Aesop's Fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, tells us of two very different type of people: Those who play and do not invest / work and those who work / invest now to play later. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am the role model of the ant. And I can tell you something right now, being an ant will not necessarily make you super rich, but it will allow you to retire comfortably unless you die early, in which case you won't much care about money anyways. The greatest gift of being a hardworking ant, is simply in knowing that you are an ant. NO ONE CAN TAKE THAT AWAY FROM YOU. I am an ant, and a proud ant at that. I do give to the poor, I am not stingy with my blessings in life, but I do not overspend on small pleasures for myself. Again, I am 34, I do not have cable TV, I use an HD antenna. I could easily afford it, but I actively choose not too. FYI, that usually saves about $10,000 in 10 years time. (assuming $80 / mo cost) I have a 6 MB internet connection, which is about as low as I can get that still works. My house is not huge, maybe 1500 sq ft, plus another 500 sq ft of finished basement, etc. I sometimes wish it was a little bigger, but it's nice with quality appointments, adn we are quite happy there. I have nice furniture and appliances, because quality furniture lasts, and you will have to use it for a long time, so you will really get the use out of that money spent. Both, my wife and I, drive new Hyundai's because they are economical and personally I think nice enough. We do drive cars about 8-10 years before we sell them though. I am a salesman at heart, I haggle on everything but groceries. I do not skimp on my children's educations, because they are my greatest earthly treasure and they are 60% of the reason we do this in the first place.

I have had to learn balance in my life. I started my own businesses since I was in my teens. There has never been any guarantee that my business would survive, so I lived as though it would not. Fortunately, the business has survived, but I learned some good lessons, which I would like to share:

1. Buy your house, and pay it off. Only buy what you can afford to pay off in about 15 years, assuming you are in the middle class. Once you pay it off, you can save a couple years and then upgrade to something really nice if you choose to do so. Renting allows you to do other things with your money, but you need a house and that will not change, especially if the market ever completely collapses. Your primary house should be well-bought, but never look at it as a money-producing investment. It will take more money that it will provide, but it is necessary.
2. Put as much as you can into tax shelters. I really like the concept of the Roth IRA here in America that allows for taxes to be paid upfront when you earn it, and then nothing on capital gains as you make money in the market.
3. Maximize any 401-K with matching. This should be your first priority, even above the Roth IRA and max it out. This is free money.
4. Once you max out your IRA and 401-K up to its matched bonus, then you go straight to your bills / debts. Don't worry about putting more money away for stocks yet. This is your insurance against the market. If you start this plan when you get out of college, there are not really many reasons that you should not be 100% debt free by 35-40. If you are not 25, it's okay, it's just a later start.
5. Do not go to a stock broker or accountant, you need to do all your own finances. The first couple years are painful usually, but you need to study and get experience. This is also another reason to pay the house and student loans down before you get into accruing your hard earned money in a non-sheltered portfolio.
6. I do not personally like the concept of day trading or swing trading as your only source of income until you are ready to retire. Not all markets are conducive to making money, and you should not feel that you have to make trades to eat.
7. When you are ready to retire, you should consider taking two years' income out and placing it in a fully liquid and fully stable checking/savings account. This will put you on a fixed income, but will make sure that you do not have to trade quickly to liquidate. You should replenish what you used at the end of each year, assuming there are no current market capitulations negatively affecting that action.
8. We always go on a vacation per year, but we rarely spend more than $1,500 per year on it. We drive and usually only go for 3-5 days. Drive to the beach, go to Amish Country, go to the caves, whatever. Nature offers a lot and there will be time a little later for Disney, etc.

If you are 25 and follow this, assuming you are married and your average gross family income over the next 15 years is slightly over $100,000, even with kids, by the time you are 40, you should have:
around $150,000 invested into you and your spouse's tax free IRAs, plus however much you can make on top of that.
a paid off house
no student loans or other loans.

You would now be ready to start to invest into non-sheltered accounts and pay the kids college's off. You can start to go on those nice vacations to Disney world that you "missed" out on earlier.

It's not always easy to put aside the fun other suburbanites have now, going to sports games, exotic vacations, 3,500 sq ft houses, but they will work hard later to support their lifestyle, while we retire in comfort and the peace of knowing that all our needs are covered.
 
An older Iranian friend of mine passed along some sage advice not too long ago. His advice was to never take an ill-gotten penny. The bad penny will spread and ruin your finances, not right away, but with time.

In theory a penny is a penny, certainly they all spend the same. In the trading world though how many times have you heard, I went against my trading plan, but I ended up saving a good sum of money. I am certainly guilty of this habit, but I noticed something: when I second guess myself, in the long run I never seem to make as much as I could, if I stick to whatever plan I started with. Every once and a while I save a loss, but they usually were not real big to begin with. What I end up doing is shorting my gains mostly.

Like any good trader, I keep a trading log. My hit ratio for the year for my swing trades alone is 72% accuracy (not including the loss I will sustain today) with a 35% net gain over 18 trades, and in my second account, it has 86% accuracy over only 7 trades with 18.4% gain. I also had some nice hits in growth stocks like TIBX (almost 50% gain, while I was 50% in) and HS (around 28% gain, while I was 50% in) and some small hits in ULTA within the past year. SLV has been my only real albatross in the past year, but fortunately I was not in too deeply so those losses were minimized quite a bit.

Each style is different though so I try to look at them in a compartmentalized point of view. Let's take my best swing trading account alone. I not only keep tabs of my performance, but if I try to beat my own game and buy or sell earlier or later than the TA suggests, I keep tabs of the original plan. Anyways, for my swing method with 35% gain, I could have produced a full 45% in SPY (UPRO,SPXU) if I did not over-favor safety and veer off-course, trying to micromanage my trading plan so much. I could have made 56% using IWM (TNA/TZA) and 69% using XIV/VXX combo. The kick in the pants is that my accuracy would only be 65%, not in the 70's and 80's like my second guessing version produced. That means increased short term pain in exchange for more long term gain. I don't need bragging rights, I need money. 

Sometimes we look at what is happening NOW, and we forget that the market does not go from A -> B directly, it wanders around like Moses in the Desert, taking 40 years to cross a span that should be navigable in about a handful of years. Sometimes all the indicators point to one direction and price wanders off in the other. That's just the life of a trader, and you can't lose your pride over that or your ego. The penny you save by second-guessing will lead to the loss of many more. Trading is a marathon run, and must be consistent, and you must overcome set-backs with the coldest of hearts. 

You will sustain losses, and I am not advocating being stubborn and holding when the price and TA firmly tells you otherwise. When you do take your loss, never seek revenge against Mr. Market as you will only sustain worse losses, just keep going. Never develop fear of him either. Mr. Market feeds off of fear and revenge. Mr. Market will tempt you, but remember investing is not gambling, and you should not be guessing or hoping. THERE IS NO PLACE FOR HOPE, FEAR OR ANGER IN TRADING.

 
Fibonacci Sequences are both natural and planned phenomena where price supports and resistances can be found. We find fibonacci sequences found in spiral galaxies, population growth, and the architecture of a nautilus shell. To the best that I can quickly explain it fibonacci sequences are a delayed-branching fractal. If anyone wants some history on this, please let me know and I will add it, but being a trading site, let's get to what you came for.

Fibonacci points, or lines rather, can drawn between the highs and lows from the most recent runs counter to the run you are experiencing. If you are in an upwards moving run, you would take the most recent low back up to the most recent high. As with trend lines, the more history that the run had, the more impact it has on the future. Additionally, the more times that the market stopped to pause at that line or deflect from it, the more it should command respect to the future.

The sequences as follows, I wrote them from memory and YES you should commit these to memory to have success in T.A.

0.000 - starting point
0.236 - minor line
0.382 - major line
0.500 - major line
0.618 - major line
0.764 - minor line
1.000 - major line
1.618 - major line
2.618 - rarely see

Let's take a look at the Standard and Poor Index (SPX)
Where are the trends? The 2008 financial crisis was our last, most obvious down or bear market. So we will examine A -> B in order to predict B -> C.
You can use www.Freestockcharts.com to add fibonacci sequences (fibonacci retracement lines), which we will do now.
At this point we should examine it to make sure that the lines are respected by the market, this will confirm that they are properly drawn, and for the purpose of what we are doing today, confirm that they indeed do represent something significant.
So we can see that the market truly does respect these lines and they can help identify support and resistance. That top circle by the way is the .764 line, Freestockcharts does not include it as default, but anything that helps make money gets included here.

At any rate, once you have these macro lines drawn, then we can go and draw sub-fibonacci lines. Let's Do that from the most recent date, back to 2011. We will connect the 0.618 above to the 1.000 above with a new set of fib lines.
While not every move will fit exactly, you will see several deflection points as well as clusters around the sub-fib lines. When I draw the fib lines, I usually go from wick to wick on the candlesticks, but when you observe the reaction of price, you may see the body of the candlestick or the wick adhere to the line.

You can draw your lines from the candlestick body too, but you must attach the other end to a body as well. You cannot mix bodies and wicks for drawing purposes.

You can continue to place Fibonacci lines inside these as well, but as mentioned before, but they will not have the history that makes them so reliable, so it will have diminished effect. (It usually still has some effect, but diminished for each level deeper you go.)

This whole series thus far has been based on one bear run in 2008, but you can use smaller sequences too. The most recent correction, prior to this mess we are in now, was back in May 2012. You could run a fibonacci line from the low in May to most recent high in September. Guess what, it works too, and it will be different than the previous example. Try it out now. Drawing takes practice, and lots of it. Additionally, T.A. is more than just identifying fib lines, we have to use other parameters to figure out if the price will pierce it or deflect off it.
 
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Yahoo Finance has the closing price of SPY on Oct 24th as 141.02. Is that a fact? Well that's how Yahoo Finance observed it, but Google Finance saw it to be 141.05. So why the difference, who was right, and why are we talking about this?

Well, let me diverge a little to particle physics. You probably have heard about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle at some point in your life. It basically states that you cannot know the location and momentum of a point particle like an electron simultaneously. The commonly perceived model that we have of an electron neatly spinning around a nucleus like the Earth around the Sun is completely myth. The shells that you learned in chemistry class, are volumes of probability densities, not actual flight paths. As you can see in the picture above, each red dot is an observation point and can lie in the shell or out of the shell and has literally any possibility, but limited probabilities. The electron is bounced around between the attractive and repulsive forces between the nucleus and the electron itself creating a violent unpredictable path inside this field. I will post more on this later, but for now we leave it at this.

Aggregate market prices for equities behave a lot like this electron. Market prices really only exist in our head alone. There is no true or absolute price for anything, let alone a non tangible product like an equity. Like a point particle, a singularly stated price is really just a point of reference and several sales above and below the sale are occurring, for our practical purposes simultaneously. It is only an individual point of observation that makes it singular. Additionally, It is the fact that price and momentum cannot be known together that the market functions and exists and has value. 

I think this is key to understanding the value of technical analysis. Technical analysis offers no absolute buy or sell signals, because neither price nor momentum are absolute nor perfectly orbital/cyclical. It offers us statistical probability for a particular price or a certain momentum in a generally calculable amount of time. 

Probability leads the successful trader to profit. For example, I could offer out 100 shares of SPY at $500 / share. There is a remote possibility that someone will buy it at that price for some highly random, highly unlikely scenario. But being so unlikely, I would not concentrate my time on such an offer. I concentrate on the probable, not the possible.

I love Bollinger Bands for this reason. It is a self-adjusting, moving probability field with pricing generally bouncing between the upper and lower bands, offering a statistical probability of the prices ranges that will occur within a short time frame. Oscillators quantify the equity price's kinetic energy as the oscillator value passes through its signal reference. They simultaneously show the equity price's potential energy by the oscillator value's distance from the center. Fibonacci lines act as external resistance similar to a semi-permeable wall that can only be crossed with significant force, but that once passed then become a semi-permeable floor that will support a price unless too much downward force is applied. Elliot Wave theory can be compared to a map of where these floors and walls tend to exist.

It is NOT in using these techniques separately that any value is achieved, but in the use of all of them that we can narrow down the probability of future prices for an equity. Individual indicators like MACD, STO, RSI, Williams, candlesticks, Bollinger bands,  and moving averages, etc. can and will fail from time to time, but in using them together, a bigger picture is painted and probable outcomes are formed. 

 
I will be sharing general trading principles and basics behind technical analysis. It will include information from Masters and from myself. I am working on how to present the information, as it is all there, but needs to be coherently laid out. It will take many weeks to cover all the topics, but this section will include (not necessarily in order):

Investing Principles of Warren Buffet - Not so much a look a value investing, but more about the wisdom behind his choices
Growth Principles of William O'Neil - a look at the CAN SLIM concept and finding breakouts. To me, his information is even more useful producing ROI than Warren Buffet.
Fibonacci Lines - How to draw them, and how to determine whether it is support or resistance.
Bollinger Bands - What they mean, how they help determine a relative sense of what is happening. These are a staple to my technical analysis.
Candlesticks and Patterns - Which candles to expect at the beginning and end of bear and bull runs, and which commonly seen patterns suggest which type of market.
Elliot Wave Theory - I am not as experienced at this as I wish I was in this field, but I have found it useful in timing many of my own trades and will share what I can. 
Oscillators - There are many good ones (MACD, RSI, STO, Williams, even Bollinger Bands to a degree), and I would like to share the calculations behind them, what they mean and more importantly how to use them.
Algorithms - On my own, I have made literally hundreds of algorithms, most of which did not beat the market, but  I have a handful that did. Similar to mining for gold, a small percent make up for the rest. I suppose just like a magician, no one should share his best secrets. I may cover a few basic ones that work, or at bare minimum explain how to create and test a hypothesis and then take your best and combine them into a complex algorithm. Then comes the hardest part.... applying and sticking with it. Algorithm trading can cause some awful short term pain, but has killer long term gain. Depends on your intestinal fortitude and willpower.
Physics and Trading - Physics offers a lot of insights into trading. This includes Einstein's theory of relativity,  Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and the particle shell, a ball in flight as a reference to price momentum, and influences that cause misdirection.
Statistics and Risk - Hey, let's face it, you are not gonna retire next year and whatever trading plan you have better make it for 20-30 years. Money is in shorter supply than opportunities. 
Ratios and Arbitrage - Ratios with static signal points are cool because they occur in real-time, while oscillators lag in response a little. Ratios can offer insight into the psychology of the market and we will find ways to make it range bound so that we can make an actionable trade against it.
Miscellaneous - Other random musings that I have found that worked.