Trading for a living is one of the loftiest goals of anyone who enjoys analyzing the markets. For someone who likes to study the markets, there’s nothing better than being able to trade for a living.
Your trading education plays a big part in shaping your success. Will you be a thriving trader living off your profits? Or a struggling trader addicted to ruining one trading account after another?
This guide points you to resources that will help you build a solid foundation to trade for a living. As much as possible, I’ve focused mainly on free or affordable resources – better to save your hard-earned cash for your trading capital.
To earn enough to live off your trading profits, you need to understand trading as a profession. A professional trader pays attention to aspects beyond trading strategies and market analysis. In a nutshell, they must also learn how to run a business sustainably.
Hence, I’ve included resources that go beyond learning how to trade. These references will help you put together a holistic and personal trading plan that will help you trade for a living.
- Reality Check!
- Protecting Your Money
- Websites For Learning How To Trade (All free)
- Recommended Books
- Charting and Simulation
- Trading Journals and Record-Keeping
- Trading Psychology
- How Much Do You Need To Trade For A Living
- Saving Money For Your Trading Account
- How To Set Up Your Trading Office
- Broker Resources
- Meeting Other Traders
Trade For A Living – Reality Check!
Do you really want to trade for a living?
Trading is not easy. Make sure you understand the challenge and that you have the right support to pursue this line of work.
Trading for a living is more than a romantic notion, it is a time-consuming long-term venture. So before you spend the tremendous time and effort needed, let’s perform a reality check by going through these articles.
1. Do Individual Day Traders Make Money? – Dr. Brett Steenbarger, a seasoned trading coach and psychologist, offers his insights based on a 2004 paper that studies the profitability of day traders in Taiwan.
2. The Retail FX Trader: Random Trading and the Negative Sum Game – A 2016 study analyzing the performance of retail forex traders. You can find more of such studies using Google Scholar.
3. So You Want To Trade For A Living – Did you enjoy Dr. Steenbarger’s post above? Here’s more for you. In this article, he highlights the critical considerations for switching to full-time trading.
4. Five Checks Before You Start Day Trading For A Living – Our five-item checklist for aspiring traders who wants to pursue their dream.
5. Should You Trade For A Living? – Let us guide you through a series of considerations before you answer this question.
After reviewing the links above, take some time to ponder before you decide if you are in for this challenge. Let’s proceed!
Protecting Your Hard-Earned Savings and Trading Capital
Because trading for a living is tough but rewarding, you will meet many people offering to help, usually at a cost.
If you’re too eager to trade for a living, you might fall into the trap of believing that there’s a guaranteed way to easy profits. But there isn’t.
Please learn how to protect your hard-earned savings by going through these resources and keeping your common sense with you. They will help you avoid trading scams and phony claims.
6. 10 Ways to Avoid Fraud – This helpful consumer guide from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows you how to avoid fraud. While it is not specific to fraud targeting traders, the same principles apply.
7. Learn About Forex Scams – The barrier to entry in the retail forex market is low – you can often fund a forex trading account for less than $100. While this benefits small traders, this is also why dubious players plague the retail forex industry. Learn about typical forex scams and how to avoid them from this dedicated website.
8. Penny Stocks Scam – A statement on penny stocks from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Penny stocks represent another dangerous area in the trading industry. Your broker might have shown you this before. If you didn’t read it then, read it now.
9. What Is Market Efficiency? – This is the theory that explains why if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. The markets are not entirely efficient, but this hypothesis should remind you that it cannot be easy to make money from trading.
10. Trialling ‘learn to trade’ stock market websites: can you get rich quick? – A compelling first-hand account of learn-to-trade courses. The last two paragraphs offer an accurate summary of most trading courses.
Free Websites to Learn How to Trade
At this point, you should have made an informed decision to learn to trade and have a good sense of how to avoid scams. Now, it’s time to move on to learning the basics of trading.
You won’t need to spend much at this stage. There are many websites filled with quality free content that teaches trading concepts and technical analysis. Many of them go beyond the basics as well.
The websites listed below focus on technical trading which is how I trade. The exception is Investopedia which covers a broader spectrum.
11. Investopedia – This popular financial knowledge website has a section for active traders. You can find most trading topics here – from basic chart patterns to advanced options trading strategies and valuation models.
12. ChartSchool – This is the educational section of StockCharts.com. This is my go-to place for explanations of indicators with detailed calculations and examples.
13. Technical Analysis by Incredible Charts – Between this resource by Incredible Charts and ChartSchool, you can find information on almost every generic trading indicator, strategy, and pattern.
14. The Pattern Site – A website by Bulkowski, the author of the Encyclopedia of Chart Patterns. Well-researched information on chart patterns and candlestick patterns are available here for free. So if you want to find out more about any price pattern, this is the right place to look. One reminder: don’t gloss over the pattern definition as Bulkowski uses precise identification rules that might differ from what you’re familiar with.
15. Varsity by Zerodha– A comprehensive website that covers all critical aspects of trading. As Zerodha is an Indian brokerage, their content is especially relevant for traders based in India. This page shows you their top content organized into 13 friendly modules.
16. A Trader’s Notepad – You will find a fantastic collection of 10 short modules on technical analysis and trading. It’s free and better than many paid options out there.
17. School of Pipsology – If you want a well-structured education for forex trading, look no further. The organization of education materials here is excellent. You can choose to start at any level ranging from Preschool to Graduation. And it’s all free.
18. Swing Trade Stocks – This niche site on swing trading covers the essential swing trading concepts. An excellent guide for aspiring swing traders.
19. Traders’ Academy by Interactive Brokers – This website is an excellent choice if you’re using Interactive Brokers as they integrate their tools in some of the lessons. However, even if you’re not, you’ll still find a wealth of reliable learning materials covering a wide range of trading instruments.
Must-Read Books on Trading for a Living
Sometimes, you prefer to sit down and focus on a good old book instead of clicking on links all over the Internet.
Here are some recommended books covering different topics, from market analysis to trading psychology and lessons from top traders.
21. The New Trading for a Living – Dr. Alexander Elder’s classic piece on trading, updated. A no-hype book by an experienced trader and trained psychologist. This book is the best introduction to trading for a living.
22. High Probability Trading – A balanced trading book covering aspects of successful trading from a realistic perspective.
23. Trading in the Zone – Trading for a living requires you to be comfortable with probabilities. You need to be confident despite being uncertain. This classic book on trading psychology will shift your mindset to achieve this goal.
24. The Daily Trading Coach – A practical book for improving your trading psychology by a leading trading psychologist and trading coach.
25. Thinking, Fast and Slow – A trader needs to deal with all sorts of cognitive and psychological biases. For this, it is best to learn from Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work in this area.
26. Market Wizards Series – Through Jack Schwager’s astute questioning, you can learn from the top traders in the world. Priceless.
27. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator – Jesse Livermore’s life is about trading. Learn timeless trading wisdom through his experience.
28. Technical Analysis of the Financial Markets – For those looking for a friendly guide to technical analysis.
29. Technical Analysis: The Complete Resource for Financial Market Technicians – If you want a formal textbook on technical trading, this is it. Before the CMT Association came up with dedicated guides for the Chartered Market Technician program, this book served as its official companion.
30. Technical Analysis of Price Charts Bar by Bar for the Serious Trader – A comprehensive collection of excellent price action observations. However, it is tough to read and not recommended for traders new to price action analysis.
For Charting and Simulation
To make the most out of the websites and books above, reading is not enough.
You will need a charting platform to practice what you learn. One of the best ways to internalize the concepts is to apply them to markets you are interested in.
31. TradingView – Offers a friendly and sleek charting interface with a comprehensive set of technical indicators and drawing tools. It also includes backtesting and scanning functions, and I highly recommend this powerful platform that you can run out of your browser. In addition, it has a free tier you can use to see if it meets your requirements. (I have a couple of TradingView indicators you can use for free. Check them out.)
32. NinjaTrader – A robust charting platform that gives you pretty much everything you need as a technical trader. It’s free for simulation trading, so you can use it to learn technical analysis at no cost. (It includes free daily stock price data from Kinetick, but intraday data costs extra.)
33. MetaTrader 4 – The most popular forex trading platform with a large supporting community. It’s free, and you can hook it up to almost any forex broker.
34. Forex Tester – A dedicated forex trading backtesting software that conveniently allows you to backtest mechanical strategies. You can also use it to replay price action for testing manual strategies. Click here for our full review of Forex Tester.
35. Practical Rules For Effective Paper Trading – Simulation has its limits, but following these rules will enforce a realistic and helpful paper trading experience.
Trading Journals and Record-Keeping Software
For consistent long-term performance, you MUST keep trading records. Your trading records will help you decide what is working and what is not. In addition, it will help spot new opportunities so that your trading plan evolves with the markets.
As you accumulate accurate records, it will also enable you to make informed decisions about how much you need to trade (more on this below) and help you to understand the potential drawdowns.
36. Top Trading Journal Software For Recording Your Trades – A list that covers various options from fully dedicated solutions to more general software that you can customize as your trading journal.
37. How To Keep Trading Records As A Discretionary Trader – If you are a discretionary trader, you must have relied on your judgment as you trade. This makes it tricky to track what is working. This short article discusses a few aspects of keeping records of trades that involve a trader’s discretion.
After you learn the basic strategies to approach the market, you will very soon realize that your emotions and cognitive biases are getting in the way of more consistent results. This is especially true for retail traders risking their own capital.
Having a sustainable plan to handle your emotions is critical for a professional trader.
38. Trading Psychology Crash Course – A guide we put together to help you quickly cover the main challenges that trading psychology addresses.
39. TraderFeed Blog – Dr. Brett Steenbarger’s blog with great timely insights on the psychology of trading and performance management.
40. 5 TED Talks On Psychology – Five short videos with fascinating insights on our mind and the mistakes it makes. Relevant not just for traders, but also widely applicable in our life.
41. Top Trading Psychology Books – This list includes books on the psychology of trading and the role of psychology in your life. This topic is deeply personal, so exploring what different authors say can help you find the one that speaks to you.
How Much Do You Need to Trade for a Living
“How much do I need to trade for a living?”
This is a burning question of an aspiring full-time trader.
The following resources do not give a definite number because It’s impossible to do so. So instead, you need to figure out the amount that’s sensible for your circumstances and abilities.
But with these articles, you will get a good idea of what to consider to arrive at the answer.
42. A Guide to Keeping Track of Your Expenses – Nothing to do with “trading”; everything to do with “living.” If you don’t know how much you need to make a living, you can never figure out how much you need to trade for a living.
43. How much money do you need to trade for a living? – Brian Lund is the author of a book packed full of tips from over sixty traders. This is his take on how much you need.
44. Trading for a living: how much do you need – Adam Grimes highlights a critical point for full-time traders: the inherent variability of a trader’s income.
45. How much money do I need to start day trading for a living – This article illustrates that individual circumstances matter through three fictional traders: Fearless, Retiree, and Zen.
46. Pattern Day Trader – If you intend to day trade stocks and options, the FINRA has an exact figure for you – $25,000. But bear in mind that this is the regulatory minimum and not the amount that you need to pull it off.
How To Save Money?
Worked out the amount you need to trade? Unless you already have a cushion of cash, you will need to start saving up to launch your trading career.
Also, when you’re just starting, reducing your expenses places less stress on your trading, leading to better trading performance.
Remember to risk only the money you can afford to lose.
47. Nerdwallet’s Personal Finance Guide – Trading income is variable, so if you plan to rely on your trading income for your daily expenses, you need a firm grasp of your finances to create a workable plan.
48. How to Save Money: 100 Great Tips to Get You Started – Every bit you save goes towards fueling your dream of trading for a living.
How To Set Up Your Trading Office
To trade for a living, you’ll need a reliable trading office setup.
Your trading computer will be the centerpiece of your trading office. So naturally, you need a reliable workhorse as your trading terminal.
These resources will guide you through setting up a home office and offer options if you need to upgrade your trading computer.
49. How To Organize Your Home Office – A step-by-step guide to setting up your home office.
50. How To Ergonomically Optimize Your Workspace – Don’t sacrifice your health for trading. Learn the proper working posture for your long trading and research sessions.
51. Falcon Trading Systems – An experienced builder of high-performance trading computers. Some of their setups are costly so think carefully about your needs before deciding. Depending on how you trade, the power of your computer often has less impact on your trading performance than you think.
52. Gaming Computers – Most gaming computers have specifications that are sufficient for trading. You can check these out for one that’s within your budget.
Choosing Your Trading Broker
Every trader needs a broker. Here are some resources to get you started on your broker search.
It’s tough to recommend a broker without knowing your exact needs, so we are listing a few of the more established brokers in different markets here for you to consider.
53. How to Choose Your Day Trading Broker? – Our concise guide to choosing your broker.
54. Compare Online Brokers – Get a side-by-side broker comparison here. These comparison tables give a convenient snapshot, but they might not always be the most updated. Be sure to check out the individual website of the brokers you are interested in to verify the information that matters to you.
55. Interactive Brokers – If you want to trade a wide variety of instruments in global markets, Interactive Brokers is a great option.
56. TradeStation – A consistent entry on online brokerage firm rankings. Suitable for active traders looking to trade multiple markets and instruments.
57. TD Ameritrade – Offers a full suite of online tools and a friendly platform to help you learn. Suitable for new traders who want to start slow and steady.
58. Oanda – Well-regulated forex broker. No minimum trade lot size. Suitable for traders who are still in the learning stage operating small accounts.
Places to Meet Other Traders
The resources above might not be enough for you. You can find more help from other traders through these active trading forums.
They are also great avenues for you to meet other people who are trading for a living.
60. EliteTrader – One of the most active trading forums with over 100,000 traders.
61. Futures.io – A well-organized forum with a strong focus on futures trading.
62. ForexFactory – The go-to forum for your questions on forex trading. (It also has an excellent forex news calendar.)
65. Trading Forums Search Engine – We customized a Google Search engine that combs through 27 trading forums.
I hope you find these 65 resources helpful for getting you started on your path to trading for a living.
Are there any other resources that you think should be on this list? If so, please let us know.
The article was first published on 27 January 2016 and updated on 21 October 2021.