Slightly different flavour here, which I hope will be insightful to those who take the time to read. Tonight I'm going to talk about my learnings in this market so far; my biggest mistakes; how you can avoid making them yourself; and the strategy I intend to follow from now on. It’s a long old read, but it contains months worth of knowledge, which could only be gained from first-hand experience. So pour yourself a drink, settle in, and let me take you through a brief history of my first two months in crypto.
TL;DR: Been in crypto 2 months, after years trading forex. Learnt a lot, and passing on the knowledge. Hope it helps some of you to become better investors.
CHAPTER 1: New market; new opportunity
I came into crypto with a real excitement. Finally a market that resonates with me. The ability to buy into something I believe in - something that could change the world for the better - and to make money along the way. I was excited that I could apply my trading background, something that not many in the market possess, to my advantage. I was excited at the prospect of being on the curve of early adoption, in a market that had demonstrably meteoric potential. But I was patient. I knew that I would be risking a substantial amount of money in this space, and potentially other peoples’ too, so I had to approach it sensibly. I was going to invest (hold long-term) the vast majority and day trade just a small portion. I spent many weeks researching before considering pulling the trigger even once. I didn’t come into this without a plan. But looking back on it now, it really was only scratching the surface on what a serious investment strategy should be.
CHAPTER 2: Early Strategy
In brief, my plan was to research a load of coins that I’d heard have good potential – solid projects which make unique & warranted use of blockchain technology; are disruptive to their industry; are developed by a competent & active team; and are backed by a loyal community. I shortlisted maybe 40 coins through articles, videos and general conversation, and I added them to my watchlist. Admittedly I became a bit lax in completing the deep level of research I told myself I’d do for each – scrutinizing the whitepaper became skimming the whitepaper, which then became watching a video analysis, which then became “oh that sounds interesting I’ll keep an eye on it”. But this was just a watchlist. And still an educated one.
I knew that I wanted to wait for an inevitable dip in Bitcoin’s value to enter the market, but it just wasn’t coming. $6k, $8k, $10k… the bullish momentum couldn’t be tamed. Was I missing out? Was Bitcoin going to continue its parabolic move while I sit here waiting for a dip that could never come?
LEARNING 1: There are an unlimited number of opportunities
At this stage I was ready to get involved, and I’d scouted a few alt coins that had good technical entry points approaching. Do I need to keep waiting for a good Bitcoin price even when there’s a good alt price? In short, if you’re confident enough about a trade, it doesn’t really matter what price you pay to get the BTC (or other major alt coin) needed to trade it, as long as you believe that your trade will outweigh any potential drop in Bitcoin’s value. If your trade goes up 100% and BTC’s value drops 50%, at that point you’re break even. Plus if you keep holding and BTC returns back to its previous value, now you’re in 100% profit. For me this meant that even after buying some Bitcoin at its ATH (all-time high) and having it correct over 40%, I was still in profit, because this particular trade was up over 100%. More on this later.
So I bought some Bitcoin! Not all at once – generally a decent strategy is called dollar-cost averaging. In essence, buying a little bit every week at whatever the price at the time is, so that your entry price averages out over time. A better strategy is to only buy if it’s at a good price, or when you need it for a trade setup – not just arbitrarily every week even if the price is high. But I digress, I had some Bitcoin now and I wanted to diversify. Time to buy some alts.
LEARNING 2: Every trade is a decision to have the coin you’re buying instead of the coin you’re using to buy it
If an alt coin is gaining value against Bitcoin, it’s better to be holding that alt coin than Bitcoin. And if it’s losing value against Bitcoin, you’d be better off keeping it as BTC. Simple, but easy to forget when you load up Coinmarketcap and see all of the price changes in USD. You’ve gone up by 4% today – great! But BTC went up 10%, so you’d have been better off holding BTC. Buying a coin is an active decision that you make to hold the coin you’re buying instead of the coin you’re selling for it, for the period of time until you close that position. So if I buy 1000 XEM using BTC, that XEM/BTC trade is me saying “I think that XEM will increase in value at a greater rate than BTC will”. If both of them increase in value but BTC does it faster, that was a sub-optimal decision.
LEARNING 3: Satoshis are your friend. Accumulate as many of them as possible
So how does one measure profit on a trade? It’s intuitive to think of it in fiat terms – how many £££ did I make? Something tangible. But really everything should be measured in the smallest unit of Bitcoin (1 satoshi = 0.00000001 BTC). It’s easier to migrate to this way of thinking if you think of your total investment as the total amount of BTC (or the other major alt coin) that you were able to buy with it. Say I invested £1000 in crypto, and with that I managed to buy 0.1 BTC – that’s my total investment. If I want to diversify and put 10% of that into each of my favourite alt coins, I’d buy 0.01 BTC worth of each of them. Let’s say Litecoin was one of them and I got 1 LTC for my 0.01 BTC. Litecoin’s rocket then fuelled up and started on its journey to the moon, and I decide to bank my profit. I now trade it back for 0.015 BTC. From 0.01 BTC to 0.015 BTC is a profit of 0.005 BTC, or 500,000 satoshis!
“But why not just measure it in £££ - that’s far less complicated?!”
Well here’s the kicker. Let’s say Bitcoin’s value plummeted over the course of that trade. I’ve got more BTC, but because the value of each one decreased, I may still have lost money. So does that mean that trade was a bad decision? Not at all. That trade was a decision between BTC and LTC, and you made the right call. LTC held its value better than BTC did, so you would have lost more if you didn’t take the trade. Profit measured in satoshis allows you to strip away the financial layer and answer the most important question – “was it a good decision to make that trade?” A gain in satoshis is always a win. A gain in £££ is not.
Taking that same scenario in which I’ve got an equal amount of my 10 favourite alt coins. Let’s say 9 out of 10 of them stay at exactly the same value, but the other one shoots to the moon on a lambo all the way to 100%. Woohoo! Shame that was only 1/10 of my portfolio - overall it’s worth 10% more now – but if I’d have invested all my money in that one coin I’d be up 100% overall. Now I’m certainly not advocating putting all your eggs in one basket. Rather, in reference to my previous learning, this helped me realised another very important point.
LEARNING 4: Understanding opportunity cost is a must
Any trade I make is not only a decision between the two coins I’m trading; it’s also a decision to buy that coin instead of any of the other coins I might be interested in. I have 0.1 BTC to spend and 10 alts I want to spend it on – should I just divide it equally? Not necessarily. If you’re super confident about a couple of them, but not so much on the others, spreading it equally doesn’t sound like such a good plan after all does it? Take your time analysing each trade / investment and rank them in order of confidence. In order of potential (risk:reward if you’re a trader). Invest more in the ones you’re more confident in. It’s a really basic point, but one that’s so often forgotten when there are so many exciting prospects out there. Holding a particular coin doesn’t just cost the price that you paid for it, it costs the opportunity to buy something else instead. One of the first things I learnt in trading was to cut your losers short and let your winners run. Why should crypto be any different? Even when you’re in a trade, every moment is an active decision to keep holding it instead of trading it for something else. Don’t blindly HODL hoping for a bad decision to improve, when there are better decisions you can take to re-coup that loss. Equally, don’t sell for a loss just because the value goes down. Re-analyse. Has anything changed? If every reason you had to buy it in the first place still applies, HODL. If something’s changed, including your confidence in it compared to other cryptos, consider switching it for a better opportunity.
So I learnt all of this in my first month – December 2017. Did I make optimal decisions all the time? Absolutely not, but with cryptos riding to all-time highs, my investors were very happy, as was I. It’s not often that you can get a 100% return on investment in just one month in a market. But it’s easy to profit in a bull market.
CHAPTER 3: It’s not all sunshine and lambos
It was around the end of December in which things started to get a bit too parabolic, and I was naturally suspicious of how long this could last. But you find yourself, inexperienced in a new market, eager to see how far you can ride the wave. The fear of missing out on further exponential gains becomes as much of a psychological challenge as taking a loss. In short, you get greedy. Highs that I had once been ecstatic with, a few days later became lows. I told my investors not to expect anything like this in future months. In my monthly summary I said “we are in perhaps the most bullish market the world has ever seen”, and I estimated that we had “a maximum of 1-2 more weeks to ride this momentum”. Prophetic, no? Well it’s easy to make predictions that come true – even a broken clock is right twice a day. What’s difficult is having enough conviction to take your own advice.
LEARNING 5: Make your rules and stick to them, no matter what
This is without a doubt the biggest thing I’ve learnt over the months. If one day you set yourself a target of £X profit – a level you’d be really happy to achieve, be that on a trade or overall – take it. Cash out as soon as you reach it and buy yourself something nice. Make it tangible. It’s easy for the world of online trading to feel gamified, but remember what you’re staking – this is real money. But it’s easier said than done. If you rise suddenly to that target I can tell you your first thought will be “whoa look at it go, I’m gonna see how much further it can get before I cash in”, rather than “mission accomplished, time to get out”. Humans are greedy. We want to take shortcuts – to our dreams, to wealth – but this isn’t a get rich quick scheme. If someone told you they could get you 10%/month gain on your savings (that triples your money every year) you’d probably bite their hand off. So why in crypto would you not be chuffed with 50%, or 20%, or 10%? Don’t move the goalposts. Decide in advance when to take profit and take it.
First off, it’s always a good idea to take out your initial investment at a level after which you’d be psychologically happy if the market goes down or up. For example, if I took out my initial investment (say £1000) when it went up 50% to £1500, and then the market went lunar and doubled the next month, I’d personally feel a bit annoyed at myself for not leaving more money in. That £1000 would’ve been £3000 had I kept it invested…shit. However if I took out my initial investment when it went up 200% - I’d now have £2000 left of my £3000 investment, and if it doubled the next month, I’d be happy with the stake I had remaining, not regretting my decision. That level can only be decided by you, based on your attitude towards risk. Obviously the higher that value is before you cash out your profits, the greater the risk you’re taking since it may never reach that level. Taking out your investment as soon as you’re happy to is a good move because from then on in you’re riding on pure profits. If the market were to crash to zero, you’d still be break even, so it’s much easier to detach yourself from the emotions involved (and we all know how emotional this market is). And if you’re a technical trader, rejoice at the fact that this market is hugely technical, and you can very often predict good levels to get out at – often doubled with buying back in cheaper. I highly recommend for everyone
to spend some time learning to analyse charts - even at a basic level. It works. And for heaven's sake if you're day trading don't do what I did and "neglect" to apply basic trading principles like setting a stop loss and sizing each position at maximum ~1% risk. You can call it investing; you can call it speculative buying; but at the end of the day that's just gambling. Don't be lazy. Don't be wreckless. Apply what you've learnt in other markets - crypto is no different.
And for context, no I did not take my own advice. The correction shocked me. Not the fact that it happened, but the fact that it happened so hard and fast. At first I thought it was a healthy dip, and that the uptrend would resume soon enough – no reason to sell. But then the bears took over, and we were in a full on downwards movement. News emerged from South East Asia which caused a great deal of negative sentiment, and Bitcoin’s value tumbled (even when some of the speculation was later deemed invalid), and with that I realised how inherently linked to Bitcoin that all other cryptocurrencies are. You may dislike Bitcoin - the slow transactions; the high fees – but you can’t argue how critically important it is to this market.
LEARNING 6: 40+% market corrections are normal in crypto, but they still hurt
I neglected to mention earlier, but I have a background in trading forex. I understand market patterns, cyclicity and technical analysis such as Elliott Wave Theory and Fibonacci ratios. It is foolish to think that charts will continue indefinitely in a given direction – there will always be corrections and reversals. All through the correction we’ve started this year with, I have remained very optimistic. Nothing at all has changed to make any of the leading crypto projects less credible or via as future industry disruptors. This is why it’s important to do your own research on coins you invest in – so that you’re psychologically happy holding them long term through price corrections. But I’ll be honest, when Bitcoin broke down through several technical support levels a few days ago, I became apprehensive. Not even close to panic, or tempted to sell. After all I am investing long term, and I still see this as a requisite correction in a much larger up-trend. Or at least the upside potential of that outcome is comfortably worth the risk for me – it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. But even as an experienced trader, doubts can set in. All of the profits I had gained in month 1 were gone, and I have now slightly dipped into loss. As I say, I’m not selling, and my analysis is still very bullish. But HODLing is not always the best strategy.
LEARNING 7: When things are looking bearish, consider the trade to fiat
With the benefit of hindsight, and now having dedicated substantially more time to learning Elliot Wave Theory and studying crypto charts, there were a number of points at which you could have predicted a big ol’ correction was on the cards, before it fully developed. A quick ‘n dirty rule of thumb, for those of you who don’t know how to read charts, is: “Don’t buy into a parabolic market or at an all-time high – it’ll likely correct soon”. But I’d also like to add an addendum to what is a common mantra in the crypto community: “Buy the dip” – this is for day trading. If you’re intending to hold a coin long term, zoom right out and look at the entire coin’s price history. Wait for a macro scale correction, not a micro scale dip. A lot of people got excited the other day at Bitcoin rising 10% - I saw tonnes of calls saying “the correction is over” or “Bitcoin to the moon” – but when you zoom out, we’re still in a downtrend with room to go lower, and substantial resistance to get through before we can rise to new highs. Play the long game and look for long-term signals. And if you are in that subset of people who can predict an imminent correction, or indeed if you’re halfway through a correction with a good chance of it continuing, the best decision may well be to get out of the market until it’s over. Trade your positions back to fiat, and wait for clear recovery to the upside. It’s much more difficult to trade profitably in a down-trend. Most of us could have doubled our BTC holdings just by getting out of crypto before the correction and buying back in cheaper now. So make sure you have an exit plan. Know the steps that you’d need to take to get your money off exchanges / wallets and back into your bank account. Getting out of crypto doesn’t have to be a permanent move. There’s no harm in waiting things out until you’re confident again. After all, refer back to Learning 1 – there are always more opportunities.
CHAPTER 4: Moving forwards
At last, filled with learnings and plenty of inactive time spent refining my strategy, I’ve gone back to my technical analysis roots and really analysed why I’m in my positions.
LEARNING 8: Never stop analysing. You will make mistakes. Learn from them.
Does my portfolio need to be this diverse? Are my invested amounts proportional to my confidence in them? Probably not, so I’ve taken this opportunity to start shifting around. Don’t be precious about losses – losing is a natural part of trading – you only need one 10:1 winning trade to offset ten losing ones. So take some losses and make some mistakes. I’m sure glad I did, because it’s made me a much more confident and competent investor today.
And since everyone always looks around for opinions on the market, I will leave you with one bit of bullish technical insight on our King, Bitcoin. Basic Elliot Wave Theory says that markets move in ebbs and flows – 5 waves in the direction of the trend, followed by 3 waves of correction. And these waves are fractal in nature, meaning that a full 5-wave pattern forms a single larger wave within a higher degree pattern. All that being said, IF
Bitcoin’s run up to its ATH in December constitutes a completed 5-wave pattern, we could consider that history as Wave 1 of a larger up-trend. Using Fibonacci extension ratios that appear in all markets (including crypto, very prominently, even with BTC), we can project the likely extensions of the Wave 3 that would come after we’re done correcting here. Based on analysis run by eSignal, a popular trading platform, the length of Wave 3 will likely reach either 1.62, 2.62 or 4.25 times the length of Wave 1. That means our Wave 3 high would take the price of a single Bitcoin to roughly $32,000, $64,000 or $98,000. You can view these Elliot Wave Projections (in GBP) here
Technical analysis is very subjective, this is merely one possible outcome. But ask yourself, if you had the chance to invest in something with global reach that could make a 5x or even 10x return on your investment, what would you risk for that opportunity?
Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope this helps some of you.
Happy investing, Andy
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