There are some common mistakes I’ve seen traders make in the area of money management. First, let’s understand what money management is all about.
Money management overlaps with risk, trade, business, and personal management, yet it has many aspects that make it unique, distinctly different from all of the other areas of management. In this article we want to examine some areas of money management that seem to involve mental quirks leading to costly mistakes.
Listening to Opinion
Kim has entered a short position in crude oil after carefully studying as many factors as she could reasonably include while making her decision to trade. She has entered the trade because her study of the underlying fundamentals has her convinced that crude oil prices must soon begin to fall. Then Kim turns on her television set and begins to watch one of the financial news stations. An “expert” in crude oil is being interviewed. He begins to talk about how crude oil inventories are almost certain to drop this year because oil companies are not doing as much exploration as they have in previous years. Kim listens intently to what he has to say and then begins to doubt her decision about the trade she has entered. The more she thinks about it, the more panicky she becomes. She considers abandoning her position even though she will end up with a loss. The fact that an “expert” has decided something else completely shakes her confidence. She exits the trade intraday and takes a $400 loss. Prices have not come near her protective stop, which was $700 away from her entry. The market never moves sufficiently far to have taken out her stop. By the end of the day, her crude oil futures have made a new low, and in the following days explodes into a genuine bear market. Instead of a magnificent win, Kim has a loss. The loss is more than money, she has lost confidence in herself.
What should be done?
You should set your own trading guidelines and trade what you see. Forget about opinion, your own and especially that of others. Unless you are one of a very rare breed whose opinions are sufficiently good for trading, do not trade on them.
Make an evaluation based on the facts you have and then go with the trade. Just be sure you have a strategy for extricating yourself before losses become big. Had Kim stayed with her original strategy and stop placement, she would have ended up a happy winner instead of a regretful loser.
Taking too Big a Bite
Biting off more than can be chewed is a weakness of many traders. This form of over trading derives from greed and failing to have clearly defined trading objectives. Trading only to “make money” is not sufficient.
Pete has sold short T-Bonds and is now ahead by a full point. He notes that he is making money on his trade. Feeling very confident and thinking it would be smart to be diversified, he enters a long position in silver futures, and also sells short Call options of wheat which he is sure is headed down. Almost as soon he is in the market, wheat prices explode upward and his Calls are in trouble. Pete buys back the losing short Calls and sells additional Calls on a two-for-one basis at a higher strike price. At the end of the day he looks at other positions. Silver had an intraday reversal leaving a spiked bottom as they close at the high of the day. The T-Bonds have made an inside day, but to Pete they suddenly look weak, he is down a few ticks. At the end of the day, he finds that most of the money he had made on his short T-Bonds was used to buy back the short wheat Call options. He covered those and now has additional premium in his account, but he also has additional risk, and is short Calls in a rising market – not an enviable position. Moreover, he is now worried about his long silver futures based on the fact that silver closed at its lows on what seems to be a genuine reversal. To further aggravate the situation, he has lost confidence in himself. What was once a happy, simple, winning silver long, has now become an ugly, confusing mess, and Pete has a good chance of ending up a loser on all three trades. If Pete keeps over-trading in this fashion, he could end up like the poor fellow in the picture.
What should be done?
Break every trade into definitive goals. Make sure you achieve those goals before adding other positions. Even with a single short sale of the T-Bonds, Pete could have set himself a goal for the trade. One or two full points might have been all he needed to satisfactorily retire that trade as a winner. Then he could have made his trading decision for an additional position. There are very few traders who can successfully manage multiple positions in a variety of markets.