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As a complete novice trader, your first mode of thought is to learn the basics of how the markets operate and how to place trades. To place a trade, you either have to open a virtual demo account with your desired capital deposit or a live account with real money (see brokers). Having made numerous mistakes throughout my trading journey and collating research from successful traders, I wanted to spend some thought on the major traps of demo account trading also highlighting the need to demo trade during critical times.
Demo Trading starting out
As a beginner in trading, you must apply basic concepts and strategies and slowly develop concepts like risk management and the need for a trading plan. Common topics such as Support & Resistance, Fibonacci retracement, time frame analysis, moving averages, price action trading, trading patterns, Japanese candlesticks, etc. are normally in every trading course/syllabus (see Education for beginners). You initially learn how to place trades with stop orders and limits, lot size allocation, etc. Demo trading is there to apply the skills but in reality, you can’t achieve monetary success. That’s why most people who start trading, believe that their results from trading with fake/virtual money will be the same as their results from trading with real money. Sorry guys, I just to let you know it’s not the case. It is never the case. The reason: Emotions.
Emotions! Emotions! Emotions!
The first and major sticking point is the element of emotions when it comes to demo vs live trading. A person’s emotions greatly impact their decision-making ability when real money is on the line. It’s difficult to gain discipline from demo trading because when you’re in a losing trade you can always get out of the trade or just take the hit. After a couple of losses just hit the account refresh button and your account tops back up. Apologies for breaking the bad news it doesn’t work like that. You could blow out 7 accounts and have one account with huge profit gains, but that does not mean you will be able to repeat the one big winning account.
When your trading a live account your mind goes into a state of frenzy; doubts appear, and indecision is the norm, should I? or should I not? These are all normal emotions. A common trait in successful traders is they have developed the ability to negate emotions i.e. they become emotionless and focus more on numbers. Every trader suffers from losses but the difference is they are more reliant on their formed biases. That is why they can take a loss on a particular trade and overcome that minor setback and continue to trade.
Demo Trading is crucial to get you back on track
Struggling with trading? Jack Schwager's advice from Market Wizards might be just the thing you need to get back on track. When three losing trades have left your brain fixated on losses and caused an emotional imbalance, resorting to a demo account can bring confidence in yourself and calmness of mind. Not only will it help relieve pressure, but also allow creativity as new strategies can be tested without risk.
Mistakes with a low deposit trading account
The general notion with new market participants is that you have to trade with a large account from the get-go to start making an income that presides over your primary income. This is a common big mistake! These individuals likely end up losing and blowing up their accounts. Becoming a consistently profitable trader that is banking pips every month takes time (it does not come overnight). Not everyone can give up their day job and start trading full-time. Therefore, if you feel like you’re not gaining an edge in demo trading, open a live micro account and deposit a couple of hundred dollars or pounds.
Believe what you read, “Trade with money you can afford to lose”. Applying your strategies and technical/fundamental analysis to a small funded account will help you develop and nurture the emotional aspects of trading. Once you start making mistakes with real money, you must take notes and learn. Write down the solution and memorize it so that it does not happen again. These will in effect be the rules that get added to your trading plan. You must continue to evolve as a trader until you become more consistent in following your plan. It would require someone similar to a saint to eliminate new mistakes, but this process will help you as a trader become more and more consistent in actually following your plan and not deviating away from your strategy.
Please bear in mind whatever your risk exposure is per trade i.e. 1% or 2% of your overall capital, you should have funds in your account to cover your margin of trading. Most brokers have a micro account option available where the absolute minimum lot size to trade is 0.01 lot which normally equates to 10 pence/cents (remember 1 standard lot (100,000 units of currency is $10). XTB and Etoro are among the top-tier regulated brokers that have a free forex demo account for beginners. Their award-winning platforms xStation5 and Etoro web trader are very popular places to start for any advanced or beginner trader. A list of key notable functions for XTB's xstation5 are listed below:
Award-winning - with total trade transparency, real-time market commentary, live performance statistics, and the most comprehensive charting package around, it’s easy to see why xStation was voted ‘Best Trading Platform 2016’ by Online Personal Wealth Awards.
Superior execution speeds - with fast, reliable execution speeds, you can trade safely in the knowledge that you can take advantage of fast market moves without delay.
Easy to use - innovative, intuitive, and fully customizable, xStation 5 is a platform that allows you to create a trading screen suited to your style. All your settings, watchlist, and workspaces are instantly accessible from your desktop, phone, laptop, or tablet.
Trading Calculator - xStation 5’s advanced trading calculator instantly determines how much profit or loss you could make depending on your stop loss, lot size, and limit order, allowing you to make more informed trading decisions in the blink of an eye.
Advanced Chart Trading - Market orders, stop losses, take profits, pending orders - execute all your trades directly from the charts. Our one-click dealing system gives your trading a more fluid, controlled feel.
Trader Statistics - Analyse yourself and the markets with live performance statistics that inform you which markets you’re most successful in, including specific win ratios on your long and short trades.
Advanced Technical analysis - Harness the power of xStation 5 and trade smarter by accessing popular technical indicators including Fibonacci Retracement, Moving Averages, RS, and more
Trader’s Talk - Tune in to the latest market news and analysis with our live audio feed directly on the platform. This free feature allows you to learn key breaking news instantly, giving you the chance to take advantage of real-time market opportunities.
Don’t forget the cardinal sins with live account trading- Let me assume that we now moved past the obvious reason above i.e.: the demo account isn’t a 100% forecaster of live results. Let’s say that you have some idea of what you are doing and you are using proper risk management, you have a strategy that gives you an edge, and you have attained consistent results on your demo account. The reality is that it is much easier to follow those guidelines when there is no real money involved. A trader’s emotions are much stronger when trading with real money rather than a forex demo account. With real money you will be tempted to commit several trading sins:
- You are moving your stop further away from the entry-level.
- Exiting a position way before it reaches your profit targets.
- Being greedy and entering multiple positions while in you’re a profitable trade
- Increasing your lot size/position size after a successful winning trade
- Entering a trade that does not meet your trading criteria may be to get revenge on a previous trade that was bad
While there are many more major sins to note in trading with real money, these listed above are the most common. This is a very brief explanation of bridging the gap between a demo account and a live account. The best advice is to not focus on money as idiotic as it may seem but on risk management and application to remove the common sins committed in trading with real money. Trade and learn your craft with a small account as you will most likely commit the cardinal sins of trading.