What Criteria Will You Use to Exit a Trade With a Loss 

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What Criteria Will You Use to Exit a Trade With a Loss

In the end it is not so much what you make when things go well that will decide your fate as a futures trader, but rather what you keep when things go poorly. Effectively cutting losses is generally considered to be the number one key to long-term success in futures trading. As a result, your answer to the question "what criteria will you use to exit a trade with a loss" may have more of an impact on your ultimate success or failure as a trader than any other single factor. If you doubt this is true then you should read (and re-read) Market Wizards by Jack Schwager. In that book Schwager interviews a number of top professional traders to get some insight into what separates them from the average trader. Several common themes are evident throughout but none more so than the need to cut losses and to keep losses small.

The truest thing that there is to know about futures trading is that there will be losing trades. There was a broker who would always discuss his "guarantee" with new clients before they made their first trade. His guarantee was this: "the only thing I can guarantee you is that there will be losing trades." Most people probably didn't care to hear this but he actually did them a favor by injecting this dose of reality into their mindset before they got started.

Nobody likes to lose money, even on a singe trade. Yet exiting a losing trade in order to cut a loss can actually be viewed as a positive step because it serves the purpose of keeping you in the game for another round. Futures trading is not about being right. It is about being right enough at times to offset all the times you were wrong and also to never be "too" wrong. Every time a trader enters a trade he hopes to make money. When a trade starts to go the wrong way many traders take it personally and have a great deal of difficulty with acknowledging that they were "wrong." Yet one of the great ironies of futures trading is that very often the best thing that" you can do is to take a loss and exit a trade before your loss becomes too big.

As with all of the other questions posed in this section there is no one right answer. You can use tight stops, you can use wide stops, you can use stops that vary depending upon volatility and so on and so forth. The key at this stage is to select some method that you will use when you have money on the line and then stick to it once you are actually trading.

A Word Of Advice: Adhere to the Four Cornerstones

As you develop answers to the questions that have been raised in this section, it can be helpful to have an underlying framework within which to fit the pieces. One example of such a framework can be referred to as The Four Cornerstones of Successful Trading. They are:

  • Go With The Trend
  • Cut Your Losses
  • Let Your Profits Run
  • Don't Let The Big Winners Get Away

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