Forex Money Management That Actually Works!

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When people first come to trading and in particular Forex the first thing they look to do is find the shiniest and fanciest trading system they can get their hands on. The thinking goes that if they can just find the latest and greatest system all their dreams will come true and the millions will come rolling in.

Whilst a solid and profitable trading method is needed to make money trading, if the trader does not use a profitable money management technique to fit that system or method then the best trading system in the world is not going to help them.

The best trader in the world could personally tutor and give a trader all their tricks and tips, but if that trader fails to use solid money management, then they are still doomed to fail! This is how important money management is and it is something that is constantly overlooked.

It takes many months in most cases for traders to search through system after system to realise that after all the systems have failed that maybe it is not the system, but something else they are doing that causing them to consistently fail.

 

What is Money Management in Forex?

Basically exactly as it says; Forex money management is how you manage your money when you trade. When discussing money management in Forex, traders are normally referring to how much they are risking of their account. For example; trade Joe may say: “I am risking 2% on this engulfing bar trade”. This means that if Joe was to lose his trade he would lose 2% of his overall 100% account.

It is important that all traders have a money management technique and that it is carried out with consistency. Below I will speak about this in more detail and why I am not a fan of the fixed percentage.

One of the most important aspects of money management is ensuring that the traders live to trade another day no matter what happens on any one individual trade.  Anything can happen at any time in the markets and using a sensible money management technique ensures that the trader will be able to trade again no matter what happens.

A major reason that traders will fail even when using a profitable trading system is because the money management they are using simply does not give their systems edge long enough to play out over time. Traders must think like a casino when trading.

A casino knows they will lose games and also know they will have losing runs of games, but the casino knows that in the end they always come out on top. The casino factors in how much they can risk to ensure that in the end they will make money. This is exactly what traders have to do to ensure that no matter what happens and no matter what losing streaks they have, they give their profitable trading method time to play out by using a money management technique that keeps them in the game.

 

How to Work Out Trade Position Sizes

After the trader has decided how much they wish to risk each trade, it is important that they then before entering each trade work out how much the position size should be.  Something I am regularly amazed at that traders don’t know exists is position sizing. This consistently surprises me as this one technique is so important and yet overlooked and not known to so many traders.

Position sizing is important because it allows traders to adjust their trade size depending on the factors of the trade such as the pair and stop size. I often get told by traders “I can’t trade the higher time frames because I don’t have enough money” and this is exactly what position sizing solves. Working out the position size allows traders to make bigger or smaller trades depending on the different trades circumstances.

Every trade a trader will enter will have a different size stop. If a trader is to enter the same amount on every trade no matter what the size stop is they would be risking vastly different amounts of money and different percentages of their account every single trade.

For example; if a trader put a 50,000 trade on with a 20 pip stop they are risking twice as much as if they enter the same 50,000 with a 10 pip stop.

So a trader can enter every trade risking either the same amount of money or the same percentage of their account for every trade, position sizing is used.

Using position sizing ensures that a trader will be able to place a trade and risk the same percentage of their account whether the stop is 200 pips or two pips. This also ensures that no matter how small the traders accounts are they can play trades with large stops, providing their brokers allow them to use leverage and small units.

To work out the position size before each trade we use what is called a position size calculator which can be found here: Position Size Calculator

The calculator asks questions which will need to be filled in such as: account currency (the currency of your trading account), account size (your account size in $), risk ratio is either % or $ (how much in $ or % you want to risk), stop loss in pips (how big your stop is), currency pair (the pair you are trading).

After these questions are filled in, you will be given your answer of the amount you need to trade to risk the amount you input into the risk section. The results come back as: money (how much money you are risking in this trade), units and lots (how big your trade size is on units and lots). This is the amount you will then open a trade with.

For example; if the calculator comes back with Money: 200 Units: 20,000 and Lots: 0.2 it means you will be opening a trade for 0.2 lots. One full standard lot or standard contract is 100,000, so 0.2 lots of one standard lot are 20,000.

A picture of what the position size calculator looks like below:

Forex position size calculator

 Why the Fixed Percentage is Flawed and a Few Money Management Keys!

A lot of retail traders use the commonly used money management method that is commonly called the fixed percentage method that we touched on above. This method is basically all about using the same percentage risk every trade no matter what the size stop for each and every trade. For example; trader Joe may risk 3% on every one of her trades and she will risk this same 3% no matter whether the stop on her trade is 30 pips or 300 pips.

The percentage risked will stay the same whether trading on the 1hr chart or the weekly chart. The idea behind this method is that it keeps the trader in the game. If the trader goes on a losing streak the amount of money risked continues to get smaller because the account size gets smaller, but the percentage of the account risked overall stays the same.

The problem for this method is that if the trader starts losing, it makes it harder and harder to get the account balance back to break even and make money. Because they are using a fixed percentage, if the traders starts losing the account starts getting smaller. If the account starts getting smaller the amount of money they are risking starts getting smaller and smaller and the amount they start profiting gets smaller and smaller until the wins are not covering the losses.

 

If a trader loses 50% of their account with the fixed percentage method they don’t just have to make back 50% to get back to break even. They have to make back 100%!

 

So What to do?

When you consider that most traders trade with an account balance less than $10,000 it shows that the fixed percentage model is even more flawed. Another less well know method to manage money is the fixed money method.

The fixed money method is where the trader risks the same amount of money every single trade rather than risking the same percent. The trader picks a certain amount of their account that they are comfortable risking every trade. It is important that this amount is reasonable and that the trader can also take enough losses, but also stay in the game long enough for their trading edge to play out. For example; trader Joe who risked 3% of her $10,000 account, may instead be more comfortable risking $300 of her account each trade.

With this method if trader Joe loses a few trades and the account balance goes down, instead of the amount of money she is risking going down also and making it harder to get back to break even, she will continue to still risk the same $300 every trade.

Using the fixed percentage money method it is important that traders set goals in their trading journal and plans so that when these goals are reached they can increase the amount of money they risk per trade. This way the best of both worlds can be had; the trader can bet back to break even after any losing streaks as quick as possible, whilst taking advantage of the winning streaks when they come.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and can put it to use in your own trading,

Johnathon

 

Forex Money Management That Actually Works! was last modified: March 6th, 2016 by Johnathon Fox
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About Johnathon Fox

Johnathon Fox is a professional Forex and Futures trader who also acts as a mentor and coach to thousands of aspiring traders from countries right around the world. Johnathon specialises in helping traders reach their full trading potential by helping them master the art of price action trading and correct money management techniques. To learn more about how you can become a student of Johnathon’s and learn the strategies he uses, then check out the Forex School Online Lifetime Membership

Comments

  1. Lisa Jones says:

    As long as the trader position sizes his trade, his risk is contained. Just be comfortable on what you are willing to risk and we will be ok!

  2. Faruqe says:

    Money management is vary much important for forex trading. Without money management no body can not success here.

  3. William Ha says:

    Hi Johnathon,
    Im a newbie in forex trading and I find it difficult in managing money. Im so happy to read your article, but Im still confused after reading it. According to your words, i guess u are in favor of fixed money amount, right?
    Another thing that Im still confused is how to manage several trades in 1 time. For example, should i risk 1% each trade or should I divide my position size in each trade so that my total risk is still 1%.
    Please help me out. Really appreciate your help.

    • Hello William,

      yes I am a personal fan of fixed money, but that does not mean you have to be also.

      To answer your other question; this depends on what the of regions or zones the markets/currencies are. The reason for this is because we never want to double up our risk on the same two regions or countries. For example; I don’t want to be doubling up my risk on the EUR, NZD, USD etc, but I would be happy to take two trades at the same time on separate markets that are bot related.

      Johnathon

  4. Okay just to clarify something – Am I understanding this right in saying that a fixed amount method works best (especially if you are not very consistent yet so you can recoup any losses sooner), but when you are more consistent or on a winning streak, the % method works better?

    I know the % method works better if you are winning because that also brings compounding in to play, which means your account will grow faster than risking the same $ amount every time.

    But that brings another issue – an emotional one because you are risking more and more money, which really should not be an issue if you are consistent but that is sometimes easier said then done.

    It’s sort of a 6 of the one and half dozen of the other situation, isn’t it?

    Thanks!!

    • Actually, to add to or to edit the comment I just left – are you saying that if you are using the % method, that you should increase that % as your account balance goes down if you are loosing so you can get back to BE sooner or in a similar way as to using the fixed $ amount?

      I guess that makes more sense?

      • Heya Josh,

        it’s a personal choice really.

        I personally use the money method and have done for a long time. The reasons are simple; firstly as explained it has never really made much mathematical sense. The other more important reasons for me personally are because I work out everything in money.

        I know how much I need to make for the year, I know how much money my bills are, I know how much much trading account is sitting at and so it has always made perfect sense to continue to risk everything else in money terms. I always know where I am at, I always know how much I am going to be risking because this never changes until I reach my next goal.

        Just to add to your last comment; you should never start to add to your amounts as you start to lose as this is just a quicker way to blow your account. The reason for the percentage amount of the first place is to ensure that you will trade another day and to ensure that as you lose your position size will get smaller with your losses, thus ensuring you stay in the game.

        The percentage method can work, but as I said in the lesson it does just make it harder if you get behind, but if you don’t get behind it is great because it starts to compound the wins and that’s when it is great.

        Johnathon

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