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Building a Winning Trading Plan

There is an old saying in business If you fail to plan you plan to fail.  Ask any trader who makes money on a consistent basis and they will tell you You have two choices: you can either follow a plan or you can fail. That is it in a nutshell.  If you have a written trading plan already congratulations! While it is still no guarantee for success a plan is better than none at all.  If your plan is flawed at least you have something that can be adjusted.  Your success would not come immediately but at least you are in a position to chart and modify your trading activity.  By documenting the process you learn what works and how to avoid repeating costly mistakes.  If you have a plan super keep modifying it. If you do not I have listed some ideas that can help you get started. 

Assess Your Skills
Ask yourself the following questions: Am I ready to trade Have I tested my system on paper before using my real money Do I have confidence that my system is going to work Can I follow my signals without hesitation If you can answer these questions with an honest yes then you are ready to take that first step and begin trading for a living.  The stock market is set up to separate you from your money and transfer wealth to the professional trader.  Trading is a battle of give and take. The real pros are prepared and they take their profits from the rest of the crowd who seem content to hand their cash over.  These novice traders lacking a plan give their money away through costly mistakes.  This may sound brutal but I have got to tell it like it is.  It is your job to take the crowds money from them and make them pay dearly for their mistakes.  The market does not tolerate people who lack respect for it.  The crowd lacks respect for the market and for this they will pay.  Always respect the market and never become complacent.  Always look for the edge look for the advantage.  Your cash is on the line you cannot let them take it from you. 

Mental Preparation
How do you feel Do you feel up to the challenge ahead If you are not emotionally and psychologically ready to do battle in the market it is better to take the day off or otherwise risk unnecessary losses.  Trading is financial war.  It is you against everyone else.  When you enter your trading room there are millions of people trying to take your cash by getting the better of you in a trade.  For every trade you make there is somebody on the other side of the trade who thinks you are wrong and they are right.  Only one of you can be right and they have no mercy.  I remember what my martial arts instructor told me years ago while I was training for a big tournament.  He said For every hour you are not training your opponent is in the gym training with one purpose in mind and that is to beat you. Trading is the same way it is a constant learning process and when you are not doing all you can do to better your trading your opponent is.  Without mental preparation you will lose.  If you are angry hungover preoccupied or otherwise distracted from the task at hand you cannot consistently make money. Many traders have a routine before each market day that prepares them for the day ahead. You must do this also. Create one that puts you in the trading zone. 

Set Some Goals
Before you enter a trade make sure you have a risk/reward ratio that makes sense.  Many traders will not take a trade unless the potential profit is at least three times greater than the risk. For example if your stop loss is $1.00 below your entry point then your goal should be at least $3.00 to the upside.  If resistance is $3.00 above your entry then the trade makes good sense.  If resistance is just $1.00 above your entry then this trade has a very high risk verses reward and should not be taken in my opinion. 

Preparing for the Trade
Whatever trading system or program you use identify major and minor support and resistance levels set alerts for entry and exit signals and make sure you can easily see and detect all of the signals that your system generates. Your trading area should be free from distractions.  No small children running around and needing attention.  No trying to listen or watch that movie that you rented last night and did not finish.  No trying to catch an afternoon baseball game on TV while trying to trade.  I love baseball but I do not watch any games during market hours if one should be on.  I reserve that for the evenings only.  Remember you are trading for a living and distractions can be costly. 

Exit Rules
Most traders make the mistake of concentrating only on their buy signals and entry points and pay little attention to when and where to exit the trade.  Many beginners would not sell if they are down because they do not want to take a loss. They say It is not a loss until I sell. I got news for these people.  At the end of the day if their account value has dropped significantl

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