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Top 5 Reasons why do most traders fail

It is really sad that only 1% of active traders are able to earn consistent profits and have the potential to earn a living out of trading. Also, the catch is that most of the traders who fail to make a living out of trading are very successful in their chosen career and have great saving habits. Even, I was one of them. At one stage, I had blown away multiple accounts and was not sure what was I doing wrong. Why are most successful professionals not able to figure out trading? I always believed there has go to be a better way and was looking for solutions. I joined various chat rooms, stopped trading and was observing the successful traders

Initially, I thought that trading equities was all about reading the chart identifying support and resistances. On careful observation of successful traders in various discord rooms and paid subscriptions, I realized it was much more than that. These successful traders became my mentors and I spent years internalizing why they were doing what they were doing. I also started reading books such as Super Trader, Trading in the zone, Trading for a living etc to get perspective of what it takes to be a successful trader.

Lot of traders believe that system or trading strategies are primarily responsible for trading success. it is far from truth. According to Van Tharpe, author of Super Trader, 3 components required for trading success are shown below with the percentages. As shown in the diagram, systems are merely 10%. In fact, you can be successful just following the price action as long as you have good position management and trading psychology/mindset

Position management is self explanatory. In a nutshell, How much risk are you willing to risk per trade? In the sections below, I have explained in detail with examples. Let us talk about trading mindset.

Trading mindset/psychology is all about your beliefs about yourself, money and markets. If you want to be a trader. It is very important to have our actions aligned with our beliefs as a trader. Why? Because we do not trade the markets but our beliefs about the market. Let us take an example. If you are value trader ( Looking for discounted value) at your core ( believe in buy low and sell high), would you be able to trade trends ( may end up buying high at breakout and sell high). Lot of traders do not have clarity about why they are doing what they are doing and hence blow up their accounts. This is a huge topic and we have put lot of information in our beginner page under the mindset section Once you have aligned your beliefs and understood the importance of position management, below are listed some natural trading laws that one needs to be aware to make consistent returns.

Consistent actions lead to consistent results

There are so many trading strategies out there. In fact, the amount of information available is overwhelming. Initially, I would be excited to learn a new strategy and was quick to use it. I used to have success but the moment I got into a loss, I used to either jump to other strategy or mentally not execute the stop loss when needed (risk management) or double up the amount invested in equities at the lows ( not following position management). At the end, I used to be so down and ended up blowing multiple accounts. I would recommend traders to stick to one strategy for quite some time and see if he could trade with conviction and consistency covering the three elements of trading- criteria for picking the trades, position management and risk reward ratio.

Edge in the markets

There is plenty of money to be made in the market if one could have a trading strategy that has a winning ratio of at least 51% and a risk reward ratio of at least 1:2. It is worth spending quality time in developing and back testing the strategy before trading with hard earned dollars.

I would highly recommend to read trading psychology post to understand how price action happens and how support resistances are formed. Once you understand the human behavior behind support and resistances, I would highly encourage to develop a trading strategy that works around support and resistances for a good risk reward ratio. I personally use breakout trading strategy.

Law of large numbers

This is a very important rule to understand . Every trader needs to know his win loss ratio for the strategy that he choses. I used to back test the trading strategy for a sample of5-10 trades and would decide if the strategy chosen was good for meeting my goals.

I was so wrong. Let me explain with an example. Let us assume we toss a coin ten times and we get heads 6 times and tails 4 times. Is it correct to say that heads probability is 60% and tails probability is 40%? We know inherently that as we toss more, the probability will be close to 50%. Isn't it? Similarly, we need to sample large number of trades before deciding on the efficiency of the trading strategy to meet your goals.

Risk Management

This is one of the major reasons why most of the traders blow their trading account. As mentioned in trading psychology, market is a zero sum game. If one has to make money, some one else has to lose money. And it is highly impossible to comprehend the market gyrations to always win. One thing in our control is how much are we willing to lose if the trade goes against us.

As Paul Tudor says, the most important rule of trading is to play great defense and not great offense. In this context, let us talk about position management and you win loss ratio.

Let us say our win loss ratio is 60% based on 25 trade sample and we are betting 20% of the portfolio on each trade. Remember, though we know our win loss ratio, we may not exactly know order of our winning and losing trades. Let us say we had 5 losing trades in a row before wining the next 15 and losing next 5

-20 -20 -20 -20 -20 = 100. We blew up our account in the first 5 trades and did not give ourselves a chance to win though we had 60% win loss ratio based on 25 trade samples

Let say our win loss ratio is 60% based on 25 trade sample and we are betting 2% of the portfolio on each trade. In the scenario mentioned above

-2 *5 + 2*15 -2*5 = 10%.

We would have ended up having 10% profit.

The profits will be higher if we have a risk reward ratio is higher.

Need more money to make more money

Have you ever asked yourself a question why mutual funds and hedge funds are always in the business of raising more capital? Why they need to do that when they already have millions?

Let me explain. They want to make more money with minimal risk. In the previous section, we talked about risk management. Position management is very critical for long term trading success. Let us assume that 2% is allocated for every trade and risk reward ratio is 1:2

For a portfolio of $10000, 200 is allocated for each trade, Profit possibility is 400

For a portfolio of $100000, 2000 is allocated for each trade and profit possibility is 4000

For a portfolio of $1000000, 20000 is allocated for each trade and profit possibility is 40000

For a 60% win loss ratio on a sample of 25 trades scenario mentioned in risk management

For a portfolio of $10000, total profit would be -200*5 + 400*15 -200*5 = 4000

For a portfolio of $100000, total profit would be -2000*5 + 4000*15 -200*5 = 40000

For a portfolio of $1000000, total profit would be -20000*5 + 40000*15 - 20000*5 = 400000

So, the more risk reward ratio, profit is higher.

Compound Effect

Why do we trade? Either to make a living out of trading or to create wealth. It is obvious that one might have to consistently withdraw certain amount periodically to make a living via trading. However, let us assume that you have an another source of income that takes care of your expenses and you keep the profits generated in your account As more money is available, position size for each trade increases and in turn will increase the profits generated.

Let us assume that you are making 20% per year with a capital of 10000. After 10 years, account size would be around 619K and after 20 years, it would be around 3.8 million. That is the power of compounding

Best trading strategy

It is very important to understand that is no universal best trading strategy. Trader needs to spend some time to pick and back test a strategy that can help him achieve his goals. Lot of traders search for the next best trading strategy instead of working on their goals that they intend to achieve through trading. Once the goals are well defined and measurable, it is very easy to choose the strategy. Trading strategy is just a vehicle to satisfy your goals.

I recommend writing down your goals and ultimately create a trading plan that would help you to meet your goals.

No trading strategy works all the time

A trading strategy works for a certain set of market conditions. But, markets are always changing. So, how can a trading strategy work all the time? It will not.

Let us take an example. Do markets go up for the good news and come down for bad news? Not necessarily. It is very hard to predict the market reaction to the news but it is easy to take action based on the markets reaction for the news. If we are bullish on a particular trade and markets reacted badly to an unexpected news, we can protect our capital and reduce our losses by defining the risk for the trade

As mentioned earlier, a single trading strategy does not work for all market conditions. However, one can have multiple strategies for different market conditions.

Secret for consistent profits

What is this ultimate secret? It is simple. Develop a strategy with an edge , be in the market and trade frequently. Why trade frequently. Remember the law of large numbers. The more you trade frequently, odds are in your favor for profits.

But, is it possible to spot ideas and trade frequently for humans? Not really. But some Algo based bots are making it happen to day. Does it mean that we cannot make consistent profits? Yes, we can but it may not be on a daily basis as we do not place so many trades in short period of time.

Trading is not a quick rich scheme

Lot of people see success initially in trading and start believing that trading is their way to accumulating riches fast. I have seen it so many times that draw downs are faster than generating profits and can end up blowing up the account.

I would highly recommend you to treat trading as a business , have a well defined trading plan drafted to meet your goals, and follow the trading plan diligently. There is a saying in trading community " trade the plan and plan the trade". As you trade, keep tweaking the trading plan until you get the desired results. Once you get the desired results, stick to the plan. A trading plan in minimum should talk about your goals, position management, risk reward ratio, trading strategy etc

Our returns in the market depends on our account size and return percentage. your trading strategy/systems and risk reward ratio will determine the percentage return and account size is determined by how much extra capital ( profits generated can be added to working capital) is added every year to have a compound effect


  • Three components of successful trading needs to be mastered for trading success - Trading mindset -60%, Position sizing /risk management - 30% , systems/trading strategies - 10%

  • There are some natural trading laws that one needs to be aware to earn consistent profits. These laws always work and it is up to us to be aligned with them for meeting our goals

Most of the trading laws specified here are excerpts from the book PriceActionTradingSecrets by Rayner Teo. He is one of the successful future traders and teaches mostly through youtube and his website.

If you like this post, you might also want to know which stage of a technical trader you are in ? Also, did you know that Breakout trading strategy is one strategy that can be used for trading cryptos, stocks, options and other derivatives and gives you the best risk reward ratio (RRR) for the trades placed.

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