The Top 3 Elements Found In All Good Trading Plans

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Hey everyone! 👋

This month, in preparation for the new year, we have been theming our posts around the concept of building a solid trading plan. Our first post asked you to think about the kinds of factors that can predict long term success. Our second post looked at why trading plans are so important. Both of these posts you can find linked at the end 👇

Having talked about the *what* and the *why*, it’s time to talk about the *how*.
Today we will be taking a look at the top 3 elements found in all good trading plans!

1️⃣ Element 1: Every good trading plan knows why it wins.

In trading, there are two variables that matter: Bat Rate, and Win / Loss.
► Bat Rate describes what percentage of the time a trade ends up as a win. A trader with a 90% bat rate wins 9 out of every 10 trades.
► Win / Loss describes how big the average win is, relative to the average loss. A trader with a 0.5 Win / Loss takes losses twice the size of his wins.
If you multiply these numbers together, you will get an “Expected Value”.
For example, a trader with a Bat Rate of 50% (wins half of the time) and a Win / Loss of 1 (Losses the same size as wins) is a perfectly “Breakeven” trader.

In order to make money in the long term, all you need to do is make the multiplication of these values be a positive value. The breakeven trader above only needs to win 51% of trades to begin making money, if his W/L remains constant.

☝🏽To get these numbers into positive “expected value” territory, every good trading plan needs to devise a way to systematically find trading opportunities that it thinks have an edge. The inputs of this system are completely up to the trader, but they are typically rooted in repeating price patterns, fundamental observations, macro trends, or other patterns and cycles. Backtesting can be useful here for getting a general idea of whether or not an idea for a trading strategy has borne out to be true over time.

In short, no matter what it looks like, good trading plans identify their edge before risking capital. Why start a business without a business plan?

2️⃣ Element 2: Every good trading plan takes into account the emotional character of the trader.

This is the hardest element to quantify, but also arguably one of the most important pieces of a good written trading plan - the ability to work around a trader’s individual strengths and weaknesses. This is less important for banks and hedge funds, as decisions are typically made with oversight, but for retail traders, there is no-one around to temper your personal flaws.
You can do whatever you want! - but it’s a double edged sword of responsibility that your trading plan needs to prepare you for.

In short, you can best get an idea of where you are emotionally weakest by looking at your trading history. Nobody can do this for you, so it requires quite a bit of self-awareness. However, the rewards of removing emotional risk from a trading plan make it worth the effort.

😱 All trading is based on fear. You need to understand which fear is stronger - the fear of missing out, or the fear of losing capital. Figure out which is stronger, and plan accordingly.
Just because you understand a certain strategy and other people make money trading it, doesn’t mean that you will be able to. Executing with 100% consistency at 30% efficiency is more important than finding a strategy with 100% efficiency that you can only trade with 10% consistency. Make life easy on yourself!

3️⃣ Element 3: Every good trading plan outlines risk.

Whether you have one thousand dollars or one billion dollars, ignoring risk is a sure way to experience massively increased monetary and emotional volatility, which can have a huge negative impact on long term profitability. Here are a few simple-to-implement mechanisms that Banks, Hedge Funds, and Prop Firms use to reduce risk significantly - good trading plans don’t skip these.

💵 Total Account Stop

Exactly what it sounds like: once you lose a certain percentage of your capital, you stop trading, liquidate your positions, and assess what went wrong. Only once you’re satisfied that you have fixed the issue are you allowed to re-enter the market. In the industry, this number is commonly 10%.

💵 Per Theme Risk

This ensures that you aren’t too concentrated on a single “bet”, even if the bet is spread across multiple instruments. For example, if you own multiple companies in the same sector, their performance will likely be correlated to some degree even if they have different products or services. Adding a hard cap to this type of risk can massively reduce risky or over concentrated allocations.

💵 Per Position Risk

Many successful Professional Traders and Hedge Funds use the concept of “Free Capital” in order to manage risk. “Free Capital” is the amount of money in hard dollars that makes up the buffer between an account’s current equity, and the total account stop number.

For example, If a currency trader at a bank has a 10% total account stop out, and runs a $10,000,000 currency book, then he can really only “lose” $1,000,000 before his bosses pull him aside to have a talk. His “Free Capital” is $1,000,000. He will then size his positions to where he only risks 1-5% of his Free Capital per trade. This way, he has room to be wrong a minimum of 20 times in a row before any negative consequences come his way. Implementing a “free capital” risk limit per position ensures that you have a TON of room for error.

Yes, this typically prevents you from doubling your account overnight, but again, that isn’t the goal. Long term profitability is.
Some people call this per position risk “one R” (one risk unit).

☝🏽Whatever it looks like, including a plan for managing your risk is essential for *actually* managing your risk. If these plans aren’t written out and acted upon, they’re also a lot easier to ignore.

🙏🏽 Thanks for reading; we are looking forward to making 2022 a record setting year with you. 📈
If you got something out of this, make sure to share it with a friend, so they can also go into 2022 a better trader! 🍀

- The TradingView Team ❤️❤️

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