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Making a Living with the Micros


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Making a Living with the Micros

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  #1 (permalink)
 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
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Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
Thanks: 198 given, 1,462 received

Making a Living with the Micros

I am back! After being away for a bit, I am back on Futures.io after further refining my trading through some formal education and, of course, the ongoing school of hard knocks. LOL. FIO is great, and I am happy to help some others perhaps avoid some of my pitfalls and become profitable traders.

I truly believe I have arrived at profitability FINALLY after 15 whole years. I know 15 years is a long time, but several profitable traders I know have had similar timelines, so it may actually be close to the norm for guys and gals who have "made it."

There is so much to learn, and the biggest lesson ironically is not about entries, but about profitable exits and stop-losses and position sizing. The preservation of capital MUST come before new profits.

But I am jumping the gun...

This journal is the continuation of my two prior FIO journals:

1)

In the above journal, I showed my progress on my OneUp trial and eventual live account through the MES funding company.

But once the new CME micros came out, I decided that trading my own money was the better way to go, and I started a new journal:

2)

I encourage you to skim/read both of them.

My journey since I last wrote has certainly been interesting, and I will document it in these pages.

I started with $10,000 in my live account about 6 weeks ago, and I grew that to $14,000. This is 40% compounded growth in 6 weeks, or about 1% per day. I just withdrew 50% of my profits ($2,000). Of course, $2k in 6 weeks is far from a "livable wage," but it is a great step in the right direction.

The market is at new "All Time Highs" (ATH) just above 4000 on the ES right now, and things are strange because of all the stimulus and inflation. But my goal is to continue to grow my account slowly and carefully using the micros, with an average of about 1% to 2% per day, and taking out 50% of my profits each week.

By the end of 2021, I think I can be at the place where I can be earning $4k per week ($800/day average) and withdrawing $2k of that each week, earning $8,000 per month day trading futures.

Once my account gets to $20k, I will try the E-mini's but for now the micros are still the name of the game.

I invite you along for the ride.

Stay tuned....

My avatar continues to call out, "I am free!" Can I keep him this happy? We shall see.


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  #2 (permalink)
 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
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Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
Thanks: 198 given, 1,462 received

My story...

I had a good-sized trading account in 2005 (over $100k), but like many traders, I watched in horror as my account started to shrink instead of grow. What was going on? So little did I know....

Stocks. I paid for a newsletter with stock recommendations, and those recommendations often failed. And then the good recommendations seemed to not keep up with the losses.

Options. So I turned those recommendations into options trades - only to accelerate my losses. One of the newsletters even was taking options on futures! (... Talk about some firepower!) I tried a real options advisory service, but it seemed like they really had no clue either.

Algos. I tried some algorithmic trading. I recognize now that the system I bought was over-optimized and blew up when market conditions changed. Plus I actually let it run overnight one time... ouch!

Forex. My very first FX trade was right before a huge AUD move, and I went the wrong way and then doubled down. Ouch. I tried several services and saw potential, but ultimately my fear and greed kept me from profitability.

Futures. I began to settle on the YM as my preferred trading vehicle. I liked the $5 tick and the whole numbers (vs the .25 increments of the ES), LOL. After some coaching, I became a proficient scalper in ranges, but my Achilles heal was the constant desire to "fade" the trends.

Back to FX. Once my account was below $20k, I turned to back to FX (because of the lower margins) and started to finally figure out that my entries were not so bad, but it was my money management that sucked. The Discipline to take the inevitable losses was severely lacking. And unfortunately, psychologically a string of losses only accelerates the frequency of more bad trades.

While trading FX, I stumbled across ZuluTrade and watched in surprise and almost amusement how hundreds of signal providers repeatedly blew themselves up. "Martingale" appeared to be the default strategy, and the explosions/implosions were dramatic!

I carefully analyzed hundreds of winning systems on ZuluTrade, and I concluded that I could do well if I just set a fixed stop and honored it no matter what. I started my own system, and after dozens of failed attempts, I performed my way into the top 50 systems out of 10,000, and actually had over $1M worth of accounts following me. Once again, a news release did me in. I honored each stop loss, but it was a multi-day move and I kept trying to fade the move and lost the confidence of my subscribers.

And then the Dodd-Frank act killed the US Forex market. I went through about 10 different brokers because one-by-one they all caved to the new ruling that precluded USA citizens from international brokerages. In frustration I went back to futures, but with a small account.

"Back to the Futures". (tribute to Michael J. Fox) With my now-small account, and very frustrated, I went back to futures and did my best. But my account was now below $10k. The pressure to perform was great, but I couldn't pull off the consistency and had some crazy losses as I got married to wrong-footed trades. But I felt like I was making progress. And then I saw an ad for Top Step Trader.

TopStep/OneUp/Leeloo. I was saved! (Or though I thought.) The enticement to "earn a funded account" was real. I could now trade with a large account again. TST was the first. I gave them a lot of money, but never got funded. OneUp was next. I gave them a lot of money. I earned and traded 4 live accounts, and I actually withdrew live funds one time. Sometimes I failed because of the picky rules about news releases, but usually it was a discipline issue. Leeloo was next, and I earned another live account. They have fewer rules than the other two, but again, my own lack of discipline killed me. I still believe that these companies can be good for traders who know what they are doing, but considering that my own survey of traders shows the average trader spends about $7k on combine fees - I do NOT recommend them for new traders. Plus, you have to share your profits with them. Instead...

Enter the Micros! The CME introduced contracts 1/10 the size of the E-minis. I realized that if someone took the $7k they would have spent on combine fees and opened their own live account and traded the Micros, they could trade - as if - they had a $70k account for E-minis. I began to really focus on DISCIPLINE and applying what I had learned from FX--to TAKE THE SMALL STOP LOSSES NO MATTER WHAT. And guess what? It started to work! My account was actually growing again.

I think this is the key: Only when a trader is willing to trade the "I don't care" size, can he or she be truly objective. Why couldn't I seem to do it with the larger E-mini's? I think it was because as a losing trade gets larger and larger, the brain convinces us more and more with each negative tick that "It will come back. It will come back!" In fact, we then double down, adding to our error. And guess what? This "averaging down" actually works most of the time! The market actually reverses and brings us back into profit. So we reinforce a very bad habit. Why is it bad? Because every few days the market doesn't return home, but finds a new place to live. And when this happens, the averaging down absolutely destroys our accounts and our happiness.

So here I am at the present day. I have made some friends who regularly make $500 or more each day, and I want to join them. My account is small at about $12,000 but I have FINALLY (mostly) eliminated big losses and I truly believe that I can really make this work. It truly has been a long time coming. I have painfully learned some great lessons that I am willing to share with you on the following pages. I know each trader must navigate their own trading path, and get themselves up the MANY times they fall, but perhaps I can shave a few months off your journey with something I say. The journal also helps me personally to stay focused on what matters.

Can I get regain my $100k someday soon? Let's find out. I am just a curious as you may be.

In this journal, I will report my progress, show trades, and share lessons learned.

Let the fun begin.

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  #3 (permalink)
 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
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Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
Thanks: 198 given, 1,462 received


Tuesday. 2:30 ET--90 min before the close.

The Bullish Case

This morning we got new ATH's (all time highs) close to 4076 on the ES. "Reopening" appears to be the theme of the entire world right now, and everyone should be bullish for the next month. Right? So why the selloff beginning around 12:30 ET? Feels like at least a few market participants are getting a bit skittish up here in the nose-bleed section of the stadium watching the players below. And after 7 days of UP, UP, UP, is it not natural for some profit taking to appear?

Well, I am here to say - as one who has paid a very dear price - that there is no such thing as "overbought" and the market here can easily keep going up to 4200 or even 5000 over the next few months! I have been "fading" trends for 15 years, and it works well sometimes, but often it just fails miserably - especially if the trend is UP.

Why have I always expected a turn? I am not exactly sure. But while most traders "grow up" following the trends, my first and second mentors were scalping-kings, and I watched them daily scalping up a storm. They faded everything that moved! While everyone else was waiting patiently for a breakout, they traded the edges of ranges. Then while everyone else was enjoying the new trend after the breakout, they got just a small piece of the new trend followed by the small counter-trend, followed by a small piece of the continuation. Then they got all the reversals at the end of the trends. It was fun to watch. I tried to emulate them. I tried then, and I continue to try it now. And I do it very well - most of the time.

Fortunately, I have tempered my constant scalping by holding longer in clear trends. It has made a lot of difference.

The other thing that has helped a lot is that I now seriously "consider the bullish case" each day along with my natural contrarian tendencies which say: "If everyone is doing it, it must be wrong. I will be smarter and go the other way!" But my old way is just DUMB!!!! The herd CAN be right, and trends can go on much longer than anyone expects.

Consider--

The Fed. For many years now true "value" in the market has been completely irrelevant as the fed has gone through "QE1 to Infinity and Beyond!" (homage to the movie Toy Story) and now seems to weekly have a new stimulus plan.

The Covid Reopening. So many things got shut down, and thanks to the vaccines now available, the world is opening back up. This is so bullish.

Financial Advisors. In Dec 2020, JP Morgan set a 2021 S&P target of 4,400 to 4,600. What else needs to be said? Advisors rarely advise their clients to sell; they get bonuses on the AUM (assets under management)! And buy and hold is a lot less work.

Government Tendencies. House, Senate, Presidency run by big spenders. Well this is always the case, isn't it? Republican or Democrat, they all spend like crazy and continue to throw (our) money around, and Wall Street loves it.

And finally--

Bulls make money! A recent (and wealthy) mentor told me that 98% of his trades are long. He also said that 80% of his profits were from longs and 20% from shorts. This totally makes sense since the market has been going mostly UP for the past 12+ years. It does show that his shorts are significant winners, but they are few and fast. Better to be long if you actually want to make any cash. The perma-bears are losers. (Actually I have a good friend who is SHORT ONLY, but he has an incredible amount of patience - unlike me - and he waits to pounce on the short side only when the trend is clearly down.)

Of course we may get a catastrophic downturn again sometime. The Fed may decide to tighten soon as bonds are acting a bit strange. But the Fed will be there to bail us out all over again if we go over a cliff. On a big scale, is it not best to just step aside for the blink of an eye and start buying again once a reliable base has been established? (Of course I will be trading both sides.)

In the meantime, I have been much more willing to go long, and I will explain when and how I do it - soon. What has this meant for my trading? I used to take about 80% shorts and 20% longs, and now I am at about 50/50. This is a big recent positive change for me.

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  #4 (permalink)
 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
sstheo's Avatar
 
Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
Thanks: 198 given, 1,462 received

Thanks for the "Thanks" so far on each of my posts today. I really appreciate it.

It's actually quite funny, but I was getting ready to start this new journal just when Big Mike announced the April FIO Journaling contest sponsored by Jigsaw! You see that I was the first to enter the contest, LOL.

Will you please help me cross the journaling contest finish line in the top 3?

Just click on the big gray rectangle below this line and then click the "Thanks" button on my official entry post on the contest page:






I appreciate it,

sstheo

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 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
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Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
Thanks: 198 given, 1,462 received

Money Management

Proper contract sizing and loss management is the MOST IMPORTANT of the 25+ topics I want to share, so logically it comes first.

Preservation of capital MUST come before pocketing big profits.

As I mentioned before, I became a "demolition expert" many years ago. Someone might think I actually enjoyed blowing up my accounts! I got really good at

1) Trading too large
2) Moving my stops or trading without any stops at all
3) Adding more contracts when my confidence in a trade is high
4) Losing all my money over and over again and hating life. I mean really hating life.

Do the above four for long enough, and you will become an expert demolitionist like me.

So what is to be done?


Have Reasonable Goals.

I know traders who can routinely earn 30% on their accounts in just one day. Seriously. They are that good. Trading Gods? Perhaps. But the rest of us mere mortals need to be just a bit more patient and prudent.

One of the problems with the funding companies like TST/OneUp/Leeloo is they are looking for the best traders, but in the process, they completely nullify the "safety" portion of the equation by setting a qualifying target and a one-month goal that requires an average daily performance of 9%. (15 contract account: Earn $9k in 20 trading days with a max loss of $5k. That is $450/day. $450 is 9% of the max draw down of $5k) Oh, of course you can do it in 2 or 3 months, but then you have to subscribe for another month! And 2 months still requires 4.5% per day....

1% per day will take $10k to $100k in 12 months. 2% per day will take that same $10k to $1 Million in 12 months. (And starting with just $1,000 and earning 3% per day will get you $1.2M in 12 months) Certainly being consistent at 1% to 2% per day will bring great rewards!


Trade Small. Try the Micros.

Before the micros, it was impossible for me to not "trade scared." My account was small, and each loss on the ES/YM/NQ was huge. I just know that being undercapitalized was damaging psychologically. I couldn't think clearly.

When the CME introduced the micros, I was finally able to lift the fog from my tiny brain and get this show on the road. By fixing my stops small and just simply moving on to the next trade, I was able to let the past go.

How big of a position should you trade with? Certainly smaller than your margin will allow! Better yet, trade the "I don't care size." If you feel like putting a hole in the wall when you take a loss, you have not arrived there. If you still invent new words that sound like the upper characters on your keyboard ([email protected]#$%^&), you have not yet arrived!


The Best Baseball Players in the World Strike out 60% of the Time: Good Psychology is a Must.

It's true, a .400 batting average puts you in the top tier of baseball players. What does this have to do with trading? Everything. Those batters know, each and every time they get up to bat, that probability is not in their favor. But they go anyway. Why???? Because they know that overall the stats are in their favor for the season. Likewise, a losing trade is just part of the trading game. Let the past go and prepare for the next "at-bat."

The late Mark Douglas is famous for his book "Trading in the Zone." He wrote and spoke often about good trading psychology. "Anything can happen" he'd say. You can be a great trader and still have many losers. The market is random, but you can have an edge and come out ahead at the end of the day and week and month. Don't beat yourself up if you take a loss.


Set a Daily Goal and Stop when you Reach it.

For many months I had a goal 2% per day. One of the things that really helped me is to stop after I reached my goal. If you are in a foot race, you stop when you cross the finish line. You breathe. You might even sit down. You congratulate yourself for the win. You prepare for the next day's race.

Some say, "Take what the market will give. Don't limit yourself. You need the big days to make up for the small days." These are all valid ideas, but for someone who is trying to be consistent - perhaps for the first time - baby steps are the order of the day.

So set a goal, do your best to reach it, and then move on to other things in your day.

And finally we get to the biggie...


Take the stop!

Yes, it hurts to take the stop. But blowing your account hurts even more. Convinced the market is going to reverse at 4000 ES? Great. But what if you are wrong? Let it go. Take the stop. You can always get in again. And your mind will be clear. And you will still have money in your account to trade.

You are not trying to show what a great trader you are, you are trying to end up positive at the end of each day. Is it better to be right or make money???


From Acorn to Oak Tree.

This is the goal. It takes time. Water it. Weed around it. Protect it from the pests. Give it sun. Do it again and again. Maybe give it some fertilizer from time to time. Be patient. You can do it.

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 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
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Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
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The market awaits a Fed announcement in two hours.



And now is a great time to share one of my new toys: Fibonacci retracements and extensions. I will talk about them more in another post, but know that at this point, the T1 is the local low at 4060 and T2 is the -23% extension at 4057. Let's see if prices get there.



This is an ES chart with 7 tick range bars. The time is US Mountain time. The MA is a 20 period EMA.

The 50% retracement and the 61.8% retracement are excellent at holding price much of the time. The 50% is also called the Half-way back (HWB). I used to think fibs were hocus-pocus, but after seeing the evidence (many times to the tick!) I am now a believer, LOL.

--------------------------------

UPDATE after the FOMC Minutes: T1 at 4060 was hit, but T2 was missed by about 5 ticks.

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 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
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Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
Thanks: 198 given, 1,462 received

Developing Your Trading Brain

In case anyone is wondering, I am doing these posts mainly for myself (it is my journal after all!), but I am happy to share. And these posts help me organize my thoughts and reinforce the good stuff I have learned over the years. I recommend journaling to everyone!

Yesterday, I did my most important post. It was about Proper Money Management. I will be reading it over and over again. And I may do several more posts on the same topic. It is so vital to survival to approach the market with humility and patience, knowing that the price action is truly unknowable, but that if we can find an edge coupled with good money management we can win long term.

I laughed out loud the first time I heard that some big trading firms hired professional "Trading Psychologists." But then I remembered all my struggles. They were not about good entries, but about stopping the bleeding on bad trades. And then the light went on. Maybe trading really is 90% psychological and only 10% technical!

Here is a great Investopedia article on the topic: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/basics/13/how-to-develop-trading-brain.asp

I love this idea summarized from Norman Welz, whose book is discussed in the article. (By the way, Welz believes trading is 100% psychological).

"No other profession creates so many and such intense emotions and reflects so much of our personalities. The fundamental role of trader psychology tends to be underestimated and too much emphasis placed on the technical side. While both are essential, it is arguably the right mindset that differentiates successful from unsuccessful traders. However, learning the technical aspects of trading is more straightforward than acquiring a top-notch trading brain. The latter generally entails working intensely on one's own personality traits and eradicating entrenched behavioral patterns. This process is not easy and requires dedication, time, and often, the aid of a skilled coach. Nevertheless, the results are very likely to reap dividends."

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 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
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Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
Thanks: 198 given, 1,462 received

Here is my fast M2K chart. It is 3 tick Renko bar with an OBV indicator (squiggly blue) plus some channel lines.

I am posting this because I wanted to share part of the mental game we have to play while trading.




This chart shows two profitable short trades.

Notice the exit on my second micro trade at around 2,218 in the yellow circle. I was up about $20 profit and was looking for about $30 when it started to pop back up. Once the profit dropped to only $8, I was concerned about losing it, so I had to exit.

Of course, what did it do? I exited exactly at the high tick on that little pop - and then the price continued down, to and through my profit target further down below. It was just waiting for me to get off the bus to keep going.

It is maddening! (I won't lie. There is still emotion here... ) But this is exactly what my previous post is all about. This is a mental game. Can I beat myself up over taking an $8 profit? No I cannot. However, if I had let that $20 profit turn into an $8 loss, then yes... maybe.

We just keep going. And going. We don't swear. We don't throw stuff. We learn from the past and keep going.

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 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
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Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
Thanks: 198 given, 1,462 received

The market is in a tight range, again on a day with new All-Time Highs around 4,093. Some say we will get up to 4,150 because it completes the huge channel or bull flag we are in. It could happen!

But I don't swing trade. And I just took a short on the micro YM, the MYM for $12 with one contract. I am sharing it to show one of my favorite setups:

"Rotation back to VWAP"

I love this range condition trade using the VWAP as the magnet. If you haven't plotted the VWAP before, I recommend it, as many financial firms appear to use it.



I am using a 1 tick Renko bar on my fast MYM entry chart.

Rationale for short entry at 33,345:

In addition to
(1) being at the high end of the range, and
(2) having the VWAP below us, we also had
(3) the OBV saying the big boys were done buying (OBV below price).

So I jumped on board.

The OBV is like the Cumulative Delta, which I also use sometime. I will post more about it later, but know it is also one of my favorite new toys.

This $12 MYM (24 ticks!) is like a $120 YM trade.

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 sstheo 
Holladay, Utah, USA
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: Multicharts
Broker: AMP/CQG
Trading: MES, MYM, MNQ, M2K
 
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Posts: 285 since Oct 2012
Thanks: 198 given, 1,462 received


No More Mommy (The Guru Trap)

Who doesn't want the answers to the test? Who doesn't like free stuff? Free money?

A futures signal room?

SIGN ME UP!!!!

Hold on a sec. We all know we should be learning how to fish and not just grilling the gorgeous one handed to us.

Yes, we need education....

But the problem is an insidious one. Where does the education stop and the dependency begin?

My first mentor has now retired from teaching. I bought his course. I followed his thinking in his live chat room (mostly text, but sometimes voice). He never gave specific trades, but would just use words like "Bullish above 3900" or "We are running into resistance at 4000." It was $50 per month. It was great!

But the price was too low.

Why?

Because it way too easy to justify staying in the womb. Then not cutting the umbilical. Then not wanting to leave the warm breast full of milk.

I think it took me two full years before I really tried to crawl and then walk on my own. Honestly, I should have done it much, much sooner.

I remember when I didn't renew the subscription. I FELT SO LOST... And I signed up again after a month. And repeated that cycle a couple times.

Trading is hard. Apparently, over 90% of people lose all their money in the first year! It is especially hard to go it alone. I get it.

But eventually I made the transition. I weaned myself from my mommy...

And I am glad I did.

Yes, I still want people to hand me trades.

But I resist.

I am finally confident in my own analysis and execution, and have become (mostly) profitable.

YES. Egg > embryo > fetus > newborn is a true miracle. And crawling, walking, and talking are miracles.

Learning to read charts properly and then learning to fight the demons of fear and greed are true "trader's miracles."

And based on the stats, "self-sufficiency" as a trader is also a miracle.

And most do not get there. The effort is monumental. The financial cost is huge. The time cost is gargantuan. The emotional cost incomprehensible.

Candidly, if someone came to me today and said "Should I become a day trader?" I would say "no way."

But here we are. The FIO faithful. Support and ideas. We can do this.

To go back to the womb is nothing but regression.

So...

Get your education, but don't become dependent.

Cut the umbilical. It will hurt. Then eat solid food. Then let Mommy's hand go and walk across the room by yourself. Walk to school by yourself!



How?

After some initial education, develop your OWN trading plan. Test it on sim. Pretend it is real money. Don't do anything else until you are profitable for 10 days in a row. Then use ONE MICRO. Be profitable for 10 days in a row. Take the baby steps! Then go to 2 micros. Then 3. Then 4. Then 5. You will be surprised what 5 micros can bring you in just one day...

The big steps will come.



Now imagine lots of money sticking out of the briefcase.... $$$$


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Last Updated on August 6, 2021


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