Apprenticed Investor: The Zen of Trading
Predetermine Stops Before Opening Any Position: Sign a "prenuptial agreement" with every stock you participate in: When it hits some point you have determined before you purchased it, that's it, you're out, end of story. Once you have come to understand that you will be frequently wrong, it becomes much easier to use stop-losses and sell targets.
This is true regardless of your methodology: It may be below support or beneath a moving average, or perhaps you prefer a specific percentage amount. Some people use the prior month's low. But whatever your stop-loss method is, stick to it religiously. Why? The prenup means you are making the exit decision before you are in a trade -- while you are still neutral and objective.
Follow Discipline Religiously: The greatest rules in the world are worthless if you do not have the personal discipline to see them through. I can recall every single time I broke a trading rule of my own, and it invariably cost me money.
RealMoney's Chartman, Gary B. Smith, slavishly follows his discipline, and he notes that every time some hedge fund -- chock full of Nobel Laureates and Ivy League whiz kids -- blows up, the mea culpa is the same: If only we hadn't overrode the system.In Jack Schwager's seminal book Market Wizards, the single most important theme repeated by each of the wizards was the importance of discipline.
Keep Your Emotion In Check: Emotion is the enemy of investors, and that's why you must have a methodology that relies on objective data points, and not gut instinct. The purpose of Rules 1, 2 and 3 is to eliminate the impact of the natural human response to stress -- fear and panic -- and to avoid the flip side of the coin -- greed.
Remember, we, as a species, were never "hard-wired" for the capital markets. Our instinctive "fight or flight response" did not evolve to deal with crossing moving averages or CEOs resigning or restated earnings.
This evolutionary emotional baggage is why we want to sell at the bottom and chase stocks at the top. The money-making trade -- buying when there's blood in the streets, and selling when everyone else is clamoring to buy -- goes against every instinct you have. It requires a detached objectivity simply not possible when trading on emotion.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV