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How long does it take to learn to trade?

Trading stocks and seemingly ‘quick wins’ are plastered all over social media. High profile accounts are posting screenshots of their stocks raking in thousands of pounds in an impressively short period of time.

In reality, however, it takes significantly longer to see a return on a stock – and it is not as simple as creating an account and sitting back to watch the money come pouring in. In fact, trading is a unique skill whereby most people venturing into the market will need training, a natural personal interest in stock markets and financial education to know when and how to make the right moves.

Cultivating such skills takes time. And it doesn’t end there: traders need to understand their own mind, identify any areas of weaknesses and cultivate a heightened sense of their own self-awareness which the average person does not typically need. So how long does it take to learn these skills?

Personal determination

There is no such thing as learning how to trade casually: you need determination, grit and patience, to name just a few.

You need to abandon any ideas you have around strict timeframes and your expectations in getting on the trading floor in a fast-turnaround. Instead, commit to learning how to trade and all the many strategies, theories and approaches. You also need to look to the history books to study historical trade trends and to learn all about the financial crash of 2008.

The best way to learn is to think of yourself as a student whose first goal is to simply soak it all in. Make the learning process your top priority and passion by immersing yourself in financial news every day and by expanding your consumption of financial content online. Youtube and the Financial Times are great places to start, and there are plenty of online courses that can teach you everything you need to know about the volatility of the stock market and how you can protect yourself – and your wealth – from mistakes.

Evidently, you need strong willpower and personal drive to learn how to trade first. How long it takes to learn largely depends on your determination and commitment.

Is it better to learn young?

With a lengthy road of learning ahead, you may feel put off entirely from trading. Or, you might feel as though the ship has already sailed for you and that you’re ‘too old’ to learn such a skill. 

However, you couldn’t be more wrong. Investing and trading does not come with an age threshold at all. While being young certainly does have its advantages and can give you a head start in your trading career, being a little older comes with its benefits, too. Almost any career or job you have had could be beneficial for your new trading venture. Sales, interpersonal skills and teamwork are just a handful of transferrable skills which you may already have under your belt. 

Furthermore, there’s a lot to said about the trading mindset. A young and inexperienced trader is more vulnerable to making huge financial risks, though they can afford to make such risks as their youthful age gives them more time to rectify their errors. Meanwhile, an older trader will already carry a rational mind and will be less likely to make mistakes since they will be typically more protective of their hard-earned capital.

Besides, experience tells us that persistence pays off – no matter how old you are.

How to learn to trade

The good news is that the digital age has revolutionised the trading industry. Now, you can learn trading courses online and in ways which stock brokers and investors of the past could not.

Read books and articles, attend seminars, webinars and listen to podcasts in your spare time. Commit to a dedicated financial trading course and participate in forums to chat to other aspiring traders as well as experts in the field.

In fact, seeking a mentor is one sure-fire way to learn from the best. Learning to trade is rarely a skill that investors keep to themselves and many are keen to share their years of experience and information. After all, you can all benefit from one another. Someday, you too might pass on the gauntlet to an amateur trader who is just starting out.

Understand your own mind (psychology of trading)

You won’t like every single aspect of trading, which is why it’s so important that you are taught the different strategies and approaches.

Understanding your own mind is often just as important as these trading theories as you will need a heightened awareness of your own weaknesses. At a basic level, you need to at least understand where fear and greed may adversely impact your decision making on the trading floor. These are typically natural instincts for most people, but you must learn how to identify them and fight against them in order to invest with a reasoned mind.

Give yourself time

Finally, you should give yourself time to learn the skill without adding unnecessary pressure to learn in a specific timeframe – and recognise that your learning does not simply stop at any given point. Even the most senior traders continue to evolve and adapt with the times. Becoming a pro is a constant learning curve throughout which you should expect to accumulate a few years in the industry first before ever considering yourself an expert.

However, most traders will commit to a period of at least 6 to 12 months before starting to trade, though you can certainly use a fantasy account for practice in the meantime. Take it slow and learn just the one subject at a time, for instance, start with investing in stocks before moving on to forex, options and futures.

Once you have built up your confidence with your practice account, there is no better way to learn than to physically invest your own capital. This allows you to study the market in real terms while you learn – and having a real stake on the line is the best way to truly learn. However, remember that you should only do so on a small scale in the beginning and by choosing just the one avenue.

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