Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another great post from a great poster

I've been trading for a living for many years. Using robust methods that have worked for decades, and I trust will continue for more decades. I've had good years and slow years, while very successful over the long haul, thought I better tell those who think that trading can replace their job have the better odds winning the Powerball. Really! There are hundreds more who have won big in the Powerball than actually earn their money from private trading.

Thinking otherwise is denying reality and the facts. It is easy to ignore because the facts about trading are difficult to dig out, and only the determined care to find out anything or succeed at anything worthwhile.

After reading many posts in these threads, I decided I had to weigh in on a couple of things. I would have to agree with -Isotonic- that a very small subset of posters are actually trading for a living.

Most of my friends are traders, many of whom I helped bring into the winning fraternity. We all have to keep on our game every day, 100% , or some mistake could eradicate months or years of progress.

"Making a living" is very much a similar question as of what "is" is.

All of the professional traders I know, whether they trade forex or futures markets, do not make "so much per day". That is a phrase used by marketers, because they know what beginners are looking for, and that is a steady income so they can get rid of their jobs. Money from the market that you can count on does not come steady or nicely "so much per day". Real traders make profits, budget their expenses, save some profits, add some profits to their accounts for further building of the account, etc. Just like any business, which is what real trading is.

Most of the trading setups that you see bandied about are "tricks". Most "tricks" have small edges, and trading them continually teaches little about the big picture, and the big picture is where the big money is made. When a marketer is trying to separate you from your money, he is likely promoting a "trick".

Nothing wrong with trading these "tricks", if you know that they have a strong, provable edge. But, to know that a "trick" has a definable edge, you already have to have an underlying construct or context to compare and/or use that edge.

Almost like the chicken and the egg. To know something has an edge you have to know what an edge is.

Quickly, name all your friends who have that going for them. A couple of great trades, or a month of great trades, or a year of great trades is nowhere near enough. To make 50 thousand-plus trades and be ahead, to be able to survive years of changing markets, politicians, governments, wives, ex-wives, good health, bad health--- while trading profitably is what you need from an edge.

Private, profitable traders (those who've done the above) can tell you their edge immediately, and can prove it. Unfortunately, this set of traders is very small, estimated a few years ago by a research company at less than 800 in America--- and most of you reading this will never among them. And that is not a bad thing. That doesn't mean that you won't make money from your trading. You might even have more richness in your life by doing something else than trade.

I will tell the only way a trader is able to make $1,000,000 from trading.

Here's an example of 10 thousand trades. Of these trades, you might lose on 6000 of them for small losses, win on 3800 of them for moderate profits, and win fairly big on 200 of them. You make your million from this series of trades by losing only $9 million on your total of losing trades while making $10 million dollars on your total of profitable trades. This means averaging $50 a trade per lot or contract (in the case of futures), which is really good after expenses. Very doable with robust methods. And, you have to stay on your game or you won't do this well.

But this is nothing like you've been promised by the "gurus" and promoters of the "money per day" foolishness.

Trading for a living is demanding mistress. Read on if you can stand it.

99% of my success has come from trading and working breakouts. Primarily larger breakouts. Why? They work!

When you learn that breakouts "work" as a trading concept, over the years you continually seek the best breakouts like seasoned surfers all continually seek the best waves. The best breakouts use and highly reward your acquired skills better than lesser ones. Then you stay trading in the zone where the greatest edge is and trade the best breakouts and ignore less useful ones.

For, example, I know that the Vegas material (I have no personal connection with him whatsoever) dealing with the one hour tunnel has a firm statistical edge. A rock-solid statistical edge.

But it takes a professional to trade it. And the method's breakouts are small in expectation relative to others available. But, as in most tradeoff situations, there are more of them.

I wouldn't have any problem encouraging someone to follow the concept for trading. But, I would be willing to bet that less than 1 percent of the people who have downloaded his material are trading it, and probably an equally small percentage of them will profit long term from trading with it.

Trading as a lifestyle is like being a fireman who gets paid per fire. You don't make any money until a fire happens, and you don't make any money if you die in the fire or quit before the fire is over.

I know that posting this may not encourage trading as a career, but if I can shine a little light on the reality of trading, I'm happy to do it. I wish someone had illuminated for me what I was in for 25 years ago when I got serious. It wouldn't have stopped me for a second, but it would have helped me prepare for the future differently.

I know that anything I could say would never discourage someone who is meant to be a trader, because nothing can dissuade a real trader, which is as it should be.

I personally love trading, and believe that it is the one thing I am best suited to do on earth. There are times trading is fun, but mostly it is details, details, and risk management. The best times are after a long trading campaign (fire) and you are relatively flat for a while. You can take time to get perspective. And get mentally prepared for the next one.

Most people think that communities like this forum make it easier to learn how to trade, but I am certain the opposite is true. If most of the posts are from non-winners the only logical reaction for an individual who wishes to win is fade the advice you see in these forums.

Everyone posting has a motive, even me. Most motives are simple self promotion, aspiring traders trying to make themselves feel good, look smart. A few posters have the motive to help others. Many figure that if they can't win, maybe they can help someone else and that makes them a winner somehow. Maybe so. But likely it is a case of the blind leading the blind.

I'd bet you'd rather make money from trading the markets the way things really are, not the way some very literate, but non-winner says they are. Think of that the next time you read a "helpful" post. 99.9% odds the post is from a non-winner.

Trading is a solitary business, with few peer get-togethers except by phone. And when you get discovered by people hoping to accomplish what you've done with extreme care and trial by fire (amazing fireman analogy again!) they demand your help and time (hard won by now) but don't want to compensate you because they think you should just give to them because you've been so fortunate.

Perhaps this missive will be useful to someone. If no one believes it, that is ok too.