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Money Management

“Money management is like sex: Everyone does it, one way or another, but not many like to talk about it and some do it better than others. But there’s a big difference: Sex sites on the Web proliferate, while sites devoted to the art and science of money management are somewhat difficult to find.”
Gibbons Burke

Resources for Money Management or Bet Sizing

  1. Bet Sizing Article by Ed Seykota and David Druz
  2. Gibbons Burke Article on Money Management (PDF)
  3. Seykota Risk Management Resource
  4. Kelly Formula and Data Transmission
  5. White Paper by Johan Ginyard (PDF)
  6. Johan Ginyard Position Sizing Interview
  7. Frequency v. Magnitude White Paper
  8. Web Resource for Math, Black Jack, Kelly, etc.
  9. Edward O. Thorp: Beat the Dealer (PDF)
  10. Kelly’s Original paper, March 21, 1956 (PDF)
  11. The Sharpe Ratio
  12. Tutorial Risk-adjusted Return

Another resource to add? Send us an email!

Money Management FAQ

In the twenty-first century it has become fashionable to manage one’s own investments, yet few traders implement disciplined, professional money management strategies. During the stock market bubble, limiting risk was an afterthought, but given the recent price action, it’s time to get serious about management of money and risk. Professional risk and money management strategies are the foundation for success. Essentially, money management tells you how many shares or contracts to trade at a given point.

Money management is a defensive concept. It keeps you in the game to play another day. For example, money management tells you whether you have enough new money to trade additional positions. Don’t confuse money management with stop placement. Stop placement does not address the how much question.

Money management is risk management. Risk management is the difference between success or failure in trading. Trading correctly is 90% money and portfolio management. Unfortunately, this is a fact that most people want to avoid or don’t understand. Once you have your money management under control, your discipline and psychology is 100% of your success.

Money management optimizes capital usage. Few have the ability to view their portfolios as a whole. Even fewer traders and investors make the move from a defensive or reactive view of risk, in which they measure risk to avoid losses, to an offensive or proactive posture in which risks are actively managed for a more efficient use of capital. Trend following risk management formulas and philosophies are key to increasing profits while controlling risk.

Q. What are some issues addressed by money management or bet sizing?
A. For example:

  • How much capital do you place on each trade.
  • What is the heat of your trading.
  • Capital preservation v. capital appreciation.
  • When do you experience expectation of success.
  • When must you take a loss to avoid larger losses.
  • If you are on a losing streak do you trade the same.
  • How must you prepare if trading both long and short positions.
  • Does a portfolio of long and short allow one to trade more positions.
  • How is your trading adjusted with accumulated new profits.
  • How is volatility handled.
  • How do you prepare yourself psychologically.
  • Have you tested your bet sizing.
  • More Money Management FAQ

Q. Does money management impact a decision to trade the same number of contracts or shares in all markets?
A. Yes. Money and portfolio management rules dictate the number of contracts or shares. Precise formulas set forth size. A trader who uses a constant trading size gives up an important edge in much the same way a blackjack player does when always betting the same regardless of what cards are on the table. Common single contract/share measures of trading system performance such as win/loss ratio, percent winning trades, etc. are of little value to decision-making when using trend following systems (and the turtle system). Often the best trading approach, when tested on a single contract/share basis, will turn out not to be the best approach when money management strategies are incorporated.

Q. What about short term trading? Isn’t short term less risky, and therefore you don’t need money management strategies?
A. Short term trading is not, by definition, less risky. Some people may mistakenly apply a cause and effect relationship between using a long term strategy and the potential of incurring large loss. They forget profit and loss are proportional. A short term system will never allow you to be in the trend long enough to achieve large profits. You end up with small losses but also small profits. Added together, numerous small losses equal a big loss. When you trade for the long term, you have a more positive expectation in terms of the size of the move. In the big picture, the larger the move, the larger the validation of the move. If you were trading some short term pattern predictive system you would never be able to participate fully in the big trends. Big trends make the big profits.

Q. How does money management impact drawdowns?
A. All systems have drawdowns. You can’t have a profitable methodology, without taking some calculated risks as well as some losses. Trend following drawdowns are a function of the risk level desired. Risk level among trend followers varies depending upon the size of the profit they seek. For example, if you sought 100%+ a year gains you must be prepared for the possibility of a 30% drawdown. Anyone who promises you can make 100%+ with only the possibility of a 5% drawdown is lying. More on Volatility.

Q. Can you manage margin issues?
A. Required margin has little to do with money management considerations. For example, if the margin was dropped from $5000 to $2500 on a particular stock or commodity, must you trade twice as many shares or contracts? Of course not. Margin issues are not money management.

Q. Is slippage a concern with money management?
A. No one wants bad fills. But trend following for the long term places far less emphasis on perfect fills for success. In contrast, short term traders’ transaction costs and skids on their fills affect their bottom line to a much greater degree.

Q. What is the win/loss ratio of trend following management? Can it experience many losses in a row?
A. Trend following systems (and the turtle system) trade for the outsized large move. Several big trends a year are your key to success. The strategy cuts your losing positions quickly. Consequently, a few big trades will make up the bulk of your profits and many small trades will make up your losses. Winning trades can range from 35-50%, but that percentage reveals little information since we expect more losses (of smaller value) than winners (of much larger value). Win/loss ratio, while a favorite of the novice trader, has limited use in terms of trend following analysis.

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