It’s now time to get your feet wet without giving up your trading stake. Paper trading, or virtual trading, offers a perfect solution, allowing the neophyte to follow real-time market actions, making buying and selling decisions that form the outline of a theoretical performance record. It usually involves the use of a stock market simulator that has the look and feel of an actual stock exchange’s performance. Make lots of trades, using different holding periods and strategies, and then analyze the results for obvious flaws.
Investopedia has a free stock market game, and many brokers let clients engage in paper trading with their real money entry systems, too. This has the added benefit of teaching the software so you don’t hit the wrong buttons when you are playing with family funds.
So, when do you make the switch and start trading with real money? There’s no perfect answer because simulated trading carries a flaw that’s likely to show up whenever you start to trade for real, even if your paper results look perfect.
Traders need to co-exist peacefully with the twin emotions of greed and fear. Paper trading doesn’t engage these emotions, which can only be experienced by actual profit and loss. In fact, this psychological aspect forces more first-year players out of the game than bad decision-making. Your baby steps forward as a new trader needs to recognize this challenge and address remaining issues with money and self-worth.