The Real Reasons Most Traders Lose Money Day Trading or Swing Trading - Trade That Swing (2024)

There are personal and psychological reasons most traders lose money, but there are also systematic ones. Not everyone can win, so traders without refined processes and mental strength will become the ones that lose. Learn why most people lose, and how certain people get into and stay in the winner’s circle.

Most people who attempt trading lose money. When I worked at a proprietary trading firm, people were regularly brought in for training and provided with capital to trade. 96% of them washed out, usually within several months. The profitable traders easily made up for all the losses of this much bigger losing group.

Here’s a one-page summary of the main reasons traders fail. More details, as well as what to do instead, are discussed below.

Real Reasons Traders Lose Money

There are a number of reasons traders lose money. Here are the reasons, broken down into sections: systematic, research/practice, trading-related, and psychological.

For a quicker read of this lengthy article, read the bolded sections. Read the bullet points for further explanation.

Systematic Reasons Most Traders Lose Money

Trading, like a sport, is a hierarchy. There are a few traders who make loads of money at the top, then there are people who make a lot, then people who make a living, people who make a little, people who breakeven, people who lose, people who lose a lot, and people who lose everything.

To be profitable, you need to climb above and be better than those breaking even. How high you climb is up to you. But because it is a hierarchy, not everyone can win. You need to be better than most traders out there, on average, to make money.

  • Think of trading like golf (or any sport), and being able to make money at it. Millions of people play golf, but only a few thousand, male and female, make good money playing on major tours around the world in any given year. Only a small subset of this make the really big money. Then there are many thousands who make a living playing on smaller tours, being pros at local golf clubs and driving ranges, and doing trick shots or long drive competitions. Then you have a bunch of part-time golfers who are really good and make some money off their friends and/or win scholarships.

    Then there are millions of others who just golf, and they range from horrible to good…but the golfers above are higher on the food chain.

    Trading works the same way. To make money at it, we need to work our way up the ladder. We need to be better than most people out there…and we need to stay there. Sometimes we are brilliant on one trade, and make money, but unless we stay better, we start losing again. Golfers who were good, but are no longer good, don’t get to keep playing at the top level. We have to perform to stay there.

    If others get better on average, we need to get better as well, or we will lose ground. Successful trading is not a destination where we get to relax once we get there. We have to continually practice and train ourselves to maintain that level. If we start lacking discipline or patience or focus, others will overtake and push us down the food chain—we make less money or start losing. Just like any sport, we aren’t going to consistently make money at trading unless we are better than most of the people we are playing against.

Most traders will lose, or make very little, in order to “pay” the profitable traders.

  • If a professional trader made $1 million last year, potentially thousands of small traders lost money or gave up profits to feed the pro’s profits. Other pros contributed to the gain as well, but on the whole, the other pros made more than they lost too.

    Think of a poker tournament with thousands of people. Most players will win some hands, and even the pros may lose a pot to a weak player occasionally, but on the whole, the money slowly shifts to the stronger players. The money the strong players make has to come from somewhere, and it comes from weaker players. Weaker players will continue to give money to the stronger players in tournaments, until on the whole, the weaker player eventually (if ever) becomes better than most, and starts making more than they buy in for.

    Trading is the same thing. Every trade we take provides an opportunity for ourselves and someone else (the person on the other side of the trade). Poor decisions over many trades means our money goes to people making better decisions (better strategies, better execution, etc). Good decisions mean more money flows to us because we took advantage of the opportunities other traders provided us with their trades/orders.

Profits are created when someone else loses money OR gives up profit. This means that you need to be better, on average, than other market participants, as discussed in the hierarchy above.

  • If you buy shares and make money, someone else sold you their shares allowing you to profit…they gave up that money to you. Without someone sacrificing those shares you never get the chance to profit. On the exit, you need someone to be there to sell to. Maybe you allow them to profit, or maybe you hand them a steaming bag of crap and they lose. Either way, on the way in and out, someone allowed you to profit or lose. And you allow others to profit or lose from your transactions. The person who does this better, over many trades, is profitable. The person on the losing side of more of these exchanges loses.
  • Not everyone can win. When you buy, others need to come in after you and be willing to pay higher prices for you to profit. This plays out on all time frames. If you buy and no one comes in after or the sellers are stronger and are willing to sell at lower prices, the price moves against you and you face a loss. Prices don’t move on their own. Buyers and sellers (individuals) push prices, creating losses and profits for those involved, and opportunities to win or lose for those about to get involved. For traders to profit they need to be better at capitalizing on those opportunities than others.
  • Pros regularly have losses, just like losing traders, but on average pros make better decisions. The pro held a little longer, squeezing out more profit, not allowing another trader into the position (had the pro sold, someone else would have had the opportunity to profit).

    Or the pro sold quickly, cut their loss, and handed off a weak trade to someone else.

    Or the pro grabs the last few shares as the price starts rising out of a pullback (on average, if that’s their strategy), not allowing a slower trader in. Anyone buying after them gets in at a worse price and has slightly less profit potential. Since there are pros with all types of strategies for whatever the price does, there are pros everywhere beating less-experienced traders to the punch in terms of getting shares when things look good and using less-experienced traders’ orders to get out when the tides turn.

    • I have heard the argument “But what about a highly liquid stock or forex pair? I can get in or out whenever I please. So how can anyone else beat me to the punch?” Correct, there are shares for maybe one or a few people at each price level (depending on how big of a trader they are), but there are thousands of people trading at any given moment. If your strategy tells you to get in at a specific price, there are only so many shares near that level. If you buy all of them, others can’t get in at the same price (at least not at that exact second). If many people wanted in at that level, only the fastest gets the shares (could be an order placed in advance…doesn’t mean you have to sit in front of your computer), and everyone else is left out.

      When you exit, you exit on the shares available. But if everyone wants out at once, the fastest traders get out first. Or better yet, the pros likely saw the danger and sold before the panic. As the selling continues the price drops and those that are slower to react get lower and lower prices and or more slippage. No matter the instrument, and no matter how much liquidity there is, it is always still about who makes better decisions, and who gets shares/contracts/lots at better prices for both buying and selling. You have to be better than others at doing it.

    • The chart example below shows this. A massive amount of buyers created a price spike and allowed loads of prior buyers to sell and exit their position. The newer buyers allowed potentially big profits for the sellers (who bought earlier). Had the buyers not stepped in, the price would not have risen and there would be no profit for anyone trying to sell. The buyers created a profit opportunity for the sellers. This is a simplified explanation, but there is a clear wealth transfer that occurs. Every transaction is an example of this. Over many trades, the results show who made better decisions.

      Also, consider that there were limited shares at each level as the price started to rise. Those that acted the quickest got better prices. Those that reacted later bought at higher and higher prices, with reduced profit potential. Eventually, someone bought right at the top (and someone sold to them)…and no one followed them in. The race then starts the other way. Once the buyers started only buying at lower (not higher) prices, people started selling at lower prices to find willing buyers. The quickest sellers got out near the highs, and those that are slower got out lower and lower. NOT EVERYONE CAN SELL AT THE TOP. Those that got in earlier than most, and out earlier than most, faired ok. Those that weren’t as quick lost money. Over many trades, this creates a hierarchy.

    • This chart also emphasizes the point that profits are only made if others follow you in. For the early buyers, they had followers. The higher the price went, fewer and fewer buyers followed them in. Eventually, sellers overwhelmed the buying interest, and the buyers backed off. They were willing to buy at lower prices, but no longer at higher prices.

Charts are provided by– the charts I personally use.

The chart above looks like an extreme scenario. Yet, this is actually playing out every second of every day.

  • Every up-and-down gyration in every stock, currency pair, option, bond, or futures contract is created by people buying and selling. There HAS TO BE people who got better prices and people who got worse prices, and then as the inevitable ups and downs continue there will be people who sell at better prices and at worse prices.
  • If you aren’t better than most at getting better prices than what other traders get on the way in and out, on average, then you won’t be a successful trader. I say “on average” because” every trader has lots of losing trades. We need to be good enough on the trades we win to overcome those losses (this is called risk/reward). We need to be better than others to be able to get in and out with a profit, on average, in this battle for prices (this is where Stock Strategies or Forex Strategies come in). Most traders buy too late or too early, and sell too early or too late (to create their own entries profitable, on average), thus handing over profit opportunities to others instead of capitalizing themselves. This is discussed more in the sections below.

The financial market is one of the only places where no matter how much experience or money you have, and no matter where you come from or what you do in life, you can play with the pros as soon as you open an account and place a trade. That is pretty cool. It is also dangerous. Don’t assume the ease of opening an account and getting into the game equates to ease in winning. There are strong systematic forces that keep most traders in the losing column.

Most traders don’t put dedicated time into a method. Being a good trader takes at least 6 months for a small few, and a year or more for most. Expecting to put in at least several months of hard work will save many people from quitting before they gain the experience needed to be successful.

  • To be good at anything takes time. Most traders don’t put in enough time to become good. Most want-to-be traders left the trading firm I worked at within a couple of months. People who ended up being successful typically took AT LEAST 6 to 12 months before they started seeing profits consistently. Had people put in more time, they would have increased their chance of success…and if they practiced correctly (discussed later).
    • Aim to put in at least 6 months of dedicated daily practice and research into YOUR method of trading (reading the news, trading groups, or books isn’t research into YOUR method).
    • Really quick success is usually due to luck or very favorable market conditions (easy money). Most of 2020 and 2021, for example, was the easiest money environment in a decade, and it lured in many new traders who now believe trading is easy. Most of those profits will transition back into the pro’s pockets over time (although some of the new traders will join the ranks of the pros, and some pros may fail to adapt and lose or cease trading). Easy money circ*mstances don’t last too long—usually a couple of years or less—and then the “lucky” people will need to spend 6 to 12 months (or more) figuring out how to really trade, which includes both making money and keeping it. “Easy conditions” may last minutes, hours, or days when day trading.

Unsuccessful traders read/watch random trading things and dabble in random strategies and call that research or practice. Call it what you want, but doing that won’t make you a better trader.

  • The time you put in needs to be focused on your method. General knowledge is not of much use to a trader beyond being able to banter with strangers about the market. I would rather hire a trader who knows how to trade one strategy really well (and is willing to put in the focused work to make that one strategy better) than hire an Ivy League Ph.D. who knows everything about the market, general strategies, and indicators. General info is useless in trading; you must master at least one strategy to be a good trader.

    Here’s how to make any strategy profitable…

You can decide to trade anyway you like, but then you need to become better at it than most others. Unsuccessful traders never bother to do this.

  • If you decide you are only going to trade Triangle Breakouts, you need to look through hundreds of charts to see what conditions were present in the best breakouts. Then you need to see if those conditions were also present in the losers. Find conditions that exist more often in winning trades than losing trades. Define exactly how you will know what those conditions are, and how you will enter and exit. This is called “context” and is an important part of a strategy.

    This concept is discussed in more detail below, with a chart example.

We can do something every day and not get better at it. Think golf courses, tennis courts, the neighborhood basketball courts, maybe the bedroom, and so on. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice simply creates improvement.

  • Most traders read a few books, learn a strategy online, and think that is all it takes. Not even close. Learning to trade even one strategy well takes months, because we can’t just learn how to trade it, we also have to learn when to trade it, and when not to. Slight variations arise, and you need to learn what to do in those circ*mstances. You have to learn what your common mistakes are and find ways to correct them.

When it comes to trading there are many things to practice, but most want-to-be-traders don’t practice. They just put in hours. There is a big difference. Here are things to specifically practice.

  • Create a trading plan and follow it. A trading plan is your rule book for trading, telling you explicitly and exactly when to get into and out of trades, how much to risk, when to trade, what markets to trade (see sections above on doing your OWN research). A good plan lays out everything you may come across. Creating a plan takes time; typically months. For some people it may take a year or more. It takes months because each trader needs to see different conditions, slight variations, and figure out what to do. No two trades or trading days are ever exactly alike. We need to develop rules that account for various trading conditions, yet the rules also need to be precise at the same time.
    • Not having and not following a trading plan is a big reason most traders fail. People without a plan are making an assumption that they are smarter than people who do this for a living, and therefore they don’t need to prepare, plan, or practice. Wrong. If you believe you can easily and with little effort beat people who do something for a living, sign up to spar with a UFC fighter in your area.
  • Practice following a plan. It should be so easy, but it is not. If you don’t have a plan yet, while you work on it, find some simple trading rules and practice following them in a demo account. Even if the rules don’t make money, you do yourself a huge service simply by practicing following a plan. It is not time wasted. Put a winning plan in your hand and you have a much better chance of following it.

    Following a plan takes practice too. It is not natural for most people; think diets, workout plans, saving money, and so on. Most of us naturally good at all these things. Practice following a plan. It is a skill. Without it, all the other work is for nothing.

More Time and practice-based reasons most traders fail

To be good traders, we need to understand “context.” This was very briefly discussed in the section above.

Context is what happens around the strategy that you saw in that picture or chart or book. Is there strong movement? Low movement? Higher swing highs? Lower swing lows? Are the price waves contracting? Is the longer-term trend up or down? Do you wait for a price bar to close, or enter as soon as a signal occurs?

In the charts we see depicting strategies, MANY things are going on. Some the author may point out, some they may keep to themselves, and others they may not even know are important. Or they may have not covered that topic yet. You need to find the specifics that make a strategy successful.

The chart above shows a strategy I like. It is called the half-cup and handle. If you look at just what I have highlighted, this pattern looks pretty easy to trade. Yet there is a lot going on that isn’t mentioned on the chart (but is linked to or discussed in the Cup and Handle article, or other articles on the site).

Here are just a few things I need to see to take a trade like this, which aren’t included on the chart.

  • The stock needs to appear on my scan list, which means the stock must be stronger than the major indexes according to my scan criteria. I set my scan criteria off recent major highs and lows, so this stock had to be stronger than the S&P 500 coming off the March low.
  • Market conditions and market health indicators need to have given me the green light to place trades. If market conditions aren’t right, no trades.
  • The waves within the triangle must exhibit price action concepts, mainly that down waves are neutralized or show weakness relative to up waves, in the context of the whole uptrend. For example, there is a strong uptrend leading into the pattern in the chart above, and while there is a lower swing high within the triangle, there are also two higher swing lows, which help nullify the negative impact of a lower swing high. Not all triangles look like this, so there are price action concepts that must occur for each different look for a trade to be taken.
  • The consolidation (little rectangle) has specific parameters it has to meet.
    • It needs to be at least three price bars moving mostly sideways.
    • False breakouts out of the bottom of the consolidation are allowed assuming the price quickly recovers above the consolidation high to trigger a trade.
    • The consolidation needs to occur in the upper half of the triangle or fill the triangle if near the apex of the triangle.
    • Volume needs to drop during the consolidation. Below average. At least one low-volume day, ideally more. Volume spikes can nullify a trade (except if related to quadruple witching or an event like that, if applicable).
    • The consolidation needs to be small enough to allow for a favorable 3:1 or greater reward-to-risk based on the profit expectation. Otherwise, the trade is skipped.
    • The price must then break above the consolidation to trigger a trade.
  • The triangle itself must be a certain size relative to prior price waves. If it is too large compared to surrounding waves, then that nullifies the pattern.
  • Earnings can’t be coming out within a few days of the entry point. Trades aren’t held through earnings.
  • The stop loss is not shown in this chart.
  • Position size has not been discussed on the chart.
  • How to take a profit and where to get out is not on the chart.
  • Each trade is compared to other trades, present and past, to assess whether it is worth taking. If a trade doesn’t look as nice as winning trades I have taken in the past, I don’t bother with it.
  • If everything looks good, an order is placed above the consolidation. The order will trigger if the price moves above the consolidation.

Notice there are as many trading rules for when I WON’T trade, as rules for when I will trade.

These are the types of details discussed in my Complete Method Stock Swing Trading Course, for several different strategies.

When you look at someone else’s chart, do you know all that? No. This is why many new traders are frustrated that the strategies they try, which look easy, don’t work most of the time. The real information is in the small details. And unfortunately, ALL those small details can’t be discussed in a single article. And even in a book or trading course, most of those small details are dismissed by the viewer.

I try to link to articles that discuss additional details. Since I can see which articles get clicked and viewed, I know that most people don’t dig deeper into the linked articles to find more information. They also don’t read in-depth—they skim—missing the important details in the text and links. The average reader will spend less than 2 minutes reading this article. Is that enough time to absorb what is being said? No, small details, that matter, are skipped by nearly everyone. And so they keep losing.

MANY things go into defining EXACTLY how to trade. Without being precise, consistency is likely to be elusive, and profits minimal to average over time (anyone can get lucky in the short-term).

That is the personal research part: finding the details that will make your strategy successful. Then you still need to practice filtering all that information in real-time, and not deviating from the plan laid out based on your research

As Bruce Lee said: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Trading-Related Reasons Most Traders Lose Money

All the issues discussed in this section relate to prior sections, but since they are often quoted as the reasons people fail, I will tackle them individually.

Here are some other trading-related reasons traders fail.

  • Traders fail due to being undercapitalized. Sometimes the market is easier to trade and you make money right away. But usually, there is a learning curve which means losing some of your capital at the start. After that learning curve, you still need enough capital so that the risk on any single trade is small. You need enough capital to be able to position size properly and meet your goals. If you are undercapitalized, you can’t position size properly (in most markets) and you are more likely to lose your focus because the gains (in dollar terms) come too slowly.

    There is lots of money available in the maket, but you need enough capital to trade effectively in order to make those good returns with a risk-controlled strategy.

If you have a plan, follow it. Anytime we don’t follow our plan, that is a mistake, even if we made money. Yet even when trying to follow a plan, traders make mistakes:

  • We are over-eager and get into trades before our signals tell us to. This erodes profitability over many trades.
  • We don’t want to take a loss, and so we hold onto the loss hoping the trade will turn around. This erodes profitability.
  • We are afraid to make a trade, possibly because of a few recent losers, and so we skip some trades because we are afraid to lose. This erodes profitability. If you make more on winners than you lose on your losers (favorable reward:risk), then missing a winner hurts more than taking a loss.
  • We are over-confident, possibly after a winning streak, and so we take extra trades not included in the plan. This erodes profitability.
  • We over- or under-bet. This means we take a position size that is too large or too small. Small mistakes add up over time, and big position-sizing mistakes can cost us dearly.
  • We manage our current trade based on the emotions generated by past trades. We let past trades impact how we act, instead of following our plan and what is happening now. This erodes profitability.
  • We focus on trading for results instead of following a process. Our trading plan dictates our returns. If we follow it, we make those returns. If we try to outsmart our plan, and change it on the fly, the profits from our plan disappear.

We all make some of these mistakes some of the time, and there are many other mistakes we could make as well. If over time, each little mistake erodes profitability, the fewer mistakes we make the more profitable we are. As discussed in the systematic section, on average pro traders just make fewer mistakes than amateurs. The pros’ methods are more researched and refined, and they are better at following that well-research plan.

These problems, and how to minimize them, are covered in my EURUSD Day Trading Course, along with strategies and improvement methods for conquering the forex market.

Psychological Reasons Most Traders Fail

Trading is almost entirely psychological. Everything we do is processed through our brains. Our beliefs and biases affect what we see, hear, and do. Without training our minds to follow specific protocols, and without training our minds to handle our problem areas, we are dead in the water. Learning a new strategy doesn’t do us any good if we can’t get our mind to follow it.

  • All the trading issues above can be linked back to psychology. Being afraid to trade is obviously psychological, but so is being over-confident, not wanting to take a loss, or being too eager. Even under-betting and over-bettering are related to psychology, such as being impatient, not having a process, or letting our biases affect how much or little we take on a trade.
  • There are hidden biases and beliefs that sabotage us. This is a topic all its own. No matter how good of a strategy a person has, if they have a belief that they will never be rich, or that they aren’t good enough, those beliefs will put up roadblocks to becoming successful at trading. If your psychology is getting in the way of making money.
  • Time needs to be put in, but research and practice are also psychological. We need to find ways to practice and improve that work for us. We need to overcome those little voices that say we don’t need to put in work, that we are smarter than others, that we should watch a movie instead of research, that we should read a book instead of practice, that practice is for people who suck…we need to overcome whatever voices tell us not to practice or not to put in the work required to get what we want (I suggest reading Trading Beyond the Matrix by Van Tharp).
  • If we overcome our little negative voices and put in the work required, then we become much better traders. And that is all that matters in the market: that your profits exceed losses based on the opportunities that other traders offer to you.
  • “Work” is training our brain to do something specific, well. If we opt for endless reading and randomly playing various strategies, we are training our brain to hop around, telling it that it is ok to “try this for a while and then try that”. This is the exact opposite of what successful traders do.

    Strategy-hopping is a tell-tale sign of someone unlikely to become successful. And strategy hopping is usually the result of not having success with strategies because the same mistakes are continually repeated no matter which strategy is used.

For additional reading on improving psychological performance, read My Key Takeaways From the Van Tharp Peak Performance Workshop.

Put in personal research and practice to make one strategy successful.

It is ok to spend some time figuring out exactly what kind of trading plan we want to build, but after acquiring some trading knowledge we need to focus and stop dabbling in everything. Train your brain to stop dabbling, and to focus and hone in instead.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve performance. Trading is a meditative practice in that you need to focus and let thoughts that aren’t productive pass through your mind without latching on to them. Practice meditation to improve your trading.

Short-Term Traders Versus Long-Term Traders

Over time the stock market has always risen, at least so far.

Therefore, some may say that long-term investors are impervious to everything discussed in this article because they buy and hold for the long-term, taking advantage of the long-term rise in the stock market.

That is true, sort of. An investor is less likely to lose IF they buy a few low-fee index ETFs and hold them until they need to sell them. Hopefully, decades later.

But many investors don’t do this. They trade in and out of their long-term stocks or funds, trying to time market peaks and valleys, and facing the same emotions such as greed and anxiety that short-term traders face (although investors may experience these less often because they are trading less often).

Investors often make mistakes too…and are victims to all the same issues as short-term trades (remember, all mistakes are related to human psychology). An investor may tell him or herself they will hold for the long-term. But when their index fund falls by 30% they get scared and sell. They abandoned their straightforward strategy and gave up long-term gains in favor of buckling to short-term pressure. They have now given up their upside over the long-term and given that upside to someone else. [This is not a declaration that you need to buy or hold, or follow any specific strategy. I am saying that no matter how simple a strategy is, humans tend not to follow it].

In fact, this is the norm. The average investor dramatically underperforms the ETFs/funds they invest in. Usually, they buy and sell them at the wrong time, instead of holding them to achieve the long-term return. The following chart shows a study on this, provided by JP Morgan.

Long-term investors can get market average returns if they actually invest for the long-term. Over the last 100 years, the average return on major indexes like the Dow Jones Industrial and S&P 500 (not around that long) is about 10% per year. This assumes holding for a long time horizon because sometimes the price doesn’t rise much even over 10 or 20 years (dividends included).

Investors have learned that passive investing is a good thing…but this is largely due to the massive upward moves that occurred in the 80s, 90s, and 2010 to 2021. Despite the market crashes of 2000 and 2007/8, historically speaking, since 1980 it has been an easier time to be an investor if you just buy and hold (unless you had to sell during one of the two major selloffs). Looking back in history, people often had to hold much longer to be rewarded, or they had to trade more actively.

Therefore, there is the argument that long-term investing has been easy for this generation, but if history is any indication, that may not always be the case. In which case, even long-term investors may need to examine their strategies, and themselves, more closely.

Be Aware of Survival Bias

Historical charts hide a survival bias. For investors that invest in individual stocks, it looks like they can make 10% a year too. Maybe they can, but 10% is based on indexes that routinely clear out underperforming companies. Indexes are using a strategy, a method. The indexes you see on the news don’t include crap, which is what most stocks end up being. The indexes don’t include the companies that went bankrupt, don’t make money, or have been delisted.

Just like indexes, investors also need to trim the underperformers every once in a while. Indexes reflect what survived and flourished. An individual investor’s portfolio needs to do the same, which means most investors who buy individual stocks CAN’T buy and hold all their stocks forever, because most individual stocks don’t go up for decades (only a relative few do). Indexes go up because they contain companies that are performing above a certain benchmark, and exclude stocks below the benchmark.

By investing in an index fund, you are actually buying something that actively trades. It adds and cuts some stocks from its holdings each year.

Buying an index means the work is done for you, and you get average returns by buying and holding using the index’s strategy and criteria for holding stocks. If you buy and hold individual stocks there is no assurance you will get market average returns, because your stocks could be held till zero, whereas indexes cut unprofitable companies and add better ones regularly. That said, you can also perform better than the indexes by buying and holding stocks that perform better than average. But again, most companies don’t perform well forever, so some trading is required.

How to Become a Successful Trader

This question has already been answered. If we know what causes traders to fail, we need to avoid falling prey to the same issues.

Here is how to become a successful trader:

  • Don’t just put in hours, put in directed practice where you are finding subtle differences between when a strategy works and when it doesn’t. Look for slight variations in how performance changes with different types of exits, and entries, or different types of trailing stop losses or profit targets.
  • Create a plan, and then over time make small incremental changes as you put in more time and see subtle variations in the plan that work better. See the example above where I talk about the specific criteria that go into trading a “simple” looking pattern. Get precise in your trading methods.
    • To help yourself follow the plan, also create a daily trading routine.
  • Notice your most trading common issues as they relate to the plan you’ve outlined. If you don’t have a plan, every trade is a mistake. Is a common issue getting in too early? Over-trading? Holding onto losses? Afraid to trade? System hopping? Boredom? Gambling? Not knowing what to do (a sign of an unclear plan)?
    • Whatever the issue is, clearly define it. Think about why this is happening, psychologically. You don’t need to fix the issue necessarily. If you are an anxious person, you don’t need to cure your anxiety to be a good trader per se. But you do need to create processes that minimize the anxiety. This could include talking to yourself while trading, reminding yourself of your well-researched plan, that losing trades happen but overall results are good if we stick to the plan. Remind yourself you have practiced, and that the only goal is to execute the trade according to the plan. Regardless of the trade’s outcome, that is a success.

      Favorable results take care of themselves when we follow a well-laid-out plan.

Now how long do you think all this takes? Read a couple of articles, or read a book, and profits will come? Not likely.

  • Expect to spend at least 6 months (it takes most people a year or two) or more just creating a trading plan and getting decent at trading it. If it happens sooner, awesome. But assume it will take a year or more and be prepared for that.
  • Quick success is often luck or easy market conditions (lots of people entering the trade after you). It takes no skill to win a lottery, but there are still people who randomly win them and there are people who randomly buy before stock takes off. Luck and easy market conditions eventually end.
    • If most people are willing to put some effort into becoming a good trader (these people will fail), you need to put in more effort than most, or smarter effort, to start making money consistently.

Other’s losses and missed profits fill the pockets of the successful. While most traders lose, that doesn’t mean as individuals we have to. It just means we need to work harder than most if we want to be successful, like anything.

Interested in Day Trading Stocks? Check out my newPrice Action Stock Day Trading Course. It shows you how to trade, putting in as little as 30 minutes per day.

By Cory Mitchell, CMT

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is personal investment advice, or advice to buy or sell anything. Trading is risky and can result in substantial losses, even more than deposited if using leverage.


The Real Reasons Most Traders Lose Money Day Trading or Swing Trading - Trade That Swing (2024)
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