How Much Leverage Should I Be Using?


Understanding how to trade forex requires detailed knowledge about economies, political situations, all the individual countries, global macroeconomics, the impact of volatility , it goes on and on. But the reality of the situation is this isn't what makes most new traders fail. What makes most traders fail isn't the lack of knowledge or understanding of what it is they're actually trading. It's the lack of knowledge and understanding on leverage.


As most of us would have heard, there is very obvious statistic out there that majority of retail traders fail. Now, most people will see this as a lack of competence and just purely not willing to put in the effort to be successful. But a lot of the time it is people not understanding the risk their undertaking and what it is they're actually doing with their money when they enter the market. It really highlights this when traders come to a firm like ours, and question leverage or they have so many questions about leverage that even though they've been trading for three to four years, they still don't fully understand the actual risks that are at hand when they are opening certain positions that they really can't afford to open.


Today I wanted to jump into leverage. Let's really dive into depth what it is, why we have it, how we can use it. Then, finally touch on what is the right amount of leverage for you as a trader. So you can be exponential in maximizing your profits, but also ensuring that you're not damaging yourself long term.


LEVERAGE RISK


Firstly, I think it's important for us to have a look into leverage. Leverage is the process in which an investor or trader borrows capital in order to invest or purchase something. Typically we borrow capital from a broker and we buy into positions with money that we didn't have in order to be able to gain more profit from those positions. Most traders are blindsided and constantly think the more money I have, the more profit I can make, which is true, but they fail to recognize that the more risk it carries.


Carrying higher leverage is an exponential increase in risk. Most brokers out there will probably offer you something like 50:1, 100:1 or even 500:1 leverage. This giving you a buying power of 50, 100 or even 500 times whatever the amount of money you have in your account. Which means a trader with just $100 in a brokerage account could open a position with $50,000 in the market. Now, while that may sound advertising, believe me, that's a trap and we're going to chat about that today.


HIGH LEVERAGE EXAMPLE


So let's dive into an example. Let's imagine we have a trader who has a $10,000 account. They decide to use 100:1 leverage, which now means with that $10,000 cash, they can trade up to $1,000,000 in the forex market. Let's assume that the trader opened a position with the full available capital which would relate to 10 lots, and they opened the position on a currency with the USD being the quote currency. That means that each PIP movement is equal to $100. So for a simple equation, if they were to enter a trade and that trade went against them by 50 pips, they would have lost 50% of their account because that 50 pips would have been equal to $5000. So in one wrong trade they lost 50% of their account.


So many people in this industry is so quick to look at what the realized gains could be, but they rather tend to ignore the actual risks that come with that. If you don't have sufficient evidence that your investment strategy is going to provide consistent and stable gains long term, do not look to trade with higher leverage, as you will be gambling and it is extremely risky.


LOW LEVERAGE EXAMPLE


Now let's use the same example but in a lower leverage situation. The trader has $10,000 cash only this time he is trading on an account with 5:1 leverage, resulting in a buying power of $50,000. This means on a pair with the US dollars the base currency that you can open a maximum size of 0.5 lots. Let's go ahead and take the exact same trade, only this time with a 0.5 lots, each pip is equal to $5. Should the investment or trade fall the same 50 pips this time the trader will only lose $250, which is a mere 2.5%. Same trade, different leverage, one lost 50% the other lost 2.5%.


It is a common trick out there that traders feel they require more leverage to really make money in the market. It's not true. Yes, it can help you get more profits from those smaller moves. Yes, it is really beneficial if you have a proven strategy. If you are still coming to grips with trading or you're fairly new and you haven't achieved consistency and profitability yet, focus on lower leverage. What it will actually do is make you focus on long-term goals. Focus on the process this giving you more sustainability in the market and therefore more maturity.


CHOOSE THE RIGHT LEVERAGE

Choosing the right leverage is a very important step in Forex trading. You can be tapered in by fancy numbers and big brokers trying to get you in, or, you can really dive into what it is you actually need and what's going to benefit you more in the future. There's no right answer to how much leverage you need each strategy in each individual requires different things, but what I will do is share some tips and some knowledge on how to choose the right one that benefits you.


1. Always try and maintain the lowest leverage you possibly can for your strategy. If you manage to pull it right the way in to where you can only just open the positions on the risk you have allowed yourself, and you can't open more than, let's say three positions, what you actually do is limit yourself to focus on only the good positions. You've prevented over-trading from occurring and you can really focus on your risk management.


2. When you open positions or you talk about opening positions instead of going to people saying, "yes, I opened 0.35 lots." Use the actual dollar value when you open a 0.35 lot position. Instead, say "I opened a $35,000 position." Talking in that language that you have placed your bets with $100,000 or $1,000,000 will make you realize how much risk you're actually exposing yourself to and the capacity of what it is you are trading.


3. Limit your overall risk, at absolute max, I risk 0.25%. This allows me to go into large drawdowns and it is not an issue. I can still manage it accordingly in it actually keeps me nice and calm and focused on the analysis rather than the running profit and loss.


The bottom line is selecting the right Forex leverage depends on the traders experienced risk tolerance and comfort when operating in the market. You want to ensure that it's not out there to harm you, but rather it's there to help. You do not want to be trying to get really high leverage so you can make large profits when you know realistically, that there is no evidence to prove that you will make those high profits. Start small, gain consistency, gain exposure and gain experience, and then you can start looking to expand your equity and buying power.