Forex Trade Management – What to do After You Enter a Trade

Forex trade management is arguably the most important aspect of success in the markets; it can literally make or break you. Once you learn a high probability Forex trading strategy like price action, you have to know how to manage your trades after they are live. Most traders simply ignore this essential piece of the Forex trading puzzle. By ignoring trade management or by simply not being aware of it, it is only a matter of time before you self-destruct in the market. A perfect price action trade setup can very easily turn into a losing one if you fail to manage it properly. So, without further ado, let’s dive into some practical Forex trade-management tips that you can put to work right away…

Forex Trade Management Mistakes…

Most trade management mistakes are a result of emotional decisions. How often have you found yourself entering a new position just because your current position is in profit? Or how about moving stop losses further from your entry because you are “certain” that price will turn around and move back in your favor? Have you ever moved your profit target further out as a trade moved into profit because you convinced yourself it would keep going because of XYZ reason? Maybe you take profits smaller than 2 times risk all the time or often get stopped out at breakeven only to see the market move on in your favor without you? These are all very common errors that traders make which are caused from poor or no planning and emotional decision making.

All of these errors seem pretty silly when you’re not in the market and thinking objectively. But, once you enter a trade, if you are not following a Forex trading plan and keeping track of your trades in a Forex trading journal, you are very likely to experience extreme temptation to make one or more of the above mentioned trade management mistakes. While trade management is not a concrete science or a mechanical process, there are some general guidelines you can follow and questions you can ask yourself before and during each trade which can help you manage your trades much more effectively…

trade management

Averaging In and Averaging Out…

Let’s discuss adding to positions and having multiple or partial positions. First off, the decision of whether or not to add to your initial position in a trade should largely be made before you enter. You need to analyze current market conditions and decide the most logical exit strategy and whether or not adding to your initial position is logical given current market conditions. If you are entering into a strong trending market, you may decide before hand that you will try a trailing stop and try to let the trade run and add to it at logical levels as it moves in your favor. The safest way to add to a position as it moves in your favor is to average in as the market moves in your favor. Here is an explanation of averaging in…

• Averaging in means that you use your open profit to “pay for” the next trade, it allows you to add to your position in a risk-free manner, but the sacrifice is that you increase your odds of getting stopped out at breakeven. It typically is only good to try this technique in a market that is in an obviously strong up or down trend. Forget about it in trading ranges or sluggish / slow-grinding markets. Ideally you want to wait for a price action setup to form at a key level after the market has pulled back a bit, a good example of this would be if your initial position moved in your favor and then pulled back to around 50% of the way back to your entry and then formed a pin bar at a key level, or some other price action setup at a key level; this would be a logical spot to add to a position by averaging in. You want to avoid adding to a position JUST because you are in profit, ideally you want a price action-based reason to add to an already winning position.

• Here is an example of averaging in: you sell the EUR/USD at 1.4500 with one mini-lot. The position quickly goes into profit by 100 pips and then forms a fakey setup in the direction of your initial position. Once your first position is up 100 pips and the market formed another price action setup giving you a reason to take on another position, you add a second mini-lot with a 50 pip stop loss, you then move down the stop loss on the first lot to lock in +50 pips. Now, if the second position turns around and hits your 50 pips stop loss, the first position will also stop you out for a 50 pips profit, stopping you at breakeven.

trading management

This is a risk-free way to add to a position that is moving strongly in your favor. However, always keep in mind it increases your odds of getting stopped out at breakeven and making no money at all, the payoff is that you could obviously make twice as much (or more) money. One important note of caution is to make sure you NEVER add to your initial position and double up your risk by not adjusting your stop on the first position. Averaging in means that you move your average entry price closer to the market price, if you double up your position and don’t trail up your stop loss, you open yourself up to substantial losses.

• Averaging out (Not A Good Idea In My Opinion), also known as “scaling out” is often talked about in the Forex trading community but it is almost always a bad idea. The main reason it is a bad is because of this; when you scale out of a position all you are doing is reducing position size as the trade moves into your favor. Sound illogical? It is. Think about it for a minute. Why would you purposely want to hold the smallest part of your position at the most profitable part of your trade? It is always better to either take full profit at a logical spot in the market, 2R multiple or greater, or trail your stop on the full position, than to try and take partial profit by scaling out. The bottom line on averaging out is that holding the least profitable part of your position at the most profitable part of the trade is not a financially wise or logical way to try and maximize your winners.

Trailing Stops… (Only Use them when the market is trending)

Trailing your stop as a trade moves in your favor can be a very good Forex trade management technique. However, trailing has limitations and you don’t want to just blindly trail your stop…

• Stop trailing techniques can take many different forms. A few of the more common ones including the following: trailing your stop up as a trade moves 1 times risk in your favor, thereby reducing your risk to 0 as a trade moves 1 times risk in your favor and subsequently locking in each 1R multiple of profit.

• The 50% trail technique is also popular, in this technique you trail your stop to 50% of the distance between your entry and the newest high / low as the market moves in your favor; thereby locking in profit as the market moves in your direction, this technique generally gives a trade more room to breathe but it can also give way a lot of open profit if a trade comes back beyond the 50% level and stops you out.

• Yet another popular trailing stop technique is to trail your stop just beyond the daily 8 or 21 day EMA. The 21 day EMA typically allows your trade to run for longer since it is less likely to get hit in a strong trending market than the 8 day EMA. The 8 day EMA trail would only be used in very quickly moving / trending markets. These are by no means the ONLY ways to trail your stop, they are just examples. There really is no right or wrong way to trail your stop loss, but just keep in mind it’s not the best strategy for every market condition. You generally only want to trail in strong trending markets.

• Breakeven stops are not always a great idea because the market can whipsaw around as everyone knows; stopping you out at breakeven only to move back in your favor. What you need to realize about trailing stops to breakeven is that it can cut down your long-term gains by limiting your potential profits. Yes, you will eliminate some potential losses by moving to breakeven, but you will also eliminate some even larger rewards.

As traders, we all need to accept the risk that is an inherent part of any trade, and if you are entering the market on a sound price action trading strategy, you want to give your edge time to play out, essentially you are interfering with this edge if you move to breakeven as soon as possible. I have personally found that viewing my trades as a win or lose proposition and being totally OK with the loss, is a better way to trade long term, because you will inevitably have some winners that more than make up for your losers, and you don’t want to cut back on these winners through breakeven trades. There are times when moving to breakeven is a good idea; in very volatile markets or if you have pre-planned to trail up your stop in a logical manner like we discussed above.

Getting the Most Out of Each Trade…

The goal of any successful Forex trader is to get the most out of every trade they enter. The way that you give yourself the best chance to get the most out of every trade is by behaving in a logical and consistent manner and pre-planning all aspects of your Forex trade management.

There is a fine line between being a trader who lives in hope and being a trader who accepts the reality of the market by taking what the market offers them. Before you get into a trade you need to ask the question, “how far do I realistically think this market can move before a substantial correction occurs?” Once you master price action trading and learn to read the levels and dynamics in the market, you will be able to make a pretty accurate estimation of the potential of any setup before you enter. And keep in mind you are ALWAYS LESS EMOTIONAL before you enter a trade than at any time during it. So, you have to assume that long-term, you are going to get the most out of every trade by managing it as much as you can before you enter it, rather than trying to manage it “on the fly”.

Listen to the signal and the market conditions; if there’s a price action setup at a clean breakout level or an obvious trend with strong momentum, trailing your stop into a 1 to 4 winner may have its reward. However, in a more congested or range-bound “not-so-sure” market situation, it’s not a good idea to pray and hope, trying to milk every last dollar out of a trade. So you see, there is a certain amount of discretion involved in trade management, it’s most important to read the market conditions before you enter a trade and decide how best to manage the trade at that time while leaving open the possibility of adjusting your exit strategy if any obvious reversal signals occur in the course of the trade or if the market conditions change drastically. However, that said, it’s almost always better to plan everything beforehand and then set and forget your Forex trades. Trading in this way allows you to see how your trading edge plays out over the long-term with no “outside” interference, and it prevents you from trying to force your will on the uncontrollable market.