Trading Risk Management: Top 10 Forex Risk Management Tips
Trading risk management is one of the most, if not the most, important topics when it comes to trading. On the one hand, traders want to keep any potential losses as small as possible but, on the other hand, traders also want to squeeze as much potential profit as they can out of each trade.
The reason many Forex traders lose money is not simply due to inexperience or a lack of knowledge of the market, but because of poor risk management. Proper risk management is an absolute necessity to becoming a successful trader.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about risk management and provide our top ten tips on the subject to help you on your way to having a less stressful trading experience!
Table of Contents
- Understanding Trading Risk Management
- Ten Tips for Forex Risk Management
- 1) Educate Yourself About Forex Risk and Trading
- 2) Use a Stop Loss
- 3) Use a Take Profit to Secure Your Profits
- 4) Do Not Risk More Than You Can Afford to Lose
- 5) Limit Your Use of Leverage
- 6) Have Realistic Profit Expectations
- 7) Have a Forex Trading Plan
- 8) Prepare For the Worst
- 9) Control Your Emotions
- 10) Diversify Your Forex Portfolio
- A Bonus Tip For Frequent Forex Traders
- ETRM and CTRM Systems
- Risk Management Tools with Admirals
- Risk in Extraordinary Events
- Final Thoughts
Understanding Trading Risk Management
The Forex market is one of the biggest financial markets on the planet, with transactions totalling more than 5.1 trillion USD every day! With all this money involved, banks, financial establishments and individual traders have the potential to make both huge profits and equally huge losses. While banks lending money to borrowers must practice credit risk management, to ensure they make a return on their investment, traders must do the same with their investments.
Forex trading risk is simply the potential risk of loss that may occur when trading. It's important to point out that the rules for risk management in Forex that I provide in this article are not exclusive to Forex trading. Whether you are interested in risk management with energy trading, futures, commodity or stock trading, the basics of risk management are very similar when trading with each instrument.
These risks might include:
- Market Risk: This is the risk that the market will perform differently to how you expect and is the most common risk in trading. For example, if you believe the US dollar is going to increase against the Euro and you, therefore, decide to buy the EURUSD currency pair, only for it to fall, you will lose money.
- Leverage Risk: Many traders use leverage to open trades that are much larger than the size of the deposit in their trading account. In some cases, this can lead to losing more money than was initially deposited in the account.
- Interest Rate Risk: An economy's interest rate can have an impact on the value of that economy's currency, which means traders can be at risk of unexpected interest rate changes.
- Liquidity Risk: Some currencies and trading instruments are more liquid than others. If a currency pair has high liquidity, this means that there is more supply and demand for them and, therefore, trades can be executed very quickly. For currencies where there is less demand, there might be a delay between you opening or closing a trade in your trading platform and that trade actually being executed. This could mean that the trade is not executed at the expected price, and you make a smaller profit, or even a loss, as a result.
- Risk of Ruin: This is the risk of you running out of capital to execute trades. Just imagine that you have a long-term strategy for how you think a security's value will change, but it moves in the opposite direction. You need enough capital on your account to withstand that move until the security moves in the direction you want. If you don't have enough capital, your trade could be closed out automatically and you lose everything you've invested in that trade, even if the security later moves in the direction you expected.
You should now be fully aware that several risks come with Forex trading and trading with other instruments! For this reason, as you will no doubt appreciate, the topic of managing your risk when trading Forex is very important. We have put together a list of our top ten tips to help you do this effectively so you don't need to go searching for trading risk management books.
Ten Tips for Forex Risk Management
Here are our top Forex risk management tips, which will help you reduce your risk regardless of whether you are a new trader or a professional:
- Educate yourself about Forex risk and trading
- Use a stop loss
- Use a take profit to secure your profits
- Do not risk more than you can afford to lose
- Limit your use of leverage
- Have realistic profit expectations
- Have a Forex trading plan
- Prepare for the worst
- Control your emotions
- Diversify your Forex portfolio
In the following sections, we will go through each of these points in more detail.
1) Educate Yourself About Forex Risk and Trading
What is the 1 rule in trading? If you are new to trading, you will need to educate yourself as much as possible. In fact, no matter how experienced you are with the Forex market, there is always a new lesson to be learned! Keep reading and educating yourself on everything Forex related.
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2) Use a Stop Loss
Perhaps you've asked yourself, "Do day traders lose money?" Sure. They lose money regularly. The goal, however, is to ensure that your profits are greater than your losses at the end of your trading session. One way to protect yourself against great losses is with a stop loss.
A stop loss is a tool that allows you to protect your trades from unexpected market movements by letting you set a predefined price at which your trade will automatically close. Therefore, if you enter a position in the market in the hope the asset will increase in value, and it actually decreases, when the asset hits your stop loss price, the trade will close to prevent further losses.
It is important to note, however, that stop losses are not a guarantee. There are occasions where the market behaves erratically and presents price gaps. If this happens, the stop loss will not be executed at the predetermined level but will be activated the next time the price reaches this level. This phenomenon is called slippage.
A good rule of thumb is to set your stop loss at a level that means you will lose no more than 2% of your trading balance for any given trade.
Once you have set your stop loss, you should never increase the loss margin. There's no point in having a safety net in place if you aren't going to use it properly.
There are different types of stops in Forex. How you place your stop loss will depend on your personality and experience. Common types of stops include:
- Equity stop
- Volatility stop
- Chart stop (technical analysis)
- Margin stop
If you find you are always losing with a stop-loss, analyse your stops and see how many of them were actually useful. It might simply be time to adjust your levels to get better trading results.
Additionally, a protective stop can help you lock in profits before the market turns. For example, once you have opened a position and have a floating profit of $500, you can move your stop loss closer to the current price, so that if it was hit, your trade would close with some of your profit still intact. If the trade keeps going your way, you can continue trailing the stop after the price. One automated way to do this is with trailing stops.
3) Use a Take Profit to Secure Your Profits
A take profit is a very similar tool to a stop loss, however, as the name suggests, it has the opposite purpose. Whilst a stop loss is designed to automatically close trades to prevent further losses, a take profit is designed to automatically close trades once they hit a certain profit level.
By having clear expectations for each trade, not only can you set a profit target, and, therefore, a take profit, but you can also decide what an appropriate level of risk is for the trade. Most traders would aim for at least a 2:1 reward-to-risk ratio, where the expected reward is twice the risk they are willing to take on a trade.
Therefore, if you set your take profit at 40 pips above your entry price, your stop loss would be set 20 pips below the entry price (i.e. half the distance).
In short, think about what levels you are aiming for on the upside, and what level of loss is sensible to withstand on the downside. Doing so will help you to maintain your discipline in the heat of the trade. It will also encourage you to think in terms of risk versus reward.
To learn how to set stop losses and take profits in MetaTrader 5, watch the video below:
4) Do Not Risk More Than You Can Afford to Lose
One of the fundamental rules of risk management in Forex trading is that you should never risk more than you can afford to lose. Despite its fundamentality, making the mistake of breaking this rule is extremely common, especially among those new to Forex trading. The FX market is highly unpredictable, so traders who put at risk more than they can actually afford, make themselves very vulnerable.
If a small sequence of losses would be enough to eradicate most of your trading capital, it suggests that each trade is taking on too much risk.
The process of covering lost Forex capital is difficult, as you have to make back a greater percentage of your trading account to cover what you lost. Imagine having a trading account of $5,000, and you lose $1,000. The percentage loss is 20%. To cover that loss, however, you need to get a profit of 25% from the remaining capital in your account ($4,000).
This is why you should calculate the risk involved in Forex trading before you start trading. If the chances of profit are lower in comparison to the profit to gain, stop trading. You may want to use a Forex trading calculator to assist with your risk management.
A tried and tested rule is to not risk more than 2% of your account balance per trade. Additionally, many traders adjust their position size to reflect the volatility of the pair they are trading. A more volatile currency demands a smaller position compared to a less volatile pair.
At some point, you may suffer a bad loss or burn through a substantial portion of your trading capital. There is a temptation after a big loss to try and get your investment back with the next trade. However, increasing your risk when your account balance is already low is the worst time to do it.
Instead, consider reducing your trading size in a losing streak, or taking a break until you can identify a high-probability trade. Always stay on an even keel, both emotionally and in terms of your position sizes.
5) Limit Your Use of Leverage
Following on from the previous section, our next tip is limiting your use of leverage.
Leverage offers you the opportunity to magnify your profits made from your trading account, but it can similarly magnify your losses, increasing the risk potential. For example, an account with leverage of 1:30 means that on an account with $1,000, you can place a trade worth up to $30,000.
This means that if the market moves in your favour, you would experience the full benefit of that $30,000 trade, even though you only invested $1,000. However, the opposite is true if the market moves against you.
Your level of exposure to Forex risk is therefore higher with a higher leverage. If you are a beginner, a sensible approach with regards to forex risk management, is to limit your exposure by not using high leverage. Consider only using leverage when you have a clear understanding of the potential losses. If you do, you will not suffer major losses to your portfolio - and you can avoid being on the wrong side of the market.
Admirals offers different leverages according to trader status. Traders come under two categories: retail traders and professional traders. Admirals offers leverage of 1:30 for retail traders and leverage of 1:500 for professional traders. There are benefits and trade offs to both, and you can find out what is available to you by reading our retail and professional terms.
Forex risk management is not hard to understand. The tricky part is having enough self-discipline to abide by these risk management rules when the market moves against a position.
6) Have Realistic Profit Expectations
One of the reasons new traders take unnecessary risk is because their expectations are not realistic. They may think that aggressive trading will help them earn a return on their investment more quickly. However, the best traders make steady returns. Setting realistic goals and maintaining a conservative approach is the right way to start trading.
Being realistic goes hand in hand with admitting when you are wrong. It is essential to exit a position quickly when it becomes clear that you have made a bad trade. It is a natural human reaction to attempt to turn a bad situation into a good one, however, with Forex trading, it is a mistake.
With this mindset, you can prevent greed from coming into the equation, which can lead you into making poor trading decisions. Trading is not about opening a winning trade every minute or so, it is about opening the right trades at the right time, and closing such trades prematurely if the situation requires it.
7) Have a Forex Trading Plan
One of the big mistakes new Forex traders make is signing into a trading platform and then making a trade based on nothing but instinct, or maybe something that they heard in the news that day. Whilst this may lead to a few lucky trades, that is all they are - luck.
To properly manage your Forex risk, you need a trading plan that outlines at least the following:
- When you will open a trade
- When you will close it
- Your minimum reward-to-risk ratio
- The percentage of your account you are willing to risk per trade
Once you have devised your Forex trading plan, stick to it in all situations. A trading plan will help you keep your emotions under control whilst trading and will also prevent you from over trading. With a plan, your entry and exit strategies are clearly defined and you will know when to take your gains or cut your losses without becoming fearful or feeling greedy. This approach will bring discipline int your trading, which is essential for good risk management.
It stands to reason that the success or failure of any trading system will be determined by its performance in the long term. So be wary of apportioning too much importance to the success or failure of your current trade. Do not break, or even bend, the rules of your system to try and make your current trade work.
One of the best ways to create a trading plan is to learn from the experts. Did you know you can do this for free with our weekly webinars? Click the banner below to find out more and register!
8) Prepare For the Worst
No one can predict the Forex market, but we do have plenty of evidence from the past of how the markets react in certain situations. What has happened before may not be repeated, but it does show what is possible. Therefore, it is important to look at the history of the currency pair you are trading. Think about what action you would need to take to protect yourself if a bad scenario were to happen again.
Do not underestimate the chances of unexpected price movements occurring. You should have a plan for such a scenario, because they do happen.
9) Control Your Emotions
There are many common principles in trading psychology and risk management. Forex traders need to be able to control their emotions. If you cannot control your emotions whilst trading, you will not be able to reach a position where you can achieve the profits you want from trading.
Emotional traders struggle to stick to trading rules and strategies. Overly stubborn traders may not exit losing trades quickly enough, because they expect the market to turn in their favour.
When a trader realises their mistake, they need to leave the market, taking the smallest loss possible. Waiting too long may cause the trader to end up losing substantial capital. Once out, traders need to be patient and re-enter the market when a genuine opportunity presents itself.
Traders who are emotional following a loss also might make larger trades trying to recoup their losses, but consequently, increase their risk. The opposite can happen when a trader has a winning streak - they might get cocky and stop following proper Forex risk management rules.
Ultimately, do not become stressed in the trading process. The best Forex risk management strategies rely on traders avoiding stress.
10) Diversify Your Forex Portfolio
A classic, tried and tested risk management rule is to not put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, and Forex is no exception. By having a diverse range of investments, you protect yourself in case one market drops, the drop will hopefully be compensated for by other markets that are perhaps experiencing stronger performance.
With this in mind, you can manage your Forex risk by ensuring that Forex is a portion of your portfolio, but not all of it. Another way you can expand is to exchange more than one currency pair.
A Bonus Tip For Frequent Forex Traders
If you trade frequently, there's another tool you can use for managing your Forex risk.
One of the main ways of measuring and managing your risk exposure is by looking at the correlation of your trades.
What is Forex Correlation?
Correlation in Forex shows us how changes within one currency pair are reflected in changes within a separate currency pair. Generally speaking, if you are trading closely correlated currencies (such as EUR/USD and AUD/USD), you may expect them to have a common trend. In other words, whenever EUR/USD goes down, you could also expect to see a downward trend in AUD/USD.
You should mainly trade the pairs that do not have strong correlations, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. This is because you will simply waste your margin on the pairs that result in the same, or opposite price movement. As a rule, currency correlation is also different on various time frames. This is why you should look for correlation on the time frame you are actually using.
You can manage your Forex risks much better when paying closer attention to the currency correlation, especially when it comes to Forex scalping. If you use a scalping strategy, you have to maximise your gains over a short period of time.
This can only be achieved by not trapping your margins in the opposite-correlated assets. Managing your risk is vital if you want to succeed as a Forex trader. This is why you should adhere to the aforementioned principles of Forex risk management.
The question is, how can you measure the correlation of different currency pairs? This is simple with the free, MetaTrader Supreme Edition add-on for both MetaTrader 4 and 5.
To access this, you'll need to:
- Sign up for a live or demo trading account
- Download and install MetaTrader 4 or 5
- Download and install MetaTrader Supreme Edition
Then, when you open MetaTrader on your computer and sign in to your trading account, the feature will be available automatically! Simply:
- Go to the Navigator window (by default this appears in the bottom-left corner of the screen)
- Click Expert Advisors
- Click Admiral - Correlation Matrix
- Click OK to open the matrix
Source: Admirals MetaTrader 5 with MT5SE Add-on - Correlation Matrix
With this handy Forex risk management tool, you will be able to see how different currency pairs correlate!
ETRM and CTRM Systems
Two abbreviations you may come across trading in commodities and energy are ETRM and CTRM. ETRM represents Energy Trade and Risk Management. CTRM represents Commodity Trading and Risk Management. These are the names given to a variety of softwares developed for trading and risk management primarily for commodity traders, manufacturing companies or trade finance providers connected to commodities.
The prices of commodities are typically volatile and they constitute a major portion of the total production costs. Comprehensive CTRM and ETRM softwares support both financial and physical trading and are designed to deal with a range of commodities, not just energy. These include: natural gas, power, soft commodities (agriculture), crude oil, oil derivatives, metals, plastics and more.
Back to Front
ETRM solutions aim to provide support for companies from the back to the front. This includes:
- Price management and deal capturing
- Scheduling and logistics
- Management of positions
- Risk reporting
- Valuation and optimization
- Regulatory reporting, settlement, accounting
In short, these systems help purchasers, financial officers and treasury managers avoid unexpected losses as a result of the drastic commodity price movements. The systems provide a detailed view into expected cash-flows, exposures, Mark-to-Market and more.
Because these systems support companies in a range of complex business operations, some people working in this sphere may benefit from ETRM courses (energy trading and risk management courses) to develop a thorough understanding of these systems and their application.
Risk Management Tools with Admirals
If you are searching for trading risk management software for your personal trading activities, you may find some of Admirals added-value services helpful. Admirals has been offering easy and professional access for traders for many years. But were you aware that we also offer exclusive safeguards and service packages for free?
Below are some risk management tools from Admirals you can use while trading with us:
Free SMS trading notifications
Information is king in the world of trading. Those who hold a live-account may register for a free SMS-service from in the Traders Room. You will receive quick informative updates on deposits and withdrawals that have been processed as well as impending margin calls.
The system automatically sends you an SMS notification at a 130 per cent margin level. This gives you time to react, by:
- partially/fully closing your Forex trades
- depositing more funds using the fast-processing options
- taking any other action you decide on.
A margin call is an automatic trigger that notifies you when your account is reaching a low margin level. This can help you make decisions about closing trades on time.
In MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5, your account balance is highlighted in red when it enters a 100% margin level.
A stop out is an automatic trigger that can help protect you from incurring bigger losses. Our stop out tool does the following:
- constantly monitors your margin level and updates it in realtime
- closes open positions in your Trade.MT4, Trade.MT5, Zero.MT4 or Zero.MT5 account at a 50% margin level for Retail clients, or at 30% for our Professional clients.
Stop outs can not protect you against slippage because they aren't immediate. They only trigger a closure of your trade at the nearest available price. The price that triggered the stop out can be far from the price the stop out is realized.
Once a stop out is triggered, your open trades are closed out one by one, beginning with the trade that has incurred the biggest loss. After a trade is closed, the system recalculates the margin on your account based on remaining open trades. If your account again falls to its stop out level, the closest open trade that is carrying the largest loss will then be closed.
If you don't have an account with Admiral Markets, you can open an account and start using these tools at the banner below:
Risk in Extraordinary Events
On January 15, 2015, the Swiss central bank decoupled Switzerland from the Euro. Traders immediately panicked, making immediate trades and creating a surplus. Shortly after, there was a drop in liquidity in the market, which made it nearly impossible to complete trades during market peaks.
Because there was almost no liquidity for a long period of time, stop losses incurred long delays that were realized at values far off from their trigger value. As a result, there were rejections and immense losses. Many traders ended up with negative account balances.
Traders refer to such an exceptionally rare event as a Black Swan. So what's the point, you may be asking? At Admirals, one of our priorities is to provide traders with open, clear information that can help them develop effective trading risk management strategies. In the case of a Black Swan event, we are informing you that there are no chances for you to prepare! In the case of the Swiss central bank, two facts became clear:
- Unexpected events can have game-changing repercussions
- Even a central bank can change its mind
All jokes aside, traders cannot prepare for nor calculate a Black Swan event. So, a general rule for all traders, especially those using CFD leveraged trades, is the number 1 rule for risk management - never trade funds that you can't afford to lose in a worst-case scenario.
Like all aspects of trading, what works best with regards to Forex risk management will vary according to your preferences and profile as a trader. Some traders are willing, and able, to tolerate more risk than others.
If you are a beginner trader, then no matter who you are, the best tip to reduce your risk is to start conservatively. We recommend practising new strategies, in a risk-free environment, with a free demo trading account. As well, you can find more useful information in our article with a simple guide for forex trading.
With Admiral Markets, you can get started trading on a demo account today! With our risk-free demo account, both beginner and professional traders can test their strategies and perfect them without risking their money.
A demo account is the perfect place for a beginner trader to get comfortable with trading, or for seasoned traders to practice. Whatever the purpose may be, a demo account is a necessity for the modern trader. Open your FREE demo trading account today by clicking the banner below!
Admirals is a multi-award winning, globally regulated Forex and CFD broker, offering trading on over 8,000 financial instruments via the world's most popular trading platforms: MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5. Start trading today!
This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks.