Understanding The Stock Market & Trading

The Stock Market and financial trading is probably one of the most misunderstood mechanisms on the planet. Anyone you ask will have an opinion about it, but very few actually understand what it is or how it all works.

This is a real shame, because the stock market and the various trading instruments that exist today have lowered the barrier of entry to this field monumentally in recent years, and the stock market is now accessible to pretty much everyone.

There are lots of misconceptions about the stock market, and the people who use it as a trading tool, and so it’s important that we understand the basics to be able to dispel the myths and sort the good advice from the bullshit.

So, what is the stock market?

Well, the stock market is basically a place where people trade emotions. I say that, because although the nuts and bolts of the stock market are the stocks, commodities and currency markets on one side, and the myriad of investors, retail traders and financial institutions on the other, the values of those stocks are largely based upon people’s collective emotions at any given moment. This is what you’re seeing when you seeing price action moving on the candle charts; it’s a visual representation of the mean average of the presiding emotional sentiment in the market at any given time.

So the components of the stock market are simply:

  1. Company Stocks/Shares (Apple, Facebook, Google etc.)
  2. Commodities (Gold, Silver, Platinum, Oil etc.)
  3. Currencies (FOREX – Foreign Exchange)
  4. Indices (these are collections of companies and so their value is the mean average of the value of all the companies within the index – an example would be the FTSE100, which is comprised of 100 of the top blue chip companies in the UK at any given point in time)
  5. ETF’s (Exchange Traded Funds – these are funds┬áthat are a marketable security tracking an index, a commodity, bonds or a basket of assets like an index fund)
  6. Investors (companies and individuals of various sophistications buying and selling stocks and shares on the market)
  7. Financial Institutions (banks, funds, brokers, and traders buying and selling on the stock market)
  8. Retail Traders (everyone else trading stocks and shares on the market)

Looks a little complicated doesn’t it? Well, it’s really not.

In order to simplify, look at it this way – it is the same as buying and selling food at a street market where prices fluctuate over time, only in the stock market this happens at a much faster rate.

For those who take the time and make the effort to understand the mechanics of it, there is the potential for rich rewards where every day your money works for you, rather than you working for money. Financial freedom is attainable for each and every one of us, all we have to do is take the time, and make the effort, to learn the rules of the game.

It doesn’t matter if the stock market is in the middle of a strong bullish rally, or a crashing bearish descent – when you know the rules, you can make money either way.

Ever since I started learning about trading the stock market and investing I was confused as to why more people didn’t know about it, and why more people weren’t doing it. It seems to me like this is something that they should be teaching our kids in school, as it stands to return significantly more handsomely than any bank on your pot of savings – if you know what you’re doing.

And it’s really not that hard; the rules are simple – it’s having the discipline to stick to them rigidly that is the challenge for most.

I should tell you now that 90% of people who try to learn how to trade end up failing and wiping out their accounts, and this is somewhat responsible for why it has a bad name. I cannot stress enough that there is no such things as a risky trade or a risky investment – only risky traders and risky investors. Those people who don’t have the education, the cohesive plan or the experience in the markets to have the first clue about what their doing, and who are basically gambling their money on the stock market. This is why 90% of traders fail – it’s a lack of knowledge and understanding of the rules of the game.

Trading Instruments

There are various different instruments that are available to retail traders these days, all with slightly different mechanisms but all based around the same set of skills. If you can trade the stock market, then your skills should be transferable across spread betting, trading CFD’s and investing in physical stocks and shares.

The main different instruments are:

  1. CFD’s (Contracts for Difference) – these pretty much do what they say on the tin, and is the main instrument I am trading at the moment due to the versatility of the social trading platforms available. When you trade on platforms that operate on a contract for difference basis you do not own any of the underlying asset, and so do not benefit from any dividend payments. All you are doing when you open a position is taking out a contract with your chosen broker agreeing that if the price of the asset increases or decreases from a fixed entry price then either you pay your broker a set amount per pip of price movement (if the price moves against direction of your position – up or down), or your broker pays you. When you close the position, you close the contract and either ending up taking profits (if you guessed the direction of the market correctly) or closing out for a loss if you guessed incorrectly. One of the big advantages to trading instruments likes CFD’s and Spread Betting is that you can use leverage to increase your asset holding without needing to invest or tie up the total value of the asset invested. However, be warned, whereas this drastically increases your ability to make significant profits, it also drastically increases the likelihood of having a catastrophic loss that wipes out your account – proper risk management should be observed at all times when trading
  2. Spread Betting – this works in exactly the same way as CFD’s, and you’re trading the same stocks and commodities on the same charts, only the profits you make trading through this instrument are completely tax free. This is because it’s called Spread ‘Betting’ and so because it’s classed as ‘gambling’, any profits are not currently subject to UK tax. This makes it an excellent instrument for generating a residual or passive income. Both Spread Betting and CFD trading allows for very easy entry and exit from trades, powerful leverage if used correctly and guaranteed stop losses and take profits for protecting your trading equity. They both also allow for you to enter positions to profit when the markets are both falling (bearish) and rising (bullish), by either going short (selling) or long (buying)
  3. Investing in actual Stocks and Shares – this is where you actually own the underlying asset, whether that’s a share in a company or some sort of ETF. This process is subject to higher broker fees when buying and selling, and so is better suited for longer term swing trades or long term investments. This method only allows you to profit when the asset increases in value or through the repeat dividend payments – if you own shares in companies that pay dividends then you will generate a regular passive income that can be used to reinvest in more shares and add to the compounding of your wealth. The more shares you own, the more dividend you get paid, and so the compounded growth is never ending and grow like a snowball rolling down the Alps

Fundamental or Technical?

There are two different techniques when it comes to trading – fundamental analysis, and technical analysis.

Fundamental Analysis is where you look at the financial and economic data for a given asset and make your trading and investment decisions based on the results of what you find in that data. This could be company financial reports, earnings reports, or economic data such as inflation rates or political announcements. This would be the best method for discerning quality assets for long term investments, as it’s important to be able to have confidence in an investment over time by confirming that the asset in which you’re investing your hard earned money is financially sound.

Technical Analysis is where you look at the price action data on the charts. There are several different types of charts and many different methods of technical analysis, but you only need to master a few to be a successful trader – even mastering one method will return profitable results if you stick to the trading plan without deviation. This looks at historical price data on charts relating to different time frames from 1 minute up to weeks and months of price data per candle, and provides insightful information about likely areas, or zones, where the markets are likely to react from and change direction. This is where technical analysis provides numerous trading opportunities – in recognising patterns, and in understanding how the mechanics of the markets are structured.

Ultimately, you’ll probably end up favouring one over the other and this will govern how you build and execute your trading plan.

Trading Psychology

“Success is 20% mechanics, 80% psychology”

– Tony Robbins

Trading psychology is without a doubt the hardest part of trading to master. Never mind all the charts, terminology and financial data – mastering your mind, your discipline and your emotions trumps them all.

The effect a losing trade can have on our psychology can be profound, and for most is what leads to emotional trading that generates massive losses and even wipes out people’s entire trading accounts. Emotional trading is a big NO, and this is the single most important reason for having and using a detailed trading plan. Having a written plan that details exactly what your methods are, and specifies your researched and back tested criteria for entering and exiting trade positions, will remove the need to make any decisions when you have money on the line. It’s when you have money riding on an open position that your primal croc brain starts to fuck with you and allowing this to take over your thinking when trading is the beginning of the end for most traders.

You have to learn to be your own trading coach and mentor – or go out and find someone who can fulfil that role for you. The best resource I’ve come across so far that really helped me gain control of my psychology when trading and which has helped me to remove all emotional trading from my trades was the following book by Brett N. Steenbarger:

This book gave me all the tools I needed to understand the inner workings of my own psychology when it came to trading, and indeed gave me skills which transferred over into others areas of my life such as sport and business. A really excellent book, and highly recommend – in fact, it’s a must if you’re thinking of embarking on the journey of learning to become a financial trader. Without it, the risk of your emotions taking control and devastating your trading account is all too real.

The stock market, by it’s very nature, goes up and down in cycles. As I hope I’ve shown in this short blog, there are the vehicles available today that allow everyone with access to a computer, smart phone or tablet and an internet connection to trade on the financial markets. Most platforms come with free virtual trading accounts that allow you to trade the markets in the first instance with fake money. This provides the opportunity for gaining valuable experience in the stock market, watching and learning how it moves, and means you can try out new techniques, systems or adjustments to your trading plan without putting any of your hard earned capital at risk. Once you see that you are consistently generating profits over a period of several months, you can then begin trading with real equity with some degree of confidence that you know what you’re doing and have a trading system that is profitable when followed with discipline.

Everyone has the ability to be financially free by taking the time to learn this skill, and doing so is going to not only put your future in your hands, but also has the potential to return significantly on capital invested – more so than any bank or other financial institution is going to give you that’s for sure.

From Beginner to Trader

I will be running a ‘From Beginner to Trader’ course around the Oswestry/Welshpool area very soon for anyone who is interested in learning about how to trade the stock market using the instruments I’ve described in this blog. The course will take a complete beginner who knows nothing about the stock market and trading through learning the skills needed to become a profitable trader. Course material will be provided in a live training environment, and you will come away from the training session with:

  1. A solid understanding of the mechanics of how the stock market and it’s various instruments work and move
  2. A solid understand of both fundamental and technical analysis, and strategies for utilising both methods in your trading
  3. A tool box full of tried and tested technical indicators for providing high probability entry and exit points for your trades
  4. A trading plan for intra-day trading on the 5-minute time frame
  5. A trading plan for swing-day trading on the higher time frames (4 hour, daily, weekly)
  6. A trading plan for pattern trading according to price action and technical indicators, as well as a thorough understanding of what key support and resistance levels are and how to define them on your charts
  7. How to buy and sell assets tax free – both through leveraged instruments and through physical stocks and shares
  8. A road map for finding quality shares for longer term investment
  9. An understanding of the emerging crypto-currency markets and how to maximise trading profits trading these alternative currencies
  10. A risk management strategy that will stop you blowing your account and that will keep your trading equity protected by minimising your losses and maximising your profits
  11. An understanding of the importance of psychology in trading, and techniques for mastering your emotions when engaged in live trades

Financial freedom is the ultimate goal – to every day have the choice of what you do, where you do it, and who you do it with. No constraints, no limits, no worries.

The beautiful thing about that? That the more people there are in the World who have that level of freedom and choice in their lives, the more people there will be in the World who have the desire and capability to help everyone else up to that level.

I’d love to see you on my ‘From Beginner to Trader’ trading course as I know it will change the way you think about money, and it has the potential to change your life if you implement the lessons you will learn in the course. Please register your interest by completing the contact form below, and I’ll send you an e-mail with all the details including how to register:

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