have a game plan
In the beginning, when you’re feeling your way, a plan will likely be relatively simple. Still, it should contain at least three elements:
–what you intend to do
–why what you’re doing will enable you to make money, and
–how you are going to measure your performance.
In all likelihood, a trading process will include a healthy dose of technical analysis, which in its saner elements is an effort to read the short-term emotional mood of the market.
Take the case of Tesla (TSLA), where investors seem to alternate between bouts of severe depression and wild enthusiasm. The plan may consist simply of buying TSLA at, say, $200-, when spirits are flagging, and selling at $250+, when owners are dancing in the streets.
Or it could be that you’ve held Amazon (AMZN) for years. You observe that the stock is travelling in an upward-sloping channel that’s now bounded on the low side at, say, $750 and on the high side at $850. You might decide you can trade around a core position by selling some of what you own above $850 and buying below $750.
the source of profits
Ultimately you have to believe that something you do gives you an edge over the average investor. Maybe you are very familiar with the price action of a certain stock because you’ve owned it for a long time. Maybe your work gives you insight into the publicly traded companies in a given industry or geographical area. Maybe you think that rising trading volume always precedes rising/falling price and you use screens to identify stocks where this is happening.
There’s a very strong tendency among even professional investors to remember successes vividly but brush losses under the rug. Because of this, it’s essential to measure how you’re doing, both in absolute terms and relative to the performance of a benchmark index on at least a monthly basis.
This is also the best way to identify your strengths and, more importantly, the mistakes you are prone to. Everyone has something in this second category. Simply no longer doing stuff that you always lose money on can give a big boost to performance. I know this sounds silly, but I can’t think of a single professional I’ve known over the years who hasn’t had to deal with eliminating a chronic bad investment habit.
More on Monday.