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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Successful Options Trading Strategies

When it comes to giving people the hope of becoming a millionaire overnight, the stock market excels. Every day we see evidence of stocks that have flown upwards as if they had wings, providing investors with a windfall of profits. It's inevitable that catching one of those stocks just before it takes off is an exciting possibility, inspiring the beginning trader to take the plunge. When you trade options, the stakes are raised, making those massive profits even more attainable, but the basics that underlie successful trading in the stock market are the same as those for trading options.

Once you start to look at trading stocks, you find yourself plunged into a confusing nightmare where hundreds if not thousands of people are pushing "their" system that is supposedly infallible. For a beginner, it's easy to get drawn into the complex net, believing that there must be a simple solution that will hand you the keys to stock market success. These keys will see you finding winner after winner, and making your fortune.

The reality, however, is that there are no keys that will find a winner every time. After all, if that was possible, how could anyone ever lose any money in the market? And if nobody loses, then how can someone else gain? The whole stock market would collapse.

Having said that, there are a number of very successful trading systems that work well over the long term. It's important to realize that a winning system is one that consistently delivers profit over a longer time frame - and part of the equation is that a percentage of trades will be losers. Once you learn to look at the bigger picture, rather than focusing on the individual trades, you'll be a lot more successful in the market.

There are a couple of approaches to the market that are popular across many systems. One is to take small losses when they happen, and let your winners run. So you might take six little losses, which are more than compensated for by one huge gain. This type of approach takes a lot of confidence and self-discipline, as it's very easy to give up if those six little losses all happen in a row, without a winner in sight.

Another approach is to take your profits after a certain percentage of gain, and occasionally put up with a medium sized loss. This system is nice if you like to see profits, because you don't run the risk of a stock that's risen suddenly dropping again and wiping out your profit - you took your profit early. However you also run the risk that the stock will continue to fly upwards and you miss out on that profit. This system can be risky, because you need a number of small profitable trades to cover one of the losses.

If you can't make up your mind which approach suits you, why not try more than one? You can always split your capital over a couple of portfolios, and use a different strategy for each portfolio. This can be time consuming, but at least you can then make a logical comparison of the choices and decide which one has worked best for you.

It's also important not to abandon your system the second you see a trade making a loss. Far too many traders think that they're only successful if every trade is a winner, which is ridiculous. Then the trader switches to another system, messes around with that for a while, sees a loss, and switches again. You need to find a system that gives you a good overall return, and stick to it. The more you chop and change, the higher your chances of losing more.

Most of the success that comes with trading comes from one source - and it's not the perfect trading system. It's all about you. Trading is more about psychology than watching the charts. You need to have the right character to be a successful trader. Self discipline, confidence, the ability to see the bigger picture, accepting losses as part of the game, controlling your fear and greed - all of these elements work together to make you a successful trader.

If you can identify a system that delivers a consistent profit, and have the discipline to stick with it even when an individual trade loses, then your chances of success are high. And remember - it's always good to start with pretend trades to get the hang on things, before you commit your life savings to the market.

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