Trading Trilogy-3: Money Management

30 feet-the old Kilo Class submarine dives deeper onwards to 100 feet-200 feet-400 feet-600 feet-800 feet-an explosion occurs, maybe the batteries were faulty? The submariner notices the creaking sound of the extremely high pressure of water against the submarine hull. Water rushes in. Automatically the high-tech systems of the submarine seal the flooded chamber. Luckily the engine room is intact, and the submarine painfully tries to resurface from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. The remaining compartments are dry, and the incumbents are safe.

You must be wondering whether this is a prelude to a thriller short story, or an article on money management, in trading. This had to be made dramatic because your money, that is, your capital is like blood in your body. Your body needs blood to survive; in the trading scenario, your account needs money for you to survive in trading, so treat it very carefully, like a mother lioness takes care of her cubs, without letting go for a moment.

Like a submarine, you’ve got to divide your capital into equal compartments, or parts, so that if one compartment gets flooded, that is, if one trade goes bad, your chances of recovery will be good. Remember, however good you or your method may be, the markets are not always conducive to trading. If you get shortchanged multiple times in a short period, step back, analyse whether the problem is with you, and your method, or the markets in general. If it is with you, course correct, trade with smaller amounts till you get the confidence back, or stay out till you get in sync with the markets. If the markets are finicky, and non-tradeable, stay out till some semblance of sanity returns, then re-enter.

Do not trade without stop-losses;most experts advocate putting them in the system, some traders write them on paper, and execute the trades manually. Do not keep a position open, if accessibility to the trading terminal is an issue.

It’s your take, what methodology you would like to follow. Keep the stop-loss to not more than 5% on every trade;when your account size grows, limit it to 1% to 2%. You have to live to trade another day. Trade with the amount you are comfortable with;do not try to emulate others. It has been noted that when one crosses one’s personal threshold, the subconscious mind tries to sabotage the effort, because it is uncomfortable with larger than normal amounts allocated to trading. The Peter Principle comes into play, that is, the person rises to the level of his/her incompetence. If it so happens, cut down on the account size, and trade similar sizes till you get into the flow.

Always keep a record of the amount left after every trade. It is a barometer as to how you are doing as a trader. Ignore this at your own peril. A rising equity curve suggests that you are on the right track to becoming a successful trader. Remember, money flow in trading equals blood flow in the human body. Your survival as a trader finally depends on it, and is not to be taken lightly.

I would finally like to acknowledge Dr Alexander Elder, the legendary teacher of traders who has written books which delve into the various aspects of trading-the mind, the method, and the money management, as he puts it.

Afterlude: The old submariner had done well for himself. After the miraculous escape from the Kilo Class submarine, he retired from the Soviet Navy and went into trading with his meagre retirement benefits. He decided that if he were to grow his capital, he had to learn the lessons from his previous vocation. He divided his savings into two parts: 80% he put into fixed income instruments; he traded with the remaining 20%. That 20% he divided into 10 parts like the compartments of his submarine. He followed Dr Elder’s methodology-he risked no more than 2% of his capital on a single trade, and if he lost 6% of that compartment(trade), he would stop trading for that month. His account grew gradually, so did his peace of mind. He would no longer be among the traders, whose account equity lay deep down, caressing the dark depths of the Pacific Ocean.