How much money you’ll need to trade forex is one of the first issues you have to address if you want to become a forex trader. Which broker you choose, trading platform or strategy you employ are all important as well, but how much money you start with will be a colossal determinant in your ultimate success.
Not all traders are alike though, and not everyone trades the same way. A day trader may not need the same amount of money to start forex trading as a swing trader does. The amount of money you need to trade forex will also be determined by your goals. Are you looking to simply grow your account, or do you seek regular income from your forex trading?
Below, we will look at the recommend capital required for various forex trading styles.
How Much Money Do I Need to Trade Forex? – Why It Matters
Before going into how much money you’ll need to trade forex effectively, we need to look at why this issue is even important. Does it really matter if you start an account with $100 or $3000? Yes!
One of the most significant issues new traders face is being under-capitalized. Forex brokers are guilty of fostering such an environment by offering to open accounts for at little as $5 in some cases…although the minimum opening balance is usually about $100. (See: How to Pick a Forex Broker That is Right For You)
Let’s face it, if you want to start trading, it’s likely because you want an income stream. Well, you aren’t going to have much of an income stream if you start with $100. Since very few people are patient enough to let their account grow, they will risk way too much of their capital on each trade trying to make an income, and in the process lose everything.
I am a firm believer in only risking 1% of capital (max 3%) on a single trade. If your account is $100, that means you can only risk $1 per trade. In the forex market that means you can take a one micro lot position (see Calculating Pip Value for information on various lot sizes), where each pip movement is worth about 10 cents, and you need to keep the risk to less than 10 pips. Trading in this way, if you have a good strategy, you’ll average a couple dollars profit a day. While this will build your account slowly, most traders don’t want to make a couple dollars a day, they want to build their account much faster and therefore will risk $10 or $20 per trade–sometimes more–in an attempt to turn that $100 into thousands as quickly as possible. This may work for a time, but usually results in an account balance of $0.
The other problem with forex trading with such a small amount of money is that it offers almost no flexibility in the style of trading you undertake. If you deposit $100, and follow proper risk management protocols, you can only risk 10 pips if you take a 1 micro lot position. This forces you to be an active day trader, whether you want to day trade or not. With a 10 pip stop loss you won’t be able to swing trade or invest, since the price can easily move 10 pips against you, resulting in a losing trade, if you try to hold out for long-term gains.
New traders are better off saving up more money before opening a forex account, thus adequately funding their account so they can trade properly.
How Much Money Do I Need to Day Trade Forex?
If you want to day trade forex, I recommend opening an account with at least $2000, preferably $5000 if you want a decent income stream.
With a $3000 account, and risking no more than 1% of your account on each trade ($30 or less), you can make $60+ per day. With a $5000 account, you can risk up to $50 per trade, and therefore you can reasonably make an average profit of $100+ per day.
This is possible because let’s say you risk about 10 pips per trade, so you can take a position size of about 5 mini lots ($1 per pip movement), which will lose you $50 or make you about $75 if your average gain is 15 pips. Of course you won’t win every trade, but if you win 3 out of 5, you’ve made yourself $125 for the day. Some days you make more, and some days you make less.
So with a $5000 account you can start to create a decent stream of daily income. If you allow the account to grow to $10,000 you can make roughly $250 per day. These are just estimates of course; a better estimate of your personal income potential will come from practicing in a demo account, and monitoring your results before even risking a single real dollar.
It is possible to start an account with a smaller amount, such as $500, but if doing so make a commitment to grow the account for at least a year before withdrawing any money. If you do this, and don’t risk more than 1% of your account on each trade, you can make about $10 per day to begin with, which over the course of a year will bring your account up to a few thousand dollars.
How Much Money Do I Need to Swing Trade Forex?
Swing trading is when you hold positions for a couple days to a couple weeks. This style of forex trading is suited to people who don’t like looking at their charts constantly and/or who can only trade in their spare time.
With swing trading you’re trying to capture longer term moves and therefore may need to hold positions through some gyrations (ups and downs) before the market actually gets to your profit target area. A profit target is a determined exit point for taking profits. For swing trading you’ll often need to risk between 20 and 100 pips on a trade, depending on your strategy and the forex pair you are trading (some are more volatile than others). Your expected profit should larger than the risk.
If want to take a trade that has 50 pips of risk, the absolute minimum you can open an account with is $500. This is because you can risk $5 per trade, which is 1% of $500. If you take a one micro lot position ($0.10 per pip movement, and the smallest position size possible) and lose 50 pips you’ll be down $5. Since trades occur every couple days, you’re likely to only make about $10 or $12 per week. At this rate it could take a number of years to get the account up to several thousand dollars.
If you start with $5000, you can make about $100 to $120 per week, which is more of an income stream. With a $10,000 account you can likely snag a $200+ per week. Depending on where you live, this may serve as an adequate side income. Again, this is an estimate. Practice in a demo account for a couple months before trading with real money, as that will give you a bit better idea of your income potential. Demo trading is easier than real trading though, because you have nothing to lose.
Only have a $1000 (or less) to swing trade or day trade: read Forex Day Trading with $1000 (or less).
How Much Capital For Longer-Term Forex Trades/Investing?
The same risk management concepts apply to longer-term trades, which means risk should be kept to 2% or less of the account. With swing trading and day trading risking 1% is good, but with longer-term trades I don’t mind risking 2%. In my Forex Strategies Course for Weekly Charts, which discusses strategies for taking trades that typically last for a month to several months (or sometimes longer), I recommend starting with at least $4,000 in capital. This is because when we try to capture larger price moves we often need to place our stop loss further away from the entry point.
With this style of trading we may have stop losses that are 300 or 500 pips from our entry…but over the course of a couple months we expect to make 1500 pips (for example). Even trading one micro lot (approximately $0.10 per pip of movement), with a 300 pip stop loss we are risking $30 if we lose. In order to risk $30 on a trade we need an account balance of at least $3000, if risking 1% per trade (because 1% of $3000 is $30). If you are willing to risk 2% per trade, then $1500 in capital is needed (because 2% of $1500 is $30).
When trading different pairs with different trade setups, we may end up with trades that require a larger (or smaller) stop loss. This is why it is good to deposit more capital than less. Based on the example above, a trader may assume that $1500 is enough for longer-term trading in forex. It might be, but what if volatility increases and most of the trades you see require a 500 or 600 pip stop loss? With $1500, you are going to have to risk too much of your account on each trade, even when taking only one micro lot (the smallest position size). You could opt not to trade, but then you may miss out on some great opportunities. Start with more money in your account than you expect you will need, that way you can trade with greater confidence knowing that your risk is properly controlled.
The starting balance also affects our income potential. With a $4000 balance, taking trades that last a couple months, a reasonable income estimate is $80 to $200 per month if risking 1% of the account per trade (over time we will accumulate multiple positions, with some likely being opened and closed each month). If risking 2% per trade that income estimate doubles (assuming a profitable strategy is being used). Double the starting balance, to $8000, and the income in dollars doubles again.
How Much Money Do I Need to Trade Forex – Final Thoughts
It is important to be realistic about what you expect from your forex trading. How much money you deposit plays a crucial role in how much you will likely make if you follow proper risk management. If you’re willing to grow your account slowly, then you can likely begin with as little as $500, but starting with at least a $1000 is recommended no matter what style of trading you do. If you want to make an income from your forex trading then I recommend opening an account with at least $3000 for day trading, or $4000 for swing trading or investing. Play with the scenarios to find an income level and deposit level that is acceptable.
Most unsuccessful traders risk much more than 2% of their account on a single trade; this isn’t recommended. It is possible for even great traders and great strategies to witness a series of losses. If you risk 10% of your account and lose 6 trades in a row (which can happen) you have significantly depleted your capital and now you have to trade flawlessly just to get back to even. If you risk only 1% or 2% of your account on each trade, 6 losses is nothing. Almost all you capital is intact, you are able to recoup your losses easily, and are back to making a profit in no time.
The above scenarios assume that your average profit will be about 1.5 times your risk (or greater), and that you’ll win about 60 percent of your trades. This is not always easy to accomplish consistently. Your personal trading style will largely determine your profitability or lack of it. Though, how much money you trade forex with will play a significant role in your ability to meet your trading goals.
By: Cory Mitchell, CMT
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