Planning Trades to Control Risk

Discussion in 'Trading' started by Joe Ross, Mar 24, 2009.

  1. The problem with many traders is, they only have half a plan, the easy half. They know how much profit they're willing to take, but they don't have the foggiest idea how much they're willing to lose. They're like a deer in the headlights, they just freeze and wait to get run over. Their plan for a position that goes south is, 'Please God, let me out of this and I'll never do it again,' but that's wishful thinking, because if by chance the position turns around, they'll soon forget about God. They'll go back to thinking that they're geniuses, and they'll always do it again, which means that they're sure to get caught, and get caught bad.

    I have a true story I’d like to share: It’s about a broker I knew and a Canadian dollar trade she made. It goes like this:

    I received a phone call from this lady moaning about a Canadian dollar trade she was in. She was managing money and had all of her clients in this particular trade. Canadian dollar, at least at that time was, and still can be, a thin and extremely volatile market, and is best traded by people who have a genuine need to trade them. But she was in and in up to her neck in trouble. She said, “Joe! I don’t know what to do! If the Canadian goes down any more I’m going to wipe out all of those accounts.” She told me she had been so sure the market would move up, that she never even planned the amount of risk she was willing to take, and by the time she had determined where to put a protective stop, Canadian dollar had shot past that point.

    I told her I had no idea of how she could get out of her predicament and that was an honest answer. I really did not know what she could do.

    Apparently, she decided to pray! She called me back that evening and told me she had gone into the ladies room, closed the door on the booth, and knelt down and implored God to get her out of the mess she was in. She promised that she would never again trade the Canadian dollar, if he would just save her skin from disaster.

    The following day, the Canadian dollar opened gap up, and moved to a point where she could get out at breakeven. She took the opportunity and got out. Later that day, the Canadian dollar moved even higher. Two weeks later, she was back trading them once again.

    The lady broker had no plan for what she would do if the market moved against her. Whatever planning she did was done after, not before entry into the market. She irresponsibly took unlimited risk with client accounts, having no idea of her exit point.

    But perhaps worst of all, she was dishonest with both herself and her clients. She vowed to never trade that market again. Where was the discipline and self-control she needed to keep her promise?

    How many of us do the same thing when we trade. We make mistakes, vow to never make them again, and then do the same dumb things all over again. We take risk without planning or realizing just how much risk we are truly taking. Then the market teaches us a painful lesson. I think you would agree, markets are very good at doing that.
  2. Joe, I think you must differentiate between greedy but sophisticated individuals like the lady broker trading OPM and uneducated traders. She knew of her risks, she was just too greedy. Uneducated traders know nothing about risk, how it is determined and what it can do to them, although they may not be greedy at all.

    So I think you used the wrong example to reach a general conclusion.