Most traders will tell you that being a trader is the most challenging job in the world. You've got to be on your toes all day and never miss anything. You have to stay up to date with everything from technology to politics and never make any mistakes. Well, I don't see it this way.
Sure, you need an excellent intuition about how the market works and know how to trade well. But for me, it's not as hard as everyone thinks it is because I've found my niche in trading and can profit from its advantages. I have been making a living trading forex for the past five years. Based on my personal experiences, I have described my typical workday.
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A Day in the Life of a Trader
⏰ 5.00 – 6.00 am
I'm up by 5.30 and getting ready for market at 8.00. I use the time to catch up with online news if we are close to a central bank meeting or any other significant economic events such as employment reports, which could affect my trading day. I also check my automated trading setups and monitor the markets, taking note of any behaviour changes that may impact my trading style. This is also the perfect time for me to pick currency pairs to trade, set my stops and targets, and determine what time frame I'll be trading in.
The truth behind the myths: how much do forex traders REALLY make? Read our blog on the average trader salary here>>
⏰ 7.00–8.00 am
I usually get to the office at about 6.50 am, and the trading floor is always humming by 7.00 am. Lately, I've been having some good discussions with co-workers who trade in different products. We have been taking breaks together during lunchtime, so we can get a sense of how the day is going for our trading partners.
By 7.00, I am in front of my trading screen, witnessing the start of Asian market hours and the U.S. pre-market. It's a fascinating time as markets are still quiet but slowly coming to life with bonds, gold, crude oil, and forex pairs beginning to trade. Most of the time I'm either on the telephone or using MSN messenger to talk to my colleagues, mainly other traders in New York and Chicago.
How often you log your trades will depend on your trading schedule. Here's how to find trading strategies to suit your day job>>
⏰ 8.00 – 9.00 am
As soon as the European futures market opens, I take a glance at the newsfeed just to make sure nothing has happened in the early hours that could affect my trades. Every morning I note where I will set my stop-loss points for that session so I know how far I can go before risking another day's profit. I will usually look at what currencies are more active, which commodities are performing well, and form a plan for the day. I want to see if we are in a range, a trend, a breakout, or a breakout fade. I will look at TPO charts, price charts, and volume charts as market conditions can differ from one market to another.
⏰ 9.00 – 12.00 pm
The first 10 minutes are one of the busiest sessions of the day. Sometimes your whole day can be made or lost in these 10 minutes. I make a bunch of trades in that session. If you know how to use the markets here, you can make some money. By 10:00 am, all the futures markets are trading, and it is safe to say the markets around the world are open. By now, I have some targets for the day. If I reach these targets, that's good.
The European open is one of the most pressure-packed times for a day trader. You need to maintain discipline and a level head no matter what, so always be sure to make your plan before you start trading.
It's all well and good thinking you can react on the fly, but it rarely happens that way! It pays to know exactly how much you're risking in every single trade. You never know when the markets might create a situation where you're left with no choice but to stop out of all your positions. This can really be devastating.
"Take your financial future into your own hands." - read our Q&A with trading expert and psychology coach Mandi Rafsendjani here>>
⏰ 12:00 – 1.00 pm
Having a lunch break at around noon seems like such a distant culture these days. And yes, it is challenging when the early part of the day is filled with lots of work and so many people around. Depending on the time zone in which you live, having a lunch break can be excellent. On some days, I take my laptop with me to eat outside, while on other days, I will grab something quick nearby before heading back to my desk.
For more tips on finding the time to commit to trading, read our blog on 5 Tips for Fitting Trading Around Your Day Job.
⏰ 1:00 - 2:30 pm
Once the U.S. open comes around, most people will start trading, and it is up to you to decide how much time you spend trading. Big economic releases such as US Non-Farm Payrolls, the FOMC Interest Rates Decision, or significant NFP revisions can significantly influence the price. Remember that new releases will happen almost every day of the week, so never feel that you need to be ahead of every release.
Now, this is mainly to do with the U.S., as Asia is morning. The U.S. market comes back with a bang, and it's a different vibe in the afternoon. It's also worth noting that Asia ends before the European markets opening for the day, so if anything is moving, it will be the U.S. market.
⏰ 4:00 - 4:30 pm
The U.S. bond and equity cash session finish at 4:00 pm, allowing me to finish most of my work before heading home for the night (and it allows me to leave at a reasonable hour). I'll complete my day by recording my profits and losses from each deal in an Excel spreadsheet. The key is to maintain an excellent work-life balance. I think anyone would agree it is vital to being able to focus each day effectively.
⏰ 9.00 – 10.00 pm
At 9 pm each evening, I check the markets one last time before I turn in to see how they have closed, and it is at that point that I decide whether I need to put in any orders overnight. I spend a large part of my night listening to podcasts by industry experts, market strategists, and economists. I will also listen to interviews with authors on their current projects.
As you can see from a typical day in a trader's life, it is not for everyone as there are long hours, late nights, and weekends. But there are also moments where everything you've dreamed about comes true, and your hard work pays off! You have to dedicate your whole day to trading and be ready to be in it to win it.