Elements of a Successful Trading Plan--Let Profits Run
The next part of the plan involves a more pleasant alternative: when to exit a trade that is profitable. The cardinal principle involved is Let Profits Run. In other words, stay with your profitable trades as long as possible because the trend is likely to continue and make your profits even larger.
Again, this is easy to understand but not so easy to do when real money is involved. The difficulty is that although your profit may become much larger if you stay with a trade, it may also decrease and even disappear. Human nature is such that it values a sure profit much more highly than the probability of a much higher profit. Thus, traders are inclined to take their profits too soon. This can be fatal to long-term success because big profits are necessary to overcome the inevitable collection of small losses.
There is a good way to let profits run while still guarding against the possibility that prices will turn around and take away much of your accumulated profits before the trend actually reverses. It is called a trailing stop. You include in your plan a method for moving an exit point along some distance behind your trade. As long as the trend keeps moving in your favor, you stay in the trade. If the market reverses direction by the amount of your trailing stop, you exit the trade at that point. You would also offset your trade and reverse position if the trend reversed.
One way to set a trailing stop is to protect a certain percentage of the accumulated profit. That will always insure that you keep some profit on a good trade.
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