This is the time of the year when everyone is looking ahead to the New Year. The preponderance of economists and analysts who have published their thoughts about 2017 seem to believe that Trump’s first year in the oval office will be good for the economy and the market, but not great.
Today I would like to share an option trade I have made in my personal account which will earn me a 40% profit next year if these folks are correct in their prognostications.
How to Make 40% a Year Betting on the Market, Even if it Doesn’t Go Up
Since most people are pretty bad at picking stocks that will go higher (even though they almost universally believe otherwise), many advisors recommend the best way to invest your money is to buy the entire market instead of any individual stock. The easiest way to do that is to buy shares of SPY, the S&P 500 tracking stock.
SPY has had quite a run of going up every year, 7 years in a row. This year, it has gone up about 9% and last year it gained about 5%. Since so many “experts” believe the market has at least one more year of going up, what kind of investment could be made at this time?
Since I am an options nut, I will be keeping a lot of my investment money in cash (or cash equivalents) and spend a smaller amount in an option play that could earn spectacular profits if the market (SPY) just manages to be flat or go up by any amount in 2017.
OK, it isn’t quite a calendar year, but it starts now, or whenever you make the trade, and January 19, 2017. That’s about 13 months of waiting for my 40% to come home.
Here is the trade I made last week when SPY was trading about $225:
Buy to Open 1 SPY 19Jan18 220 put (SPY180119P220)
Sell to Open 1 SPY 19Jan18 225 put (SPY180119P225) for a credit of $1.95 (selling a vertical)
This is called a vertical put (bullish) credit spread. You collect $195 less $2.50 commissions, or $192.50 and there will be a $500 maintenance requirement by your broker. You do not pay interest on this amount, but you have to leave that much untouched in your account until the options expire. The $500 is reduced by $192.50 to calculate your net investment (and maximum loss if SPY closes below $220 on January 19, 2018. That net investment is $307.50.
If SPY is at any price higher than $225 on that date in January, both options will expire worthless and you will keep your $192.50. That works out to a profit of 62% on your investment.
If the stock ends up below $225, you will have to buy back the 225 put for whatever it is trading for. If SPY is below $220, you don’t have to do anything, but the broker will take the $500 you have set aside (less the $192.50 you collected) and you will have suffered a loss.
I know I said 40% in the headline, and this spread makes 62% if SPY is the same or any higher. An alternative investment would be to lower the strikes of the above spread and do something like this:
Buy to Open 1 SPY 19Jan18 210 put (SPY180119P210)
Sell to Open 1 SPY 19Jan18 215 put (SPY180119P215) for a credit of $1.50 (selling a vertical)
This spread would get you $147.50 after commissions, involve an investment of $352.50, and would earn a profit of 42% if SPY ends up at any price above $215. It could fall $10 from its present price over the year and you would still earn over 40%.
Many people will not make either of these trades because they could possibly lose their entire investment. Yet these same people often buy puts or calls with the hope of making a killing, and over 70% of the time, they lose the entire amount. Contrast that experience to the fact that the spreads I have suggested would have made over 60% every year for the last seven years without a single loss. I doubt that anyone who buys puts or calls can boast of this kind of record.
Options involve risk, as any investment does, and should only be used with money you can truly afford to lose.