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Disadvantages of Option Trading

1.    Taxes.  Except in very rare circumstances, all gains are taxed as short-term capital gains.  This is essentially the same as ordinary income.  The rates are as high as your individual personal income tax rates. Because of this tax situation, we encourage subscribers to carry out option strategies in an IRA or other tax-deferred account, but this is not possible for everyone.  (Maybe you have some capital loss carry-forwards that you can use to offset the short-term capital gains made in your option trading).

2.    Commissions.  Compared to stock investing, commission rates for options, particularly for the Weekly options, are horrendously high.  It is not uncommon for commissions for a year to exceed 30% of the amount you have invested.   Be wary of any newsletter that does not include commissions in their results – they are misleading you big time.

3.    Wide Fluctuations in Portfolio Value.   Options are leveraged instruments.  Portfolio values typically experience wide swings in value in both directions.

The most popular portfolio at Terry’s Tips (they call it the Weekly Mesa) gained over 100% (after commissions) in the last 4 months of 2010.  The underlying stock for the Weekly Mesa is the S&P 500 tracking stock, SPY, one of the most stable of all indexes.  Yet their weekly results included a loss of 31.3% in the last week of November (they have added an insurance tactic to make that kind of loss highly unlikely in the future, by the way).  Three times, their weekly gains were above 20%.

Many people do not have the stomach for such volatility, just as some people are more concerned with the commissions they pay than they are with the bottom line results (both groups of people probably should not be trading options).

4.    Uncertainty of Gains. In carrying out option strategies, most prudent investors depend on risk profile graphs which show the expected gains or losses at the next options expiration at the various possible prices for the underlying.  These graphs are particularly important to check out when placing initial positions, and it is also wise to consult them frequently during the week as well. 

Oftentimes, when the options expire, the expected gains do not materialize.  The reason is usually because option prices (implied volatilities, VIX, - for those of you who are more familiar with how options work) fall.   (The risk profile graph software assumes that implied volatilities will remain unchanged.).   Of course, there are many weeks when VIX rises and you might do better than the risk profile graph had projected.   But the bottom line is that there are times when the stock does exactly as you had hoped  and you still don’t make the gains you originally expected.

With all these negatives, is option investing worth the bother?  We think it is.  Where else is the chance of 100% annual gains a realistic possibility?  We believe that at least a small portion of many people’s investment portfolio should be in something that at least has the possibility of making extraordinary returns.

With CD’s and bonds yielding ridiculously low returns (and the stock market not really showing any gains for the past 4 years), the options alternative has become more attractive for many investors, in spite of all the problems we have outlined above.

Terry's Tips Stock Options Trading Blog

September 21, 2016

Calendar Spreads Tweak #4

Today I would like to discuss how you can use calendar spreads for a short-term strategy based around the date when a stock goes ex-dividend. I will tell you exactly how I used this strategy a week ago when SPY paid its quarterly dividend.

Terry

Calendar Spreads Tweak #4

Four times a year, SPY pays a dividend to owners of record on the third Friday of March, June, September, and December. The current dividend is about $1.09. Each of these events presents a unique opportunity to make some money by buying calendar spreads using puts to take advantage of the huge time premium in the puts in the days leading up to the dividend day.

Since the stock goes down by the amount of the dividend on the ex-dividend day, the option market prices the amount of the dividend into the option prices. Check out the situation for SPY on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, two days before an expected $1.09 dividend would be payable. At the time of these prices, SPY was trading just about $213.70.

September 7, 2016

Calendar Spreads Tweak #2

This week we will continue our discussion of a popular option spread – the calendar spread which is also called a time spread or horizontal spread. We will compare the expected costs and potential returns if you select different time periods for the long and short sides of the calendar spread.

Terry

Calendar Spreads Tweak #2

First, let’s look at a typical calendar spread on Facebook (FB). Today, the stock is trading just over $130, and you might buy an at-the-money calendar spread by placing this order:

Buy To Open 1 FB 16Dec16 130 call (FB161216C130)
Sell To Open 1 FB 14Oct16 130 call (FB161014C130) for a debit of $3.75 (buying a calendar)

This spread would cost about $3.75 ($375) to buy, plus $2.50 in commissions at the rate Terry’s Tips’ subscribers pay at thinkorswim, for

September 1, 2016

Calendar Spreads Tweak #1

This week we will continue our discussion of a popular option spread – the calendar spread which is also called a time spread or horizontal spread. We will check out the feasibility of buying spreads at different strike prices in an effort to reduce risk.

Terry

Calendar Spreads Tweak #1: First, let’s look at a typical calendar spread on Facebook (FB). Last Friday, when FB was trading about $124.20, we bought 5-month-out 20Jan17 calls and sold one-month-out 30Sep16 calls. The spread would cost $5.43 ($543), and this is what the risk profile graph looked like:

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