When trading stocks there are a variety of different things you must look at before pulling the trigger. Because of this we often forget about the little things that can make a huge impact. The stop loss order is one of those things.
What Is a Stop Loss Order?
A stop loss order is basically a security blanket that limits the amount of money the investor will lose. The order tells the broker when they should buy or sell a stock based on a certain price point. If you set your stop loss order to 15% below the price you purchased the stock, that means your loss will be limited to a maximum of 15%.
Let me give you a real life example. Let’s say you invested in Microsoft at $30 per share. Immediately after you buy the stock you put in a stop loss order for $20. That means if the stock should fall below $20 per share, your shares would automatically be sold at the current market price.
Advantages & Disadvantages of A Stop Loss Order
The great thing about a stop loss order is that it is free to implement. You will only be charged after the stop loss price has been reached and the stock is being sold. It’s almost like having a free insurance policy.
One of the biggest advantages to using this type of strategy is its ability to remove all emotional influence from the decision making process. People will often fall in love with stocks and let their emotions dictate what moves they make next. This type of approach on leads to more losses. With a stop loss order you set the price point and let it do its job.
Another advantage is the fact you don’t have to constantly monitor your trades. With a stop loss order in place you basically determine how much you are willing to lose and forget about it. This is great for those times when you are on an extended vacation and unable to check in on a stocks performance.
The disadvantage is the uncertainty of the market. The stop price you set can be quickly activated by any sort of fluctuation in the price of the stock. There are no hard or fast rules to picking the perfect stop loss point. However, the idea is to pick one that allows a stock to fluctuate without the downside risks. This of course is a lot easier said than done.
When it boils down to it, a stop loss order is a tool all investors can benefit from. Not only can it help you prevent excessive losses, but it can also help you lock in profits. As stated before, its basically a free insurance policy. One you hope you will never have to use.