Learning to trade is the first step in what can be one of the most financially rewarding careers in the world today. The barrier to entry is extremely low which also plays a large role in why far too many traders fail to thrive and/or even survive. On the surface, modern technology makes the business of trading seem so very simple that many traders never invest the time or energy in the most critical step of becoming a trader. That would be the part where they actually learn -
How To Trade
Whether your ultimate goal is to build your own trading business or to work for a bank or hedge fund, you must have a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding. It may sound elementary to make the statement, "To become a Trader you must learn how to trade", but that is the core of what separates those who succeed and those who don't.
Just as owning an airplane does not make you a Pilot, having money in an account does not make you a Trader. Opening an account is of course a necessary step on the "How To Trade" to-do list, but your primary step needs to be a decision as to what market or markets you will be trading and then finding the proper education that not only addresses those specific financial arenas, but also covers the very basics of trading from the ground up.
How To Trade - The Getting Started "To-Do List"
#1) Determine what you want to trade. The choices can be overwhelming.
- ETF - Exchange Traded Funds
- T Bills and other Government Backed Securities
- Precious Metals
- Commodities - Crude Oil, Livestock, Grains, Lumber, Cotton and many others
- Emini Futures - S&P 500, Dow, Nasdaq, Russell and others
- Forex - Foreign Currencies
- Currency Futures - Euro, British Pound, Yen, Canadian Dollar etc...
- Options - Stock Options, Commodity Options, Currency Options and more
Successful traders tend to have 1-3 markets or instruments as their primary focus. Each market has unique characteristics from behavior, to specific price patterns, varying hours of accessibility as well as different funding and margin requirements.
#2) Determine what type of Trader you want to train to become.
- Investor - Longer term Buy and Hold strategy.
- Day Trader - A trader who typically holds no open positions overnight.
- Swing Trader - This trader will usually hold a postion for 1 to 4 days. As with the Day trader, the Swing trader tends to look for momentum moves that are based primarily on technical analysis and price patterns.
- Position Trader - This style of trading is the complete opposite of the Day Trader and much more like the Investor with time frames that can run from weeks, to months and even years.
- Scalper - This trader is extremely focused but has a very short span of attention as his time frame may often be only 2-5 minutes and in some cases even less.
Now that you have established what you want to trade and the style of trading you want to employ, the time has come to make the most important choice of all.
- Who will you choose to train and mentor you?
- How much time are you willing to allocate to your initial training?
Make sure you choose an organization or individual with years of experience. Ask for references and verify the references. Do not make the mistake of choosing an expensive "intensive" 1 Week Course. It doesn't matter how talented or qualified the instructor is, it is simply impossible to "Learn How To Trade in 1 Week". Just the mechanical side of setting up your charts, learning to operate the DOM for order entry, running the simulator for practice trading, saving your charts, naming your templates and workspaces are only a few of the critical things you must learn up front and that alone will take more than a week.
If you already have a working knowledge of how to perform these tasks, keep in mind that all platforms are different. There is a good chance that once you choose your trainer and mentor, it may also require downloading and learning to use a new platform for both charting and execution. Either way, no matter how expensive it is, or how good it sounds, you can not learn how to trade in 1 week. Learning to trade is an ongoing journey and you should be willing to commit at least 90 days to your initial training.
Does this mean it will be 90 days before you can place a trade? No. With a top notch trainer and mentor you should be placing practice trades in the simulator where no real money is at risk by the end of week 1 or the begining of week 2. It is understandable that you are anxious to get going but it is most critical at this point that you begin to develop infinite patience and a deep well of self discipline. In the world of trading, as a beginner you are now your own boss. You call the shots and for many new traders it is the first time in their life where they have no one looking over their shoulder. The temptation to dive in and start "making money" is overwhelming. However, if you are unable to resist these impulses, your chance for success as a trader is already in question.
You have to take a fearless and searching inventory of yourself and asses if you are willing to make the commitment required to become a trader. Don't forget, money in the account does not make you a trader. It simpy makes you someone with money in an account. If you can convince yourself that you are up for the challenge, that you are willing to put forth the effort required to succeed, it is now time for your trainer and mentor to convince you that they are up for the challenge. They must be able to convince you that they are also willing to put in the time and effort, to do whatever it takes to help you achieve your goals.
Caution: No trainer or mentor can promise you financial success. If they do you need to think very carefully about the relationship you are entering and that cup of Kool-Aid you are holding. No one, no matter how experienced or talented they may be can guarantee you success. This issue is a huge red flag. During the interview get very specific. Find out exactly how many hours of training you will receive. What type of resources will be made available to you outside of the classroom? Will you have access to the trainer/mentor outside of the classroom setting? If you do need additional help, will it be readily available and if so is there an additional cost? Outside of your marriage partner this decision is at the top of your "major life events" list.
One last thing before we continue with our "How To Trade / To-Do List", I want to make sure you understand the difference between buying an indicator from a web site and actually learning how to trade. The two are as different as night and day. I'm not saying their aren't some good indicators available (and some really worthless ones), there are more of both than you can shake a trend line at. The greatest indicator, the greatest trading tool you will ever posses is your own ability to trade. Once you are able to make the statement "I know how to trade" with confidence not cockiness, you immediately rise to the top 5% on Wall Street and around the world. You become a member of an elite club that you can not buy your way into. You must earn the title of Trader.
In our next segment we will continue with our To-Do List which includes choosing the right broker, the proper software and hardware requirements along with much, much more. Sharpen your pencil we're just getting started...
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