Trading Education: The Best of Both Worlds!

I made my very first investment in the stock market when I was ten years old. Ever since then I have been hooked! Now I check out hundreds of trades each year with the same excitement andenthusiasm, and each time try to find that one market at the right time that could dramatically create wealth.

If you would’ve been fortunate enough to invest $1,000 in Microsoft when it first came public, that initial investment would be worth close to $300,000 today. In the last 10 years America Online has been up 12,000% and it has come creashing lower as well! Although statistics like this are advocated regularly by journalists and brokers the majority of investors have a very difficult time staying in an investment for that long of a period of time even though they know they are in a good company The financial markets are a never ending source of temptation trying to lure you into a new position with each passing second. The belief that the grass is always greener in another market is a distraction that every investor eventually has to contend with. Even if you are a MUTUAL FUND investor the fact is that you are always looking for the BEST return available.

Years ago when I worked as a broker I was confronted with this dilemma. One of my clients told me that he knew the BIG MONEY was made in holding on for the LONG TERM but that he liked trading the short term swings. He asked my advice and I had to think long and hard for several days before I could respond.

Eventually, I presented him with the following strategy that literally combines the best of the TRADER and INVESTOR worlds. Traders are looking for the quick hit and run. Investors seek their advantage by looking at the long term. Long term investors quite often benefit from allowing dividends to be reinvested into purchasing more stock in the company and the very real possibility of the stock splitting in the future. If you combine both of these apparently opposite perspectives you end up with a very unique viewpoint that eliminates a lot of stress associated with decision making. This strategy will bring home the perspective that within every seed that you plant in the financial markets lies the promise of ten thousand forests. I refer to it as my FOREST STRATEGY! It is another way to make your short term efforts as a trader pay you dividends by also recognizing the importance and significance of long term investing.

Let’s say that your initial investing capital is $10,000. 1) Find a company, preferably in the Standard and Poors 500 Index that you understand and are familiar with. If you want to narrow down your group you can select companies that are in the Dow Jones Industrial Average which include only 30 stocks. These are established companies with long financial histories that can be researched to your hearts delight.

2) Study the companies Price Earnings Ratio. Where is the Price Earnings ratio now? What has been The highest and lowest points of the price earnings ratio over the last five years? Look to buy a company with a historically low price earnings ratio that is a leader in its industry. Use the Price Earnings Ratio as a guide. Don’t try to pick bottoms. 3) Look at a chart of prices to see what has happened recently and to determine where a good buy point is.

4) Place your trade with the intention of a 10% profit objective. Once you reach your profit objective, sell enough shares in the company to remove your initial $10,000 investment and only leave your $1,000 profit in that stock.

5) Repeat steps 1-3 as you search for another company to trade for a 10% profit and plant the Remainder for the long term.

6) Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

The drawback on this type of trading is that when you are with a great company you do give up a lot of upside. However, if you look at the PROBABILITIES how many IBM’s, Aol’s, Yahoos! Or Microsofts are there out there in relation to the entire universe of stocks? What I personally like about this style of trading is that it eliminates the GREED factor that most investors have of trying to hold on for the top tick. Secondly it also allows you to build a nice diversified portfolio. Thirdly, trading becomes a very fun game with potentially lucrative long term implications. It is very possible to trade this way once a month planting a seed in a quality company that can easily become a Forest of Wealth for you.

Some trades might take the better part of a year to pan out. Some trades might achieve your profit objective in a matter of weeks or days if you are really fortunate.. Keep in mind that you still have to manage your risk on each and every trade. Let me be perfectly blunt, if you don’t manage your downside there will not be an UPSIDE… It is acceptable to use any of the RISK Management Techniques that I advocate by doing Partial Covered Calls and other Option Selling Techniques. When done correctly those techniques can dramatically accelerate your returns.

I must admit that I truly enjoy this type of trading. (My broker likes it as well as it generates many more commissions for him.) However, part of the reason that this method sits well with me is that I hardly pay any attention at all to my profits after I take them. It becomes very stress free to know that you have increased your wealth 10% and are just interested in planting seeds all over the financial landscape in companies that meet your criteria. I must however stress the point that you make sure that you are aware of the downside. This method is by no means RISK FREE….but for the individual who likes to trade and invest simultaneously it truly is ideal.

Guard your investment principal at all costs and let your profits run. Just one more way to look at the bigger picture. Kind of like a Johnny Appleseed meets the financial markets. Many extremely successful investors do this with Initial Public Offerings as well. Study away.and remember,let’s be careful out there.

Trading Baskets Part I

Q. What is a basket?

A basket is a group of up to 50 stocks that you can trade, manage and track as one entity.

In another article, I wrote about a rather conservative method of being in the stock market. See: “A Triple Dipper: How to Make 3 Profits on 1 Stock” at http://www.traderaide.com/Selected_Articles/Tripple_Dipper.html.

This time let’s talk a little about trading “baskets”. The definition above maybe needs to be expanded just a bit. You can trade baskets using longer term buy and hold strategies, a shorter-term swing trading approach or as a day trader. A basket of stocks is nothing more then any group of stocks that someone has grouped together for any of a number of reasons. They may be of the same sector, or they may be made up of a number of stocks in different sectors.

An example of a few baskets could look like what is sited below. To save time and space I’ll use the stock symbols only. You can look them up later if you are interested. Let’s say you see stem cell research as the thing of the future and wanted to be invested in it. If you don’t know which stock is going to fair the best, you may want buy a basket of stocks that is made up of ASTM GERN and STEM. This would be a basket of stem cell stocks. Now let’s say you think the Internet stocks look good and, again, you are not sure which ones will do the best. In your Internet basket you may want to pick up some shares of EBAY, YHOO and AMZN. Obviously your basket can contain any number of stocks you want. Many online brokers will actually allow you to set up baskets in your account, and you can put in a sell order all at once on the entire basket or pick and chose which ones you want to sell. I’m not recommending these stocks in any way, shape or form, but merely using them as examples.

Okay, that’s pretty basic, but I’m sure you get the picture. The examples above would more or less be the type of baskets you would probably be thinking of holding for some time and not day trading.

Most day traders have an entirely different kind of basket of stocks. A day trader may have any number of stocks in his trading basket that he or she has been become very familiar with. They have studied them and even charted them for intraday movement (I hope) for some time and have learned the trading habits of the individual stocks. They have a fairly good idea of how the stock moves on a daily basis with or without news. They have knowledge of how it reacts to earnings, analyst upgrades, analyst downgrades and other events that may be reoccurring. They have also probably learned how they trade when hit by surprise events as well. They know which market makers to watch the closest. They also know who the main market maker in the stock is, often referred to as the axe.

A day trader’s basket may be any number of stocks. A good average could be somewhere between 25-50 stocks. But it may also be larger or smaller. I have known traders that traded one stock all day long and nothing else. I have known others that were able to watch 300 stocks. Personally, I think that is way too many.

When I was trading I had a basket of about 75 stocks. Some I knew were only going to be in play on news or when reporting earnings. Others were fairly reliable moves on a daily basis. And still others were extremely sensitive to any sort of news or event.

Today, if I was going to put together a basket of stocks, I would be looking at the following symbols: GOOG, TASR, TZOO, AIRT, QLGC, SYMC, PLMO, KMRT, EBAY, SINA, RIMM, RMBS, PCLN, and DCLK as well as other NASDAQ stocks. I would not over look New York Stock Exchange stocks, although many do. I would be looking at: MO, PFE, CAT, GE, GM, TYC, MRK, MOT, and others as well. Keep in mind, I am not recommending any of these stocks specifically for you to buy or trade. I am merely trying to give you an example of what a basket may look like. You have to decide yourself what stocks you would add to you your basket based on your own knowledge gained through experience and research on each stock.

I think every trader should have a basket of stocks he or she follows and trades. Day trading without your own basket raises the risk level and puts you in a position where you are always looking for something to trade. On slow days where the market is just not offering up much in the way of trading opportunities, you may have a tendency to jump on stocks, that under different circumstances, you would have passed on. Having your own basket of stocks will lower your exposure to risk. They may not move any better under slow market conditions, but at least you will have some knowledge of how they move. In Part II I will tell you about a special trading basket technique I used during the early boom days of day trading. It may still be a valid concept today.

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Trading Commodity Futures Using Support and Resistance – Paper Trading

Setting Up a Paper Trading Account

Question:
I cannot trade with “real money” as yet; however, how do I go about setting up a paper trade account?

Answer:
You can paper trade various ways and it really does not require that you have anything more specialized than a notebook to track your trades and access to charts.

Begin by funding your paper trading account with the amount of money you think you will really begin with, whether it is $2000 or $20,000. I would suggest that you begin with no less than $5000 and $10,000 is even better.

Next you need to decide on which markets you are going to trade. The more money you have in your account, the more markets will be available to you. If you are trading with a $5000 account there is no point in becoming familiar with a market like Crude Oil that has a margin of $3000 per contract!

Assuming that you are a smaller trader, you will be most interested in the lower margin markets like the grains, some of the meats, maybe a metal and a currency or two. I would suggest you limit your scope to about 6 – 8 markets, as these will be enough to track on a daily basis.

Even real money traders rarely follow more than 8 markets…it just becomes too cumbersome, as I’m sure you will find when you’ve got more than one paper trade going at a time.

If you don’t know which markets to choose from, maybe I could make a couple of suggestions:

* Corn, or wheat – these are good markets for traders of all levels, but especially the beginner. The margin is not too high and the markets normally act predictably and trend well. Corn and wheat have a tendency to move together (but not always), so watching both can be redundant.

* Cocoa – a good market to make money in as a small move can add up to good profits. Also can be a good market to lose money in for the same reason. I don’t mind cocoa, although I know people who have sworn it off. This is the time to find out if it is for you…when it doesn’t cost you real money.

* Sugar – used to be a good market because it is easy to get in with minimal risk; however the abundance of support and resistance can make it confusing to new traders. Lately the market has lacked direction which only adds to the confusion. Still it is low margin and relatively low risk market to trade.

* Live Cattle – a decent meat market. Some new traders avoid the meats entirely because of their ability to make huge ranges. Cattle is the “safest” of the meat markets.

* Cotton – can be a good market, but is capable of making large ranges. I used to avoid cotton like the plague, but have become fonder of it in recent years.

* Soybeans – the Pork Bellies of the Grain complex. If soybeans are too volatile for you consider trading one of the bean cousins, like soybean oil, or soybean meal. They tend to mirror soybeans, but are generally less margin and less volatile.

* Silver – I like the metals; however gold can be a little rich for the small trader. Silver mirrors gold – the poor man’s gold. Some people like copper, but I consider it too thin and margins too high for small traders.

* Canadian Dollar/Australian Dollar – two of the more reasonable currency markets. The margins are lower, but there is excellent money making potential. Other markets like Swiss Franc, British Pound, and Japanese Yen are good markets too but require much more margin and risk. All the currencies have a tendency to move in the same direction anyway (opposite the US Dollar) so it doesn’t really matter.

But don’t stop here, this is the time to practice and refine your skills so include any other markets you are interested in, but avoid the exotics like lumber, rice, oats, palladium, etc. They are just too thin and too volatile for the small trader to be involved in.

Now that you have a paper account and a mix of markets to trade you need to search the markets to find trades to make. Once you have found a trade you like, write down your entry, your exit and your profit target – exactly.

If you are dealing with a broker, you can call and ask them if your paper order had been filled on a particular day. Alternatively you can just look at the charts and figure it out for yourself.

Sometimes you will need to see an intraday chart to know exactly when you got your fill. Barcharts.com offer free intraday charts. Just follow the commodity chart link and then click custom charts to alter the time frame displayed to a 5 or 10 minute interval.

Track your trades day by day keeping a journal of your profits and losses. A simple way to “journal” your trades is to put them on 3×5 index cards – one card per trade. Write down you reasons for taking the trade as well as exact entry and exits. Make sure to note what you did right and what you would do differently the next time. Allow an extra two ticks on your fills and exits as this will simulate slippage. Brokerage fees are usually $40 round turn per contract.

See how well you can do but be honest. Cheating here will not help you in the future. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but nothing changes when you trade with real money. If you can’t do it on paper, you won’t make it for real. Trust me. I’ve been there.

If you don’t already have it, you might want to consider using Gecko’s Track ‘n Trade Pro. As the name suggests the software not only provides charts but also “tracks your trades”. You fund a fictional account, place your orders and the software will automatically update your position day by day.

It really is phenomenal software and if you are halfway serious about trading you should check it out. It is a legitimate tax deduction too. 😉 You can get a free 30 day trial by following this link: http://www.trackntrade.com/demo/?abbr=SENFT

There is also paper trading software out there and on the internet which is supposed to simulate trading; however in my opinion it is not realistic for most small traders.

Some of the simulators only allow you to trade the e-mini and others start you out with a $50,000 account. This is great if you want to trade the e-mini, or if you are trading with a $50,000 account, but this is not the case for most traders.

Anyway, that’s paper trading in a nutshell. I hope it helps a little. Please do not hesitate to write back if you have more questions, of if you need me to elaborate on something.

Evaluating A Money Manager

Scams and frauds are designed to take your money through false promises and phony claims. Money management is supposedly designed to increase your net worth. Sometimes these two worlds meet and the results are not in your favor, i.e., you have a considerable decrease in net worth.

The information in this article won’t keep future money managers honest but it will help you find the one who is right for your situation. There are four criteria you must consider before you give your money to anyone to manage.

1) Philosophy– This is the thought theology used by the money manager to make your money grow. In other words, does (s)he focus on stocks, options, mutual funds, annuities, a blend of investment vehicles, etc.? Does this philosophy coincide with your risk tolerance? If stocks are too risky, a manager concentrating in that arena isn’t for you. The philosophy also points you to their performance.

2) Performance– We all know the markets are not stagnant. They go up, they go down. No investment manager can predict the market with absolute certainty. But, they should perform well, or even above average, in their specialty. For example, a stock focused money manager in today’s market environment should have performance numbers that would make even Warren Buffet take notice. You want as long a performance record as possbile. To be fair, one market cycle should give you a decent indication of the manager’s performance in his/her area(s) of expertise.

3) Process– This is the means the manager uses to select securities for the portfolios. For example, does (s)he rely
only on in house research or does (s)he incorporate research
from outside sources? If so, who are they and on what frequency are they used?

4) Personnel– Besides wanting to know the manager’s experience, you’d be wise to learn all you could about the folks working in the office. Who actually manages the portfolio? His/her experience? How long has (s)he been in business? Who will manage your account when (s)he is out of the office, on vacation, on business?

Some people would say cost is one of the criteria. I say it is, but to a lesser degree. In over 30 years in this business, I can guarantee that paying the highest commission did not necessarily result in receiving the best advice. Paying the lowest commission did not necessarily result in receiving the worst advice.

Cost comes in the form of fees and commissions. ALL money managers charge. Cost, initially, should not be in your criteria because it often becomes the ONLY determining factor. That will skewer your thinking and could result in not having a
winning team working for you. Make the above four parameters your
primary criteria and cost will take care of itself.

How? You will be quoted a charge. If you are not comfortable with that price, negotiate. All fees and commissions are negotiable. If the manager refuses to negotiate, then and only then, make cost a member of the criteria team.

This article won’t solve all of the money management problems or costs associated therewith. However, it’ll at least start you thinking in the right direction and keep
your money in your pocket until you are ready to hand it over.

Eight Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor

You may like your financial advisor, but is he really looking out for you? All advisors are not created equal, and you have a right to know what makes them different! You also have a right to ask yours if he compares!

(1) Do you use a holistic approach to financial planning by determining my values and goals?

(2) Do you work on a fee-only basis, a commission basis, or both, and why?

(3) Do you have company-established insurance requirements, or do you recommend insurance only when it is needed by your clients?

(4) Do you attempt to ‘beat’ the market through timing and selection, or do you believe that attempts to do so are not worth the additional level of fees and risk? Are you aware that a vast majority of my returns will be based on asset allocation, rather than timing and selection?

(5) Are you a Registered Investment Advisor, and therefore a fiduciary? In other words, must you legally and ethically put my interests above your own?

(6) Do you meet with your clients at least three times a year to refine their portfolio and find out how events in their lives may have changed their financial goals?

(7) Do you return phone calls the same day you receive them, and are you available to answer questions as they arise?

(8) When you wake up each morning, do you ask yourself how you can best be of help to your clients that day?

Adjust these questions as you see fit, and depending upon what your own objectives and needs are from an advisor. The best advice is to never be afraid to ask!