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Investors Are Falling for This Trap – Are You Next?

averaging down trading avoid losses in trading mindset mastery risky trading strategies May 05, 2024
Investors Are Falling for This Trap – Are You Next? | OptionPundit

Do you believe the old saying that it's smart to buy low?

While there's some truth to it, there's a dark side to investing that preys on this exact thinking. It's a tempting trap that lures investors into thinking they can rescue a losing trade, only to see their losses snowball out of control.

The name of this trap? Averaging down.

It sounds innocent enough, but the consequences can be devastating. Are you unwittingly making this mistake that could cost you dearly?

Let's find out...

Legendary investor Peter Lynch once said:

When the ships start sinking, don't pray - jump overboard!

Peter Lynch

While his wisdom serves as a broader warning about investing in failing companies, the principle rings true when it comes to the dangers of averaging down in trading.


The Emotional Trap of Averaging Down

When a trade starts going against you, the temptation to "average down" can be strong.

Averaging down involves buying additional shares of a stock or option at a lower price in an attempt to reduce your average cost per share.

While the logic may seem sound on the surface – after all, who wouldn't want to buy something at a discount? – this strategy is fraught with danger and can often turn a manageable loss into a catastrophic one.


Why Averaging Down is Risky

Let's explore why averaging down is a high-risk approach:

  • Fighting the Trend: When you average down, you're essentially doubling down on a losing bet. You're increasing your position size in a stock that is already moving against you. This goes against the age-old trading advice of "cut your losses short and let your winners run."
  • Amplified Losses: If the stock price continues to decline, your overall loss grows exponentially. You're not only losing money on your original position but also on the new shares you bought at the lower price.
  • Ties Up Capital: Averaging down can lock up a significant amount of capital in a losing trade, preventing you from deploying those funds towards more promising opportunities.


How Averaging Down Magnifies Losses

Imagine you buy 100 shares of XYZ company at $50, investing $5000.

The stock price falls to $40.

Hoping to recover your losses, you decide to average down and buy another 100 shares at $40, investing an additional $4000.

Your average cost per share is now $45, but your total investment has grown to $9000.

If the price of XYZ continues to drop to $30 (or 40% from original price), your total loss will be a staggering $3000 (vs $2000 in the original case, or 50% more than original amount) – even though the stock has only fallen an additional $20 from your latest purchase price.


The Psychological Trap

Averaging down often stems from the same emotional traps that lead to holding losing trades for too long.

It's an attempt to avoid admitting a mistake and accepting a loss.

By sinking more money into a losing trade, the hope is that it will eventually recover, allowing you to break even or even make a small profit.

However, this kind of thinking can backfire spectacularly.


An Alternative Approach: Prioritize Risk Management

At OptionPundit, we emphasize the importance of a structured trading plan that includes strict risk management protocols and well-defined exit criteria.

Instead of recklessly doubling down on a losing trade, we focus on preserving capital and living to fight another day.

Remember, successful traders are those who survive over the long term, not those who gamble on risky turnaround plays.


When Might Averaging Down Be Appropriate?

In very specific circumstances, and ONLY for experienced traders with a deep understanding of fundamental analysis and a very high-risk tolerance, averaging down on blue-chip stocks during temporary market downturns might be considered.

However, even in these cases, strict position sizing and predetermined stop-loss levels remain crucial.


Averaging Down: Key Takeaways

  • Averaging down is a high-risk strategy that often amplifies losses instead of reducing them.
  • Doubling down on a losing trade often stems from emotional traps – the desire to avoid admitting a mistake.
  • Prioritize risk management: Have strict exit strategies and don't gamble on turnarounds.
  • Protect your gains: Use tools like trailing stop-losses to secure profits.


From Loss Recovery to Gain Protection

Instead of becoming fixated on recovering losses, a more productive mindset is to focus on protecting the gains you've already made. By utilizing strategies like trailing stop-losses and partial profit-taking, you can lock in the potential for success while simultaneously limiting your downside risk.

What happens when a seemingly winning trade takes an unexpected turn south?

Do you hold on for dear life, hoping it will miraculously bounce back? Or is there a more disciplined approach, a strategy to protect your hard-earned profits and prevent them from evaporating? That's what I am going to cover in the next article.

Your Turn: Have you ever fallen into the averaging down trap? What valuable lessons did you learn from that experience? How has it shaped your approach to managing losing trades? Comment below to share your experiences or learnings.

Happy Trading.

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