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Stock Picks 101- How to Maintain a Trading Diary

Douglas Newberry

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“Those that don’t know history are destined to repeat it. ” – Edmund Burke

Trading is a business. Like any business, it has items of value. In your trading business, your “inventory” of cash is the most important asset. You must preserve it and increase it at all costs.

You also have financial tools. One of your business’ more subtle items of value is your decision making process. You must constantly be striving to improve it.

This is where a trading diary comes in. A diary lets you log and then analyze your decision making process. Such an “at-a-glance” is invaluable for doing the kind of self analysis you need to make sure your decision process continuously improves.

Every trade you make should be entered in your trade diary. Enter the date, time of entry, symbol, company name, number of shares, price per share, setup, trigger, expected trade duration and your subjective state. These entries should be made at the time of the trade. They decrease in value in proportion to how delayed you are in making the entry. In other words, make them right away!

Trade exits should be noted with similar items to the entry including the profit or loss. Of course, you’ll find that you’ll develop your own list of items to include. Whatever you do, be consistent.

Here’s a neat tip: also log trades you did NOT take but you seriously considered taking. Make a note of why you decided against the trade. Then you can go back later and see what might have happened if you had taken the trade. This will give you additional insights into your decision making process.

In addition to keeping a trade diary, you should also maintain a spreadsheet that shows you all your positions at a glance and how they’re doing. To get you started, here are some ideas for columns you can include in this spread sheet:

  • Symbol
  • Sector
  • Description
  • Quantity
  • Purchase Price
  • Purchase Date & Time
  • Comm. Cost
  • Latest Price
  • Market Value
  • Percentage of Assets
  • Gain or (Loss)
  • Percent Gain or (Loss)
  • YTD Return
  • Dividend Yield
  • P/E Ratio
  • Projected Growth Rate
  • Average Daily Volume
  • PEG Ratio
  • Market Cap
  • Beta

    Depending on your trading style, you can add or remove columns. For example if you primarily day trade, you probably aren’t interested in dividends or PEG ratio. But these and other fundamental attributes are quite useful if you have a long term trading style.

    The big difference between the list above and that which is maintained by your brokerage is that you continue to maintain the entries after the position is closed. Brokerages usually remove closed items from your list.

    You’ll be surprised at all the things you discover once you start to develop a trade diary with a significant history. How often you review your trade diary will depend on the frequency of your trading. A day trader will want to do a review once a week. A long term trader can review his stocks picks quarterly.

    Live long, document well and prosper.

    With customers in more than 70 countries Doug Newberry enjoys his position as host of the “Market Toolbox On Demand" online radio show. He is also the editor of the “Market Toolbox Newsletter. " His company, Investing Systems Network specializes in providing financial tools and portfolio management software for its customers.

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