The most important benefit of a stop-loss order is that it costs nothing to implement. Your regular commission is charged only once the stop-loss price has been reached and the stock must be sold. One way to think of a stop-loss order is as a free insurance policy.
An additional benefit of a stop-loss order is that it allows decision-making to be free from any emotional influences. People tend to “fall in love” with stocks. For example, they may maintain the false belief that if they give a stock another chance, it will come around. In actuality, this delay may only cause losses to mount.
No matter what type of investor you are, you should be able to easily identify why you own a stock. A value investor’s criteria will be different from the criteria of a growth investor, which will be different from the criteria of an active trader. No matter what the strategy is, the strategy will only work if you stick to the strategy. So, if you are a hardcore buy-and-hold investor, your stop-loss orders are next to useless.
At the end of the day, if you are going to be a successful investor, you have to be confident in your strategy. This means carrying through with your plan. The advantage of stop-loss orders is that they can help you stay on track and prevent your judgment from getting clouded with emotion.
Finally, it’s important to realize that stop-loss orders do not guarantee you’ll make money in the stock market; you still have to make intelligent investment decisions. If you don’t, you’ll lose just as much money as you would without a stop-loss (only at a much slower rate).