What is money management in Forex?

Money management Forex refers to a set of rules that help you maximise your profits, minimise your losses and grow your trading account. While it’s pretty easy to understand the benefits of these techniques, it happens that beginners to Forex trading tend to neglect even basic money management rules and end up blowing their accounts. Analysing the market and determining whether to go long or short may be difficult enough for beginner traders, which is why I fully understand that thinking about managing your money and risk could seem boring at first.

However, without proper money management you can’t become a profitable trader. Full stop. Let’s take two traders for example the first trader has an awesome trading strategy that is profitable 90% of the time, but doesn’t manage their risk at all. The second trader has an average trading strategy with a 50% winning rate, but utilises top-notch money management rules. What do you think, which trader will end with more profits by the end of the month? The answer is the second the trader, as the first trader will likely lose all of their profits (and perhaps even more) on a single losing trade. This is why a Forex money management plan helps a lot to succeed in trading.

Forex Money Management For Professional Traders

Most information out there on money management is completely useless in my opinion and will not work well in professional trading. What most traders are taught about money management is usually ‘lies’ invented by the industry to help you lose your money “slower” so that brokers can make more commission / spreads from you. If your using the 2% money management rule, this article may put that theory into question, which is the point… to make you think about it from all angles and perspectives.

I also believe that people who teach the ‘percentage of account’ risk management method don’t truly understand how arbitrary this idea is. The reason is simple… every traders account size will be different and every persons risk profile, net worth and skill level is different. If you simply take a percentage of money that is in your trading account to risk on each trade, it’s purely arbitrary. What you are prepared to lose or risk on each trade is much more complex than just plucking 2% or 4 % or 10% out of thin air. Let me explain…

Everyone knows that money management is a crucial aspect of successful forex trading. Yet most people don’t spend nearly enough time concentrating on developing or implementing a money management plan. The paradox of this is that until you develop your money management skills and consistently utilize them on every single trade you execute, you will never be a consistently profitable trader.

I want to give you a professional perspective on money management and dispel some common myths floating around the trading world regarding the concept of money management. We hear many different ideas about risk control and profit taking from various sources, much of this information is conflicting and so it is not surprising that many traders get confused and just give up on implementing an effective forex money management plan, which of course ultimately leads to their demise. I have been successfully trading the financial markets for nearly a decade and I have mastered the skill of risk reward and how to effectively utilize it to grow small sums of money into larger sums of money relatively quickly.

Don’t Chase the Market

The first rule we’re going the cover simply tells us not to chase the market. New traders on the Forex market usually chase the market for trading opportunities and trade even on low-probability trade setups, ultimately ending up with a hefty loss. Excited by the market and their first trading account, beginners will open multiple trades in a single hour, hoping for a great profit by the end of the day. Unfortunately, this behavior resembles more a gambler than a trader.

Forex Money Management For Professional Traders

The market doesn’t owe you anything. With experience, you’ll learn that patience is a key psychological trait that makes a great trader. You don’t have to open a new trade every hour, or even every day. If there are no trading opportunities, I step aside and let the market come to me in the next few days when a high-probability trade setup arises. Never chase the market – even a single losing trade can wipe out much of your previous profits.

Traders Should Focus on Pips

You may have heard that you should concentrate on pips gained or lost instead of dollars gained or lost. The rationale behind this money management myth is that if you concentrate on pips instead of dollar you will somehow not become emotional about your trading because you will not be thinking about your trading account in monetary terms but rather as game of points. If this doesn’t sound ridiculous to you, it should.

The whole point of trading and investing is to make money and you need to be consciously aware of how much money you have at risk on each and every trade so that the reality of the situation is effectively conveyed. Do you think business owners treat their quarterly profit and loss statements as a game of points that is somehow detached from the reality of making or losing real money? Of course not, when you think about it these terms it seems silly to treat your trading activities like a game.

Trading should be treated as a business, because that’s what it is, if you want to be consistently profitable you need to treat each trade as a business transaction. Just as any business transaction has the possibility of risk and of reward, so does every trade you execute. The bottom line is that thinking about your trades in terms of pips and not dollars will effectively make trading seem less real and thus open the door for you treat it less seriously than you otherwise would.

From a Mathematical standpoint, thinking of trading in terms of “how many pips you lose or gain” is completely irrelevant. The problem is that each trader will trade a different position size, thus, we must define risk in terms of “Dollars at risk or dollars gained”. Just because you risk a large amount of pips, does not mean you are risking a large amount of your capital, such is the case that if you have a tight stop this does not mean your risking a small amount of capital.

Cut the Losing Trades Short and Let the Profits Run

Another important saying in the trading community is cut the losses short and let the profits run. This refers to a straightforward principle – when a trade is losing, close the trade before the losses accumulate, and when a trade is performing good, leave the trade open and have faith in your trade setup.

Forex Money Management For Professional Traders

Inexperienced traders do it the other way around. They leave losing trades open in the hope that they will eventually reverse, and they close a profitable trade too soon on fears that the trade may turn against them and become a losing one. Fear and greed are one of the most disastrous emotions in trading, and you need to learn how to control them early in your trading career. The most profitable traders do it the professional way – they cut their losers and let their winners run.

Don’t Risk More Than 1% or 2% Per Trade

This is one of the more common money management myths that you are likely to have heard. While it sounds good in theory, the reality is that the majority if retail forex traders are starting with a trading account that has $5,000 in it or less. So to believe that you will grow your account effectively and relatively quickly by risking 1% or 2% per trade is just silly. Say you lose 5 trades in a row, if you were risking 2% your account is now down to $4,519.60, now you are still risking 2% per trade, but that same 2% is now a smaller position size than it was when your account was at $5,000.

Thus, in the % risk model, as you lose trades you automatically reduce your position size. Which is not always the best course of action. There’s psychological evidence that suggests it’s human nature to become more risk averse after a series of losing trades and less risk averse after a series of winning trades, but that doesn’t mean the risk of any one trade becomes more or less simply because you lost or won on your previous trade. As we can see in my article on randomly distributed trading results, your previous trade’s results don’t mean anything for the outcome of your next trade.

What ends up happening when traders use the % risk model is that they start off good, they risk 1 or 2% on their first few trades, and maybe they even win them all. But once they begin to hit a string of losers, they realize that all of their gains have been wiped out and it is going to take them quite a long time just to make back the money they have lost. They then proceed to OVER-TRADE and take less than quality setups because they now realize how long it will take them just to get back to break even if they only risk 1% to 2% per trade.

So, while this method of money management will allow you to risk small amounts on each trade, and therefore theoretically limit your emotional trading mistakes, most people simply do not have the patience to risk 1 or 2% per trade on their relatively small trading accounts, it will eventually lead to over-trading which is about the worst thing you can do for your bottom line. It is also a difficult task to recover from a drawn down period. Remember, once you drawn down, using a 2 % per trade method, your risk each trade will be smaller, there fore, your rate of recovery on profits is slower and hinders the traders effort.

The Most important fact is this.. if you start with $10,000 , and drawn down to $5,000, using a fixed % method, it will take you “much longer” to recover because you started out risking 2% per trade which was $200, but at the $5,000 draw-down level, your only risking $100 per trade, so even if you have a good winning streak, your capital is recovering at “half the rate” it would using “fixed $ per trade risk.

Don’t Put Wider Stops Loss 

Many traders erroneously believe that if they put a wider stop loss on their trade they will necessarily increase their risk. Similarly, many traders believe that by using a smaller stop loss they will necessarily decrease the risk on the trade. Traders that are holding these false beliefs are doing so because they do not understand the concept of Forex position sizing.

Position sizing is the concept of adjusting your position size or the number of lots you are trading, to meet your desired stop loss placement and risk size. For example, say you risk $200 per trade, with a 100 pip stop loss you would trade 2 mini-lots: $2 per pip x 100 pips = $200.

Now let’s you want to trade a pin bar forex strategy but the tail is exceptionally long but you would still like to place your stop above the high of the tail even though it will mean you have a 200 pip stop loss. You can still risk the same $200 on this trade, you just need to adjust your position size down to meet this wider stop loss, and you would adjust the position down to 1 mini-lot rather than 2. This means you can risk the same amount on every trade simply by adjusting your position size up or down to meet your desired stop loss width.

Forex Money Management For Professional Traders

Let’s now look at an example of what can happen if you don’t practice position sizing effectively by failing to decrease the number of lots you are trading while increasing stop loss distance.

Example: Two traders risk the same amount of lots on the same trade setup. Forex Trader A risks 5 lots and has a stop loss of 50 pips, Trader B also risks 5 lots but has a stop loss of 200 pips because he or she believes there is an almost 100% chance that the trade will not go against him or her by 200 pips. The fault with this logic is that typically if a trade begins to go against you with increasing momentum, there theoretically is no limit to when it may stop.

And we all know how strong the trends can be in the forex market. Trader A has gotten stopped out with his or her pre-determined risk amount of 5 lots x 50 pips which is a loss of $250. Trader B also got stopped out but his or her loss was much larger because they erroneously hoped that the trade would turn around before moving 200 pips against them. Trader B thus losses 5 lots x 200 pips, but their loss is now a whopping $1,000 instead of the $250 it could have been.

We can see from this example why the belief that just widening your stop loss on a trade is not an effective way to increase your trading account value, in fact it is just the opposite; a good way to quickly decrease your trading account value. The fundamental problem that afflicts traders who harbor this believe is a lack of understanding of the power of risk to reward and position sizing.

The Power of Risk to Reward

Professional traders like me and many others concentrate on risk to reward ratios, and not so much on over analyzing the markets or having unrealistically wide profit targets. This is because professional traders understand that trading is a game of probabilities and capital management. It begins with having a definable market edge, or a trading method that is proven to be at least slightly better than random at determining market direction. This edge for me has been price action analysis. The price action trading strategies that I teach and use can have an accuracy rate of upwards of 70-80% if they are used wisely and at the appropriate times.

The power of risk to reward comes in with its ability to effectively and consistently build trading accounts. We all hear the old axioms like “let your profits run” and “cut your losses early”, while these are well and fine, they don’t really provide any useful information for new traders to implement. The bottom line is that if you are trading with anything less than about $25,000, you are going to have to take profits at pre-determined intervals if you want to keep your sanity and your trading account growing. Entering trades with open profit targets typically doesn’t work for smaller traders because they end up never taking the profits until the market comes swinging back against them dramatically. (I think this is very important, go back an re read that last sentence)

If you know your strike rate is between 40-50% than you can consistently make money in the market by implementing simple risk to reward ratios. By learning to use well-defined price action setups to enter your trades you should able to win a higher percentage of your trades, assuming you TAKE profits.

Let’s Compare 2 Examples – One Trader Using the 2 % Rule, and one Trader using Fixed $ Amount.

Example 1 – -you have a risk to reward ratio of 1:3 on every trade you take. This means you will make 3 times your risk on every trade that hits your target, if you win on only 50% of your trades, you will still make money:

Let’s say your trading account value is $5,000 and you risk $200 per trade.

You lose your 1st trade = $5,000-$200 = $4,800,
You lose your 2nd trade = $4,800-$200 = $4,600,
You win your 3rd trade = $4,600+$600 = $5,200
You win your 4th trade = $5,200+$600 = $5,800

From this example we can see that even losing 2 out of every 4 trades you can still make very decent profits by effectively utilizing the power of risk to reward ratios. For comparison purposes, let’s look at this same example using the 2% per trade risk model:

Example 2 – Once again, your trading account value is $5,000 but you are now risking 4% per trade (so that both examples start out with a risk of $200 per trade) : Remember, you have a risk to reward ratio of 1:3 on every trade you take. This means you will make 3 times your risk on every trade that hits your target, if you win on only 50% of your trades, you will still make money:

You lose your 1st trade = $5,000 – $200 = $4800
You lose your 2nd trade = $4800 – $192 = $4608
You win your 3rd trade = $4608 + $552 = $5160
You win your 4th trade = $5160 + $619 = $5780

Now we can see why risking 4% (or 2% etc) of your account on each trade is not as efficient as the trader using the fixed $ amount. Important to note that after 4 trades, risking the same dollar amount per trade and effectively utilizing a risk to reward ratio of 1:3, using fixed $ risk per trade, the first traders account is now up by $800 versus $780 on the %4 risk account.

Now, If the trader using % risk rule had a draw down period and lost 50% of their account, they effectively have to make back 100% of their capital to be back at break even, now, this may also be so for the trader using the fixed $ risk method, but which trader do you think has the best chance of recovering? Seriously, it could take a very long time to recover from a drawn down using the % risk method.

Sure, some will argue that you can drawn down heavier and its more risky to use the fixed $ method, but we are talking about real world trading here, I need to use a method that gives me a chance to recover from losses, not just protect me from losses. With a good trading method and experience, you can use the fixed $ method, which is why I wanted to open your eyes to it.

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