Taking Profit – A Trader’s Challenge

Taking Profit

The following is a discussion on Taking Profit from our member Q&A feature at Factor Trading.



Your reports on markets and discussions surrounding the more thorny issues of portfolio/trade management and emotions are without parallel. I am writing you in hopes of some advice. I am having problems with my trading in the sense that I often take my profits on a trade before it reaches my target, sometimes well before the target is reached. In other words, I am not being disciplined enough with trades that are going in my favor. Is there anything you can suggest (a book, a trade process, etc.) which can help me improve and work on my trade discipline? Thanks very much.

–Factor member, London



You describe a challenge that faces all discretionary position traders at some point in their careers. The temptation to take profits in a trade are overwhelming, especially during difficult trading periods and drawdowns. After watching the initial early profits on a few trades turn into losses creates a great emotional urge to grab a quick profit the next time one becomes available.

Ultimately this is a challenge every trader must work out for him or herself. There is no easy answer — what you describe is basically an inner battle that must take place with each trader. I engaged this inner demon early in my trading career — and I must admit that the “take profits before they disappear” inner voice makes itself heard even today. The upstream swim against human nature never ends — although it does get easier. Base emotions are never really defeated for a discretionary trader — the best we can do is to manage counter- productive urges.

I must start off by emphasizing that being a “target trader” is not for everyone. I know very successful traders who seek a three or four-day price surge (or break) and then step aside and look for other similar opportunities. I also know successful traders who would not think about “target trading” — they want to ride out a trend for as long as it continues (using various trend-following techniques).

If it is your strong desire is to be a “target” trader, let me suggest simple moving averages may be a way to get there — but you must look at this challenge as a marathon (requiring several years of development) and not a quick-fix.

If your account allows for a multiple-contract position futures, you might allocate at least one contract initially to a simple moving average system of your design. Perhaps you stay with the position as long as the 8-day or 14-day or 21-day or whatever moving average confirms the trend — of course then taking profits at the target if that is your goal. It is quite easy to split an equity or spot forex position into tiers for the purpose of delegating a partial position to a trend following model.


Hope this helps.





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