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One of the reasons many traders gravitate towards trading Futures is the relatively low start-up cost. We would all like to trade an account that has several thousands of dollars in it, but realistically, most traders have small accounts.
These accounts are still tradable, but you must have very strict risk management. When trading an undercapitalized account, you will find it much more difficult than trading a larger account. When your account has excess funds, you can build a buffer to help protect you against the inevitable mistakes and account drawdowns due to losses. Unfortunately, small accounts do not allow you this comfort level. Larger accounts also allow a trader to be more diversified and flexible in their market choices to trade.
Another nice feature of a larger account is you can trade more contracts when the need arises. A small account might limit you to trading one contract, and when it comes time to exit your trade, it is harder to manage.
Because of this, you are faced with the question of, do I get out here or let the market run? Usually, this turns into an emotional decision for most traders and they do not manage the trade well. We are all aware of the psychological challenges facing a trader, but a small account trader has even more obstacles.
Traders with smaller accounts realize they cannot afford to lose much before they are not allowed to trade. Performance pressure will lead to costly errors. These types of traders usually start thinking that they will just take one or two ticks profit and slowly build their accounts up.
Unfortunately, the market volatility does not allow them to place a protective stop that is in proportion to the reward. Soon the market takes back all the small profits, usually in one trade. Even large account traders will have drawdowns losing streaks , but their account sizes allow them to continue trading without much added stress unlike a small account trader.
If you do have a small trading account, here is some help for you. I probably made it sound like small accounts cannot succeed at all in the Futures markets. My intent was to make you aware of how much more care and selection you must put into your trading plan and decisions. This way you will not become careless and give back all your profits. An advantage that small accounts do have is that they are aware of how close they are to not being able to trade.
Therefore, they carefully plan and patiently wait for their trade setups unlike a trader with too much money in their account who will take trades on any whim at all because they feel like they are playing with house money. Trading Futures is all about using leverage and this allows smaller accounts to participate more easily than using a cash account to buy stock with. Keep in mind that leverage can cut both ways and losses can and do occur. Also, in Futures trading, you can lose more money than is in your trading account unlike a cash account where your losses are limited to the amount you paid plus commissions.
When placing trades, make sure your strategy is allowing you at least a 1: This conservative style trading will allow you to have one winner and then 3 losers before you are back to even again. Apply this rule to day and swing trades alike. Give the market time to reach your price targets and do not cut your profits short. Doing so will ultimately lead to losses taking away your profits much quicker. Many traders have a have a hard time taking a loss and will let their losses run, or have too big of a stop for their account size.
This is also another reason to have a trading plan because it makes you trade consistently. If you follow your plan, it is highly unlikely you will have losses in a row. Most traders who do suffer these types of losses are the ones who change their trading style after every loss, and therefore, have no consistency. By following them, you will have a much better chance of surviving Futures trading.
Do not expect to double your account in the first year of trading. Many traders feel they should be able to do this. In all reality, you should be about break-even at the end of your first year. If you can do this, you will have a good chance of becoming a successful trader. Most new traders start out making money in their first few trades because they wait for their setups and then take the trade. Then after a few profits, they become impatient and trade every time a market moves.
In trading, it is not how much you make, it is how much you keep that is important. The formula above is the one I prefer because this will allow you to increase contract size as you become a better trader, and decrease it when you start to have drawdowns.
Keep in mind this is your maximum number of contracts to trade and you do not have to trade this amount on every trade. Make sure you have a well-written trading plan, you have confidence in your strategy, yourself, and plan on this taking some time and do not expect overnight success.
Disclaimer This newsletter is written for educational purposes only. By no means do any of its contents recommend, advocate or urge the buying, selling or holding of any financial instrument whatsoever. Trading and Investing involves high levels of risk. The author expresses personal opinions and will not assume any responsibility whatsoever for the actions of the reader.
The author may or may not have positions in Financial Instruments discussed in this newsletter. Future results can be dramatically different from the opinions expressed herein. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Reprints allowed for private reading only, for all else, please obtain permission.