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Tip 3 - Never Buy A Mutual Fund

Never buy a mutual fund unless it is a no-load index fund with the lowest cost structure. (I will tell you where to find it later.)

Why Stock Options are better than Mutual Funds

The Great Myth Of Out-Performing Mutual Funds

Every year, dozens of financial magazines, newspapers, and newsletters dutifully report the top-performing mutual funds, based on 1-, 2-, 5-, or more year time periods. Presumably, the mutual funds that scored the highest in the past are the ones we can expect to continue to outperform in the future. This presumption is a myth.

To me, these scorecards are like reporting the most recent numbers which won at a roulette wheel - they indicate little or nothing about what is likely to happen on the next roll. Every year, we see entirely new mutual funds at the top of the lists. In fact, in many instances, the funds that will perform the best next year can be found at the bottom of last year's list. (Bad luck got them at the bottom last year, just as good luck got the best performers at the top. In both cases, luck, not skill, was the primary determinant of success.)

The Best-Of-The-Best Mutual Fund Managers Make Their Picks

At the beginning of 2001, Business Week magazine selected four experts to invest a hypothetical $100,000 in their 10 favorite stocks. These stock-pickers were good, apparently the best in the business. One manager had earned an average of 20.3% a year for 3 years, placing her in the top 2% of her peers. Two of the fund managers had lost a little during 2000, but their losses were only 1/5 or 1/6 of the average for their kind of mutual funds.

One manager's secret was to "buy improving companies dirt cheap" - he was quoted as saying that "Cisco at $52 was a reasonable valuation" (of course, a year later, it was under $20, but what the heck, it must have been a real bargain then). The fourth manager specialized in small-caps, and had returned 16.6% for the past three years vs. 1.8% for his small-cap peers. So Business Week had identified the cream of the crop of mutual fund managers to make their very best picks for the year.

Of Course, 100% Of The Absolutely Best Fund Managers Can Still Be Wrong

At the end of the year Business Week (December 31, 2001-page 106) sheepishly reported the results. If you had bought all four portfolios (spreading your risk over 40 stocks), you would have lost 26.7% of your investment for the year. Remember, these were the best of the best experts in their field who were making the picks.

Of course, 2001 was not a great year for stocks. Had you bought an S&P 500 Index fund, your loss for the year would have been 13%. But how would you have felt to have paid these "best of the best" experts by buying their mutual funds (and paying them their 3% or so management fee), and experiencing a loss twice as great as the market average? For sure, they were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each for their work in 2001 (when a dart thrower could presumably have done twice as well).

The On-Going "Experts Challenge The Darts" Contest

For many years, the Wall Street Journal has run a contest between the top stock picks selected by four "experts" and stock choices made by random darts thrown at the financial pages. Six months after the picks are made, the results are tabulated. So far, the experts hold a narrow lead over the darts.

This contest is not fair, however. The darts are handicapped. Millions of investors are introduced to the single best stock pick of four recognized experts. What's more, investors read the expert's reasoning behind his or her choice. This publicity is sufficient for many investors to buy companies they may never have heard about before the contest. I, for one, have bought stocks recommended by these experts on many occasions. All this new buying serves to push the prices higher for the experts' choices. Presumably, not too many investors run out and buy the darts' stock picks.

A fair way to run this contest would be to wait two weeks after the contest was announced, and use those prices as the starting points for both the experts and the darts. Of course, then the experts might be totally humiliated. It's bad enough that they get beat a good share of the time already.

One Of The Great Mysteries Of The Investment World

If portfolio managers really can't outperform the market, why do we pay them so much? Year after year, millions of investors pay mutual fund managers billions of dollars to under perform the market. It's one of the investment world's strangest mysteries to me. Does it make sense to you?

Where To Find The Lowest Cost (Index Or Otherwise) Mutual Funds

You can find any mutual fund's annual percentage cost (and these costs vary unbelievably), at www.personalfund.com. Check it out. No one should buy a mutual fund without going there first. This website could save you thousands of dollars every year.

I don't get paid anything to send you there - it's my way of thanking you for coming to my web site and learning about ways to double your money with just a little effort.

If the investment pros can't beat the index averages, how do you think the ordinary investor can match up? Probably not too well, even with a full-time research effort. I firmly believe that if you want to invest in mutual funds, you should stop trying to guess which one will have the hot hand next year, and content yourself with the lowest-cost index fund instead. In the long run, you will be way ahead.

Make A Little Extra Effort And Multiply Your Returns

I feel even more strongly that instead of being a passive investor in index mutual funds, you should direct at least some of your money into an active investment that might yield you three or seven or ten times as much as the index fund does.

I'm talking about stock options in general, and LEAPS in particular. It doesn't take too much to learn about these little-known instruments, and the returns can be tremendous. Tip #1 - All About Options includes a short primer on stock options.

My program is designed to show you several methods to double your money. Tip #5 - The Lazy Way To Double Your Money Strategy involves only two trades at the beginning of the two-year period, but can't be used in an IRA.

My favorite strategy, Tip #6 - The 10K Strategy, involves a little work and trading every month but can generate superior returns even in a flat market. Sign Up For My Free Options Strategy Report and receive two free reports - "How to Make 70% a Year with Calendar Spreads" and "Case Study - How the Weekly Mesa Portfolio Made Over 100% in 4 Months".

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Terry's Tips Stock Options Trading Blog

January 22, 2015

How to Make 20% in one Month on Your Favorite Stock (Using Options)

This week I would like to show you the exact positions of one of the 9 portfolios we are currently carrying out for Insiders at Terry’s Tips. It involves one of my favorite places to shop, Costco, and its stock, COST. We expect to make just under 20% on this portfolio in the next four weeks, even if the stock does not go up a single penny. Welcome to the wonderful world of stock options.

Terry

How to Make 20% in one Month on Your Favorite Stock (Using Options)

The basic strategy that we carry out at Terry’s Tips is to buy longer-term options on stocks we like and sell shorter-term options against them. Since the decay rates of the shorter-term options is . . .

January 8, 2015

Try a Vertical Put Credit Spread on a Stock That You Like

This week I would like to share my thoughts about the market for 2015, and also one of my favorite option strategies when I find a stock I really like. Whenever I find a stock I particularly like for one reason or another, rather than buy the stock outright, I use options to dramatically increase the returns I enjoy if I am right (and the stock goes up, or at least stays flat).

Today I would like to share a trade that I made today in my personal account.  Maybe you would like to do something similar with a company you particularly like.

And Happy New Year – I hope that 2015 will by your best year ever for investments (even if the market falls a bit).

Terry

Try a Vertical Put Credit Spread on a Stock That You Like

First, a few thoughts about the market for 2015.  The Barron’s Roundtable (made up of 10 mostly large investment bank analysts) predicted an average 10% market gain for 2015.  None of the analysts predicted a market loss for the year.  Others have suggested that the year should be approached with more caution, however. The whopping gain in VIX in the last week of 2014 is a clear indication that investors have become more fearful of what’s ahead. The market has gained about 40% over the past two years.  The bull market has continued for 90 months, a near-record–breaking string.

The forward P/E for the market has expanded to 19, several points higher than the historical average, and 2 points above where it was a year ago.  The trailing market P/E is 22.7x compared to 14x for the 125-year average.  Maybe such high valuations are appropriate for a zero-interest environment, but that is about to change. For the first time since 2007, the Fed will not be propping up the market with their Quantitative Easing purchases. The Fed has essentially promised that they will raise interest rates in 2015.  The only question is when it will happen.

There is an old adage that says “don’t fight the Fed.”  Not only have they stopped pumping billions into the economy every month, they plan to raise interest rates this year.  Like it or not, stock market investments made in 2015 are tantamount to picking a fight with the Fed.

While the U.S. economy is strong (and apparently growing), a great number of U.S. companies depend on foreign sales for a significant share of their business, and the foreign prospects aren’t so great for a number of countries. This situation could cause domestic company earnings to disappoint, and stock prices could fall.  At the very best, 2015 seems like a good time to take a cautious approach to investing.

Even if the market is not great for 2015, surely some shares will move higher. Barron’s chose General Motors (GM) as one of its best 10 picks for 2015 and made a compelling argument for the company’s prospects.  The 3.27% dividend should insulate the company from a big down-draft if the market as a whole has a correction in 2015.

I was convinced by their analysis that GM was highly likely to move higher in 2015.  Today, with GM trading at $35.70, I placed the following trade:

Buy To Open 10 GM Jun-15 32 puts (GM150619P32)

Sell To Open 10 GM Jun-15 37 puts (GM150619P37) for a credit of $2.20  (selling a vertical)

I like to go out about six months with spreads like this to give the stock a little time to move higher.  The above trade put $2200 in my account.  There will be a $5000 maintenance requirement which is reduced to $2800 when you subtract out the amount of cash I received.  This means that my maximum loss would be $2800, and this would come about if the stock closes below $32 on June 19, 2015.

If the stock closes at any price above $37, both the long and short puts will expire worthless and I will not have to make any more trades.  If this happens, I will make a profit of $2200 (less $25 commission, or $2175) on an investment of $2800.  This works out to a gain of 77%.

In order for me to make 77% on this investment, GM only needs to go up by $1.50 (4.2%).  If it stays exactly the same on June 19th ($35.70), I will have to buy back the 37 put for a cost of $1.30 ($1300 for 10 contracts).  That would leave me with a gain of $862.50, or 30.8%.

If I had purchased shares of GM with the $2800 I had at risk, I could have bought 78 shares.  I I might have collected a dividend of $91 over the 6 months.  With my options investment, I would have gained nearly 10 times that much if the stock did not move up at all.

Bottom line, even though I am taking a greater risk with options, the upside potential is so much greater than merely buying the stock that it seems to be a better move when you find a company that looks like it will be a winner.

December 4, 2014

Further Discussion on an Options Strategy Designed to Make 40% a Month

Last week we outlined an options play based on the historical fluctuation pattern for our favorite ETP called SVXY. This week we will compare those fluctuations to the market in general (using the S&P 500 tracking stock, SPY, as the market definition). We proposed buying a vertical call spread for a one-month-out expiration date with the lower strike about 6% above the starting stock price.

The results were a little unbelievable, possibly gaining an average of 65% a month (assuming the fluctuation pattern continued into the future). If you used an outside indicator to determine which months were more likely to end up with a winning result, you would invest in just under half the months, but when you did invest, your average gain might be in the neighborhood of 152%. Your average monthly gain would be approximately the same if you only invested half the time or all the time, but some people like to increase the percentage of months when they make gains (the pain of losing always seems to be worse than the pleasure of winning).

This week we will offer a second way to bet that the stock will rise by 12.5% in about 38% of the months (as it has in the past). It involves buying a calendar spread rather than a vertical call spread (and sort of legging into a long call position as an alternative to the simple purchase of a call).

Terry

Further Discussion on an Options Strategy Designed to Make 40% a Month:

First. Let’s compare the monthly price fluctuations of SPY and SVXY. You will see that they are totally different. . . .

Making 36%

Making 36% – A Duffer's Guide to Breaking Par in the Market Every Year in Good Years and Bad

This book may not improve your golf game, but it might change your financial situation so that you will have more time for the greens and fairways (and sometimes the woods).

Learn why Dr. Allen believes that the 10K Strategy is less risky than owning stocks or mutual funds, and why it is especially appropriate for your IRA.

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