individual altogether. Increased discipline and confidence can be another great outcome of FX trading!

If you have any ideas on dealing with distractions when trading currencies, please feel free to share them using the commentary form below.

When Should You Give Up on Forex Trading?

Monday, July 9, 2012
It’s not a pleasant subject, but it’s one that comes up often among Forex traders — when is it time to quit? The fact is that this is a field in which many people try, but few actually succeed. The failure rate among Forex traders is estimated to be higher than 95 percent (possibly even higher than that). Considering that, the odds are weighted heavily against you. The foreign exchange market is a tough place to cut it, and not only that, but trading can have an addicting effect on many people. There is a strong element of chance which is always present when you trade currencies, and so for many people who have lost a lot, it becomes a gamble to try and get back on top. Many people trade for years and years without becoming profitable. When do you call it quits and move on with your life?

This is actually a two-dimensional question that doesn’t take into account a lot of factors that play in your favor — the biggest one being the ability to demo test without investing a dime of your own money. When is it time to quit trading live? If you aren’t consistently profitable, and your wins and losses are both the result of chance, or your system isn’t working, it’s definitely time to quit trading with real money, but it’s not necessarily time to quit trading FX altogether. If trading is taking over your whole life, it’s time to take a break from trading live as well-and maybe even a break from demo testing, at least until you get your life in order. This is true even if you are profitable.

It’s important to realize that even people who are good at Forex and successful at it usually take years to get to that point. Those years are generally full of pitfalls and failures on the way to success. So if you’ve been struggling, it could mean Forex isn’t for you, but it could very well mean the opposite. You could just be struggling along the road to success and profitability. You shouldn’t be investing real money if you aren’t doing well, however, not when you can trade with virtual money for as long as you want or need. Take the pressure off your finances, learn responsibility and patience, and demo test until you are profitable if you still think FX is for you. It’ll pay off hugely in the long run. In other words, don’t cut yourself out of the running too soon — try and figure out if trading really isn’t for you or if you’re just going through a rough patch before you give up.

Anything, even profitable currency trading, can become addictive (most people have met at least one workaholic in their lives). It’s important that whether you have real money on the line or not, and regardless of whether you’re winning or losing, you learn to maintain a proper balance between trading and other activities in your life. Lead a full, rich life, and you’ll be far more likely to cultivate the right attitude for success in the market and in your other pursuits.

How Long to Demo Test Forex

Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Before you trade live with Forex, you’re going to need to demo test for a while. This is true whether you’re using fundamental or technical analysis, price action, or some other method of determining your Forex trades. It’s true whether you’ve traded another commodity before or not. It’s also true whether you’ve backtested or not. A lot of beginners ask how long it’s going to be before they can become live traders, and the answer is usually, «Longer than you think.» Beyond that it’s going to vary with every person. About how long should you plan on demo testing before you go live?

If you’re demo testing, you’ve probably already established some kind of trading method which was successful in backtesting, at least to some degree. If you have a solid foundation, you can open an account with a Forex broker and trade virtual money for free, usually indefinitely, before you invest real money in the foreign exchange market. How long you demo test is going to depend in part upon the timeframe you are going to be trading. Position traders who stay in Forex trades for weeks or months obviously will have to demo longer than interday traders who stay in trades for hours or days. Even if you’re doing intraday trading on very short time periods or scalping, however, you should plan to demo test for at least a few months before you go live.

Why demo test that long, even if you’re trading on a fast timeframe? Demo testing is about more than just proving your method works successfully and consistently in real time (though that’s the biggest part of it). It’s also about getting to know yourself as a trader. While demo testing Forex, you’re going to encounter a lot of unexpected situations. You might discover that you can only trade during certain days or hours for example — that’s something you probably overlooked with your backtests. You may find that you are too tired to trade during nighttime hours, even though you backtested that time period. Or you might find out that you have to set up a complex alert system to know when to trade. Maybe you didn’t realize how stressful trading could be in real time. There are a lot of reasons that you may find trading more difficult in demo phase.

It’s important to iron out as many of those issues as you can during the Forex demo phase, while you don’t have real money on the line. Once you deal with those complexities and understand how trading will fit into your real life and you are consistently profitable for several months, you may be ready to trade. Four to six months is a good timeframe to demo before going live (that’s four to six months of consistent profit). At a very minimum, shoot for two to three months. And remember you can always go back to demo testing if things don’t work out when you go live — it’s very common and it happens with a lot of Forex traders. You’ll also probably routinely go back to demo every time you have to make a modification to your trading method.

Factors That Affect Forex Exchange Rates

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Whether you’re going to be using fundamental analysis or not in your trading, you’re probably curious about the factors which affect Forex exchange rates. If you’re relatively new to trading, this is a subject you may not be well versed in. The economic factors surrounding Forex are myriad and complex, so you may never have a thorough understanding of them (plenty of successful traders don’t), but the more thorough your understanding is, the more useful knowledge you have at your disposal.

Some of the main factors which affect Forex exchange rates include interest, inflation, trade balance, speculation, foreign investment, and central bank intervention. Interest rates and inflation are interlinked concepts. When inflation is high, central banks in countries may raise the interest rate for borrowing money, which reduces consumer spending in turn. When inflation is low, central banks may drop interest rates to indirectly encourage consumer spending. Currencies that have higher interest rates offer a more substantial return, so oftentimes Forex investors will buy into them and sell currencies with low interest rates to make a profit. Doing this over an extended time period is known as a carry trade.

Balance of trade (a country’s imports vs. that same country’s exports) may also impact the level of demand for its currency. When a country exports more than it imports, that country has a positive trade balance, and there is more demand for that country’s currency on the Forex market.

Speculation from large and small investors may also impact the values of currencies. Traditionally it has been large investors that really move the market (usually not private traders), though retail spot Forex traders now have more of a measurable impact than they used to. Traders speculate based off of many different things including economic reports and news. Similarly, investors often flock to currencies they perceive as «safe.» For a long time that was the US dollar. When confidence in a currency drops, investors sell that currency off. Both actions can impact the value of the currency.

Finally, raising and lower interest rates aren’t the only way in which central banks can intervene with their respective economies and alter the values of currencies. Central banks may also engage in quantitative easing, which is a last resort to resolving economic difficulties if lowering interest rates fails. This is a way in which central banks can increase the liquidity of a country’s banking system. Too much of this and the country’s currency may lose value, which is why it is risky and a last resort.

As you can see, there are many different factors which drive the fluctuating prices on the foreign exchange market. To actually trade fundamentals involves a tremendous amount of research; even among professional economists there is a great deal of disagreement as to how things really work. Nonetheless, trading fundamentals does work well for some Forex traders. Whatever you choose to do, do thorough backtests and demo tests before you trade with real money. Never speculate wildly-have a method in place for your decisions.

Questions to Ask Before Opening Forex Account

Monday, April 23, 2012
Before opening a Forex account, there are some questions you need to ask and some features you need to carefully examine. Everyone has unique needs, and every broker caters to different ones. The longer you are part of the trading world and the more time you spend testing before opening an account, the more familiar you will be with Forex brokers, and the less likely you’ll be to make a mistake when selecting yours. Considering however that you will need to demo test on your new broker’s platform for months before going live, you probably want to figure out what broker you’re going to use early on in the process. Here are some things to look for and consider:

  • Is the Forex broker registered with the National Futures Association (or other applicable regulatory agencies)? Is the broker accredited by the Better Business Bureau?
  • How long has the broker been around? What kind of track record do they have? Check out customer reviews — take them worth a grain of salt in some cases. Some reviews are dishonest (traders love to blame brokers for their own failures), but others may give you a good idea of what you’d be dealing with.
  • How is the broker doing financially? You don’t want to sign up with a broker who is at risk of going under.
  • How do you add or remove funds from your Forex account? How long can you expect it to take, and are there any minimums you should be aware of? Since this is your money it is very important that it is accessible!
  • Find out how the broker makes money. Are the spreads fixed or variable? How do they compare with the spreads charged by other Forex brokers? How much can the spreads expand during volatile times? How much slippage can you expect? Do you need to pay commissions, or are the spreads the only fees for trading? Does the company charge «maintenance» or other miscellaneous fees? Is there a minimum required balance or a minimum required number of trades per month?
  • Does the broker offer the leverage you need? How does the broker handle margin calls? Some brokers give you a warning — others just close your account. There are many ways this issue can be handled and it is extremely important for you to know all the details.
  • Do you need to trade a certain minimum lot size? Or can you trade as much or little money as you wish? This is especially important for traders who do not have a substantial amount of money to fund their Forex accounts.
  • Will the platform be sufficient for you? You’ll be demo testing to make sure that you’re satisfied with the platform and that the broker performs at the level you hoped, but a cursory look can tell you whether the platform is likely to cut it or not. Don’t forget that you can use another charting platform to plan your trades, like MetaTrader. You’ll still be executing them with your broker’s platform.
  • Test out customer service. Ask questions while you’re testing to make sure that the company responds quickly and is friendly and helpful! You may be used to poor service at your bank, but good Forex brokers offer a much higher standard of service, so look for it and demand it.

If you have any comments regarding opening a Forex account, please feel free to post them here.

Benefits of a Forex Community

Thursday, March 29, 2012
When you’re getting into Forex, one thing which you may overlook is the value of having a community. There are many different Forex communities online, and while you may think of investing as a competitive activity by nature, you will be surprised to discover just how cooperative and friendly the Forex online community can be. What are some of the benefits of joining a community and getting to know some of your fellow traders?

Having a community gives you access to a whole plethora of resources which you would not otherwise have. You may be tempted to go it alone, but you will be able to learn far more trading strategies and methods from others than you would on your own, and you’ll also have a chance to hear first-hand how they worked out for others. If you need help on a particular method or system, you’ll be able to speak to other traders at various levels of experiences who are working on using that system or have used it successfully for a long time. This can help you to solve problems with your Forex trading much faster than just reading ebooks! Best of all, most Forex communities are free, so the knowledge which you receive will be free as well. You can get a lot more out of a free community with an open exchange of information than you can paying for a system. If you do decide to pay for a system, you will be able to turn to the community to find out which systems or training programs are worth the money. A Forex community also provides a platform for reviewing brokers.

A community also gives you accountability. Many traders routinely report their progress (or lack thereof) to their fellow traders online. It can be a challenge to maintain discipline and keep working on something when you are likely to make many mistakes and experience many setbacks along the way. Forex traders often place their trades together and alert each other to trading opportunities. Being able to trade alongside someone else can help you to stay focused and not miss Forex opportunities. It will also make you less likely to revert to negative behaviors like gambling and unnecessary risk-taking since your loss could become someone else’s loss as well.

community of Forex traders can provide you with encouragement along the way and can assist you in developing greater self awareness. One thing which you will notice about Forex traders online is that many of them are generous with their knowledge — while you are certainly involved with Forex in order to further your own gains, you will learn just as much from the examples of generosity you discover in others around you. The gain of one can become the gain of many — and just as other Forex traders help you out while you’re getting started, you will one day be able to lend a hand to someone else who is entering the world of trading.

Managing Risk in Forex

Thursday, March 1, 2012
How much is too much to risk on a Forex trade? A lot of beginners don’t hesitate to risk a huge percentage of their bankroll on a trade — after all, one of the reasons that many new traders turn to the FX market is that they are able to control more money than they actually have using leverage. The reality though is that professional traders usually risk only a tiny percentage of their bankroll. Even 5-10% is too much for most traders. A better percentage to aim for is 1-2.5%. Whatever percentage you do go with, you should stick with it and be consistent. The last thing you want to do is wildly risk more on some trades than others — while you may think you have a «basis» for such a decision, it’s behavior which will quickly degenerate into gambling.

Why shouldn’t you risk a lot on your trades? The bigger your drawdown, the harder it is to recover. Let’s say for example that you open a Forex account with $1,000.00 (this is barely enough to get started; and make no mistake, if you do it right with this amount it will be slow going for a while). Let’s then say that you decide that you’re going to risk 50% on your first trade. If you lose that trade, your drawdown is 50%, and you are down to $500.00. What do you have to do in order to recover? You don’t just have to win 50% of your current bankroll — that would only get you halfway there. You have to win 100% of your bankroll, another $500.00, to get back to your original $1,000.00 — and that’s before you can even start to profit again.

If on the other hand you only decide to risk 10% and you lose, you’ll be down to $900.00. You’ll need to profit by 11.1% to make up for it and get back to $1000.00. Note how much smaller that difference is than the difference between 50% and 100%? That’s not nearly as unmanageable. It’ll also take you a lot more losses to blow your account.

The single most important thing you can do to make money in Forex is not to lose it in the first place. Money lost is harder to make up than it was to lose — just look at the percentages. It’s a mathematical fact. If you take care of your account and protect the profits you have, then your profits will take care of themselves. You should always keep your focus on losing as few trades as possible, and making those losses as small as possible. Money management is one of the key ways you can accomplish this. This is why a conservative approach to Forex is far more likely to win than one which is aggressive and involves risking huge amounts of money. Forex takes time and patience, especially if you’re starting out with very little money, but that patience will pay off in the end if you stick with it.

3 Forex Traits for Success

Monday, February 13, 2012
What does it take to become a successful Forex trader? As a beginning Forex trader, you might think that the answer involves some combination of intellect and a great system — and maybe even luck. While all of these things play a role in Forex success, what you really want to do is rely on luck as little as possible. You can do that by cultivating personality traits which breed success — traits like consistency, patience, and self-discipline. There are some things which are more important than making money in Forex — and those are a few of them. You don’t just want to profit — you want to profit consistently.

  • Consistency. Which is better — a trade which wins and pays you nicely, but which violates all of your trade rules, or a trade which loses but conforms to your (tested and proven) trade rules? Any trade where you violate your trading method and your discipline is a trade you’ve lost — even if it makes you money, it costs you something else. Money won through luck can be lost through luck just as quickly, and if you trade arbitrarily you will blow your account in no time. There’s no such thing as a perfect system, but if yours brings in good, consistent profits, a lost trade isn’t the end of the world. Do whatever you can to never lose a Forex trade, and always be alert to whether changes in the market call for adjustments in your tactics, but never trade randomly, and don’t expect perfection — it’s unrealistic.
  • Self-discipline. This is what it takes to maintain your consistency as a Forex trader. If you can’t develop self-discipline, even the best system in the world won’t make you a profitable trader. No matter how smart you are, no matter how much you know about finance, you won’t be able to trade for a living or achieve any other trading goal. Without self-discipline and consistency, you’re only a gambler, and not a real FX trader.
  • Patience. You aren’t going to become a great Forex trader overnight. You’re not going to win all your trades that way either (unless of course you trade very short time frames!). You’re going to have to learn to be patient while your trades are in progress — trading in real time is much different than backtesting, especially psychologically. You’ll also need to get used to the idea that it’s going to take some time to get to where you can trade consistently and profitably. Many Forex traders take years to get to that place — so don’t let yourself get discouraged if you’ve had some starts and stops along the way.

Making money is obviously one of your main goals trading Forex, but it shouldn’t be your only one, since you’re not going to achieve it unless you can also achieve some other goals, like cultivating self-discipline, patience, and consistent returns. All of these are prerequisites to making money in the currency market or any other market.

Over and Under-Trading in Forex

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Following a system is a key component of succeeding at Forex, but there is really more to it than that. Your Forex system has to not only work, but be balanced-it has to be something which you can integrate into your real life, and which won’t cause you to trade in imbalanced ways. Two common problems which Forex traders face are under-trading and over-trading. While some Forex traders under- or over-trade because of trepidation, impatience or other psychological factors, many do it because their systems tell them to. How do you fix under- or over-trading when it’s built into your trading system?

Oftentimes, over-trading and under-trading are built into a system because of the context of that system. It isn’t necessarily your entry or exit rules which are causing you to take too few trades or too many — it may be that you’re looking at too many currency pairs or not enough currency pairs. Or perhaps you’re trading on a Forex timeframe which is too slow or too fast. It’s very common for new Forex traders to trade faster timeframes than they need to or should starting out, for example. If you trade a fast timeframe when you’re starting out, not only will you be inundated with more trading opportunities than you necessarily can handle, but you’ll have less time to make decisions in and, more relevantly, less time to patch up mistakes. Does this mean you have to trade a slower timeframe? Not necessarily; not every personality is suited to having all that time to think (and double guess). And again, not everyone over-trades. Many people under-trade Forex as well.

If you’re taking on more Forex trades than you can handle, consider dropping to a slower timeframe (test this first) or dropping a few currency pairs. If you don’t feel overwhelmed with information, just with trading, consider imposing some rules on yourself so that you only take a certain number of trades in a given timeframe. Then pick only the very best setups (which is what you should be doing anyway).

If you aren’t trading enough to turn a good profit and your system isn’t signaling you to take any more trades than you are now, think about moving to a faster timeframe (only if you feel comfortable doing so — and don’t forget to demo it first), or looking at more currency pairs. If you’re only taking A+ Forex setups, you’re on the right track, but you may be able to find more trades of the same high caliber simply by looking at more currency pairs or a faster timeframe where more setups form.

These are just a couple of ideas to consider which may help you to improve your Forex trading. A lot of people don’t think of simply changing the context of how they trade, and wonder if they need to revamp their whole system. It’s often not the system that’s not working, however. You may just need to change the way you apply it.

How Forex Trading Checklist Can Help You

Sunday, January 8, 2012
You’ve probably read about how a trading system and trading plan are indispensable components of your trading. Indeed, if you don’t have some kind of system or method which tells you when to enter and exit trades — get one. A checklist for trades can be a part of your trading plan. Your trading plan will help you organize when you watch the charts, when you trade, what timeframes you look at, how you manage your money, how you work with alerts and more. While your system probably has your entry and exit rules and target profit and stop-loss rules, it probably doesn’t have a full list of things to keep in mind as you trade. Nonetheless, this needs to be part of your trading plan.

Why make a trading checklist to help you keep track of what you’re doing? Trading real money (or even demo testing for some people) can be very stressful. When you’re dealing with your emotions and working on making trading decisions, the last thing you want to do is forget something simple just because it isn’t written down. A trading checklist helps you to make sure you consider all contingencies.

For example, you might have a checklist for entering a trade. This is a checklist you look at after you find a setup identified by your entry criteria and before you actually hit «buy» or «sell.» You might ask yourself whether the context around the trade looks good (unless this is already part of your entry criteria). You could also make sure you’re investing the correct percentage of your account (obvious, yes, but remember, if you’re frantically trying to place a trade to catch a move, you may not look carefully at what you’re doing — especially if your trading platform is confusing, and many are).

Some questions to ask yourself while in a Forex trade might include:

  • Did I set my alerts?
  • Have I identified important pivot areas where price could hesitate?
  • Is a new price formation occurring? Does it conflict with the old one? Are my signals telling me to do the opposite of what I’m doing now? Do the original reasons for the trade still exist, or not?
  • Am I in a retracement or an actual loss?
  • What is price doing at a higher or lower timeframe? Is the context for the trade still good?
  • Am I in a weekend trade? Do I need to move my stops to avoid being stopped out by the weekly gap when the market re-opens?

This is just an example — what you put in your checklist could vary quite a bit. Your checklist could include not only considerations about the trade itself but considerations about yourself. If you have a tendency to hang onto losing trades when you should let them go, you could even ask yourself in your checklist if you are doing so, and include a reminder about the ways in which your emotions tend to impact your trading. Your checklist not only checks your trading, but also checks you. It’s a form of accountability, and it makes trading much easier to manage when emotions run high.