Derivative market investors have to not only compete with other investors in the market but also with themselves. Oftentimes as an investor, you will be your own worst enemy. We, as humans, are naturally emotional. Our egos want to be validated and we want to prove to ourselves that we know what we are doing and that we are capable of taking care of ourselves. We also have a natural instinct to survive. All of these emotions and instincts can combine to provide us with investment successes every now and then. Most of the time however, our emotions get the best of us and lead us to investment losses unless we learn to control them. Many investors believe it would be ideal if you could completely divorce yourself from your emotions. Unfortunately, that is nigh on impossible, and some of your emotions may actually help improve your investment success. The best thing you can do for yourself is learn to understand yourself as an investor. Identify your strengths and your weakness and pick an investment style that is right for you.
Lets now discuss common psychological biases that may impact your investment results, and importantly, what you can do to overcome them ...
Overconfidence is an over-inflated belief in your skills as an investor. If you ever find yourself thinking to yourself that you have got everything figured out, that you have nothing more to learn and money is yours for the taking in the market, you probably suffer from an overconfidence bias. Overconfident investors tend to get themselves into trouble by trading too frequently or by placing extremely large trades as they go for the home run. Inevitably, an overconfident investor will end up either trading in and out and in and out of trades churning the investor's account or risking too much on the one trade that goes bad and wipes out most of their account. If you want to know if you have any overconfidence tendencies, ask yourself, "Have I ever jumped right back into a trade I had just been stopped out of not because I saw another entry opportunity but because I couldn't believe I was wrong?" You can also ask yourself, "Have I ever put more on a trade than I normally would because I was just sure this trade was going to be the one?" If you have, you need to be aware of those tendencies. The best way to overcome an overconfidence bias is to establish a trading/ investment plan and money management plan. These plans should at least cover how and when you will enter and exit the market, when how many trades you will allow yourself to be in at one time, how much of your account you are willing to risk on any one trade and how much of your account you willing to lose before you take a break from trading and re-evaluate your trading/ investment strategy. By limiting the number of trades you are willing to be in and the amount of risk you are willing to take, you can spread your risk out evenly over your portfolio.
Anchoring is a propensity to believe that the future is going to look extremely similar to the status quo. When you anchor yourself too closely to the present, you fail to see the dramatic changes that are possible as currency pairs fluctuate and the underlying fundamentals shift. Anchored investors tend to get themselves into trouble by convincing themselves that the current trend will never end and a reversal in the economic strength of a particular country is next to impossible. Alas, they become emotionally attached to the previous trend of a currency pair, and they continue to place trades that go against the new, current trend. With each trade, they lose more and more money because they are bucking the trend. If you want to know if you have any anchoring tendencies, ask yourself, "Have I ever lost money because I couldn't accept that the trend had ended?" If you have, you need to be aware of that tendency. The best way to overcome anchoring is to look at multiple time frames on your charts. If you usually trade on the hourly charts, take a look at the daily and weekly charts every now and then to see where some of the longer-term levels of support and resistance are and what the longer-term trends look like. You should also take a look at the shorter-term charts to see when the shorter-term trends are reversing. Broadening your perspective will help you avoid anchoring yourself to any one point.
Confirmation is a propensity to look only for the information that confirms the beliefs that you already have. For instance, if you believe the Cable is going to go up, you will look for the news, the technical indicators and the fundamental factors that support your belief. Investors who over-actively pursue confirmation of their beliefs tend to miss key warning signs that would normally have protected them from unnecessary losses. In an attempt to build a case for their beliefs, investors miss the facts. Ultimately, this leads to them fighting the trend and losing money with each ill-conceived trade. If you want to know if you have any confirmation bias tendencies, ask yourself, "How often do I look for signs that I may be wrong in my analysis?" If your answer is rarely or never, you may be a confirmation seeker, and you need to be aware of those tendencies. The best way to overcome confirmation bias is to find someone, or a group of people, you can talk to about your trading. Hopefully the person, or people, you talk about your trading with will not always agree with you. Talking with investors with diverse perspectives and ideas will help you look at your trades from multiple angles. Sometimes you will strengthen your convictions by talking with other investors. Other times, talking with your trading partner will cause you to change your mind. Keeping an open mind will help you catch new moves and avoid holding on too long to past beliefs.
Loss aversion is based on the theory that the pain that is caused by losing $1,000 is greater than the joy that comes from gaining $1,000. In other words, fear is a more powerful motivator than greed. Investors who fear losses are much more likely to hold onto losing positions than investors who are able to accept short term losses and move onto other, more profitable trades. Holding onto losing positions jeopardises the stability of your portfolio by not only incurring losses but also keeping you out of better trades. If you want to know if you have any loss aversion tendencies, ask yourself, "Have I ever held onto a losing trade past the point where I knew I should have gotten out because I hoped the currency pair would turn around and wipe out my losses?" If you have, you need to be aware of those tendencies. The best way to overcome a loss aversion bias is to trade with physically set stop loss orders. Many investors tell themselves that they will trade with a mental stop loss a stop loss level that they think about and promise themselves they will act on if the currency pair ever reaches it. All too often, however, investors fail to act on their mental stop losses. They let their emotions get in the way, and they start rationalizing their choice to stay in the trade until it turns around. As soon as you enter a trade, you should set your stop loss order. Take your emotions out of the picture.
Always remember that trading derivatives on margin carries a HIGH LEVEL OF RISK, and may not be suitable for all investors. Before deciding to trade derivatives you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite. The possibility exists that you could sustain a loss of some or all of your initial investment and therefore you should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose. You should be aware of all the risks associated with derivatives trading, and seek advice from an independent financial advisor if you have any doubts.