What is a Trailing Stop-Loss?
How a Trailing Stop-Loss Works
When the price goes up, it drags the trailing stop-loss along with it, but when the price stops going up, the stop-loss price remains at the level it was dragged to.
A trailing stop-loss is a way to automatically protect yourself from an investment's downside while locking in the upside.
For example, you buy Company XYZ for $10. You decide that you don't want to lose more than 5% on your investment, but you want to be able to take advantage of any price increases. You also don't want to have to constantly monitor your trades to lock in gains.
The benefits of the trailing stop are two-fold. First, if the stock moves against you, the trailing stop will trigger when XYZ hits $9.50, protecting you from futher downside.
But if the stock goes up to $20, the trigger price for the trailing stop comes up along with it. At a price of $20, the trailing stop will only trigger a sale if the stock drops below $19. This helps you lock in most of the gains from the stock's rally.
In the example, you could also decide you don't want to lose more than $2 on your $10 investment. If the stock goes up to $20, the trailing stop-loss would drag along behind the price and only trigger a sale if the stock falls to $18.
Why a Trailing Stop-Loss Matters
A trailing stop-loss can be good for investors who may not have enough discipline to lock-in gains or cut losses. It removes some of the emotion from the trading process and offers some capital protection automatically.
There are some drawbacks to consider. First, you need to consider your trailing stop percentage or amount very carefully. If you're investing in a particularly volatile stock, you could find the stop level triggered fairly frequently.
Second, frequent trading can have tax implications such as "wash sales" for stock held less than 30 days. Finally, excessive trading can quickly turn into "churning," with fees and commissions eating into your profits.