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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

September 30, 2016

IBM Pre-Announcement Play

IBM announces earnings on October 17, less than three weeks from now. I would like to share with you a strategy I used today to take advantage of the extremely high option prices which exist for the option series that expires on October 21, four days after the announcement. I feel fairly confident I will eventually make over 100% on one or both of these trades before the long side expires in six months.

Terry

IBM Pre-Announcement Play

One of my favorite option strategies is to buy one or more calendar spreads on a company that will be announcing earnings in a few weeks. The option series which expires directly after the announcement experiences an elevated Implied Volatility (IV) relative to all the other option series. A high IV means that those options are relatively expensive compared to all the other options that are trading on that stock.

IV for the post-announcement series soars because of the well-known tendency for stock prices to fluctuate far more than usual once the announcement is made. It may go up if investors are pleased with the company’s earnings, sales, or outlook, or it may tumble because investors were expecting more. While there is some historical evidence that the stock usually moves in the opposite direction that it did in the week or two leading up to the announcement, it is not compelling enough to always bet that way.

IBM has risen about $5 over the last week, but it is trading about equal to where it was two weeks ago, so there is no indication right now as to what might happen after the announcement.

IBM has fluctuated by just under 4% on average over the last few announcement events. That would make an average of $6 either way. I really have no idea which way it might go after this announcement, but it has been hanging out around it/s current level (just under $160) for a while, so I am planning to place my bet around that number

In the week leading up to . . .

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

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