Develop your Trading Plan Sometimes there is a misconception that you need highly evolved market knowledge and years of trading experience to be successful. However, we often see that the more information we have the more difficult it is to create a clear plan. More information tends to create hesitation and doubt, which in turn allows emotions to creep in. This can prevent you from taking a step back and looking at a situation subjectively. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. In trading, if you don’t set out a plan for your trades and develop strategies to follow you have no way to measure your success. The vast majority of people do not trade to a plan, so it’s not a mystery why they lose money. Trading with a plan is comparable to building a business. We are never going to be able to beat the market. In general it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about being profitable overall. Why a trading plan is important When trading, as in most endeavors, it’s important to start at the end and work backwards to create your plan and figure out what type of trader you should be. The most successful traders trade to a plan, and may even have several plans that work together. Always write things down. Why? Because it will help you stay focused on your trading objectives, and the less judgment we have to use the better. A plan helps you maintain discipline as a trader. It should help you trade consistently, manage your emotions, and even help to improve your trading strategy. It is also important to use your plan. Many people make the mistake of spending all their time creating a plan, then never implementing it. Key components to develop a trading plan Trading plan structure and monetary goals Research and education Strategy using fundamental and technical tools Money and risk management Timing Trade mechanics, documentation, and testing How to build a trading plan Make sure you do your own research and build a plan according to your needs. Find confidence in what you know. The tools you have selected for your strategy are key, from the type of chart to the specific drawing tools to even the most elaborate of strategies. Test your plan in the beginning to make sure you are on the right track. After you have begun trading, continue testing it regularly. This allows you to measure your success by clearly seeing what works and what does not work. From there you can tweak elements that might be weaker and not contributing to your overall goal. Ask yourself the following questions (The answers to these will assist you in the foundation for your trading plan and should be referred back to regularly to insure that you are on track with your plan.) Why am I trading? If your immediate answer is, “to make money” you should stop right there. If the only goal is to make as much money as fast as we can, we are ultimately doomed, because it will never be enough. Managing your losses should be your primary goal. This will create an environment in which profits can be generated. What is your motivation? Solid retirement? New career? Spend more time with family and friends? Ask yourself, “What are my strengths and weaknesses?” How do I maximize my strengths to minimize my weaknesses? An example of a weakness is a need to constantly watch one’s trades. Is your laptop on the pillow, waking you up in the middle of the night to monitor trades? It’s really difficult to make intelligent decisions when you’re half awake. Is the amount of money I have to trade with sensible to achieve my goals? Look at things in percentages; remember leverage is a double-edged sword. That is why risk and money management are key. Deciding what type of trader you are can be tough; especially since the trader you want to be can be very different from the type of trader you should be based on your behaviors and characteristics. Once you have laid out your goals, risk appetite, strengths, and weaknesses it should become apparent which type of trading fits you best. You will notice three columns in the chart; they are labeled short, base and long. Base equals the timeframe charts you spend the majority of your time, if you are not sure, this is the timeframe chart that you keep going back to. Short and long are the timeframe charts that you refer to confirming or denying what is happening in the base timeframe chart. A common mistake traders make is jumping around randomly between chart timeframes.