from the desk of Dr. Terry F Allen

Skip navigation

Member Login  |  Contact Us  |  Sign Up

802-877-8330

Tip 1 - All About Stock Options

My goal is to give you a basic understanding of what stock options are all about without hopelessly confusing you with unnecessary details. I have read dozens of books on stock options, and even my eyes start glazing over shortly into most of them. Let's see how simple we can make it.

Basic Call Option Definition

Buying a call option gives you the right (but not the obligation) to purchase 100 shares of a company's stock at a certain price (called the strike price) from the date of purchase until the third Friday of a specific month (called the expiration date).

People buy calls because they hope the stock will go up, and they will make a profit, either by selling the calls at a higher price, or by exercising their option (i.e., buy the shares at the strike price at a point when the market price is higher).

Basic Put Option Definition

Buying a put option gives you the right (but not the obligation) to sell 100 shares of a company's stock at a certain price (called the strike price) from the date of purchase until the third Friday of a specific month (called the expiration date).

People buy puts, because they hope the stock will go down, and they will make a profit, either by selling the puts at a higher price, or by exercising their option (i.e., forcing the seller of the put to buy the stock at the strike price at a time when the market price is lower).

Some Useful Details

Both put and call options are quoted in dollar terms (e.g. $3.50), but they actually cost 100 times the quoted amount (e.g., $350.00), plus an average of $1.50 commission (charged by my discount broker - commissions charged by other brokers are considerably higher).

Call options are a way of leveraging your money. You are able to participate in any upward moves of a stock without having to put up all the money to buy the stock. However, if the stock does not go up in price, the option buyer may lose 100% of his/her investment. For this reason, options are considered to be risky investments.

On the other hand, options can be used to considerably reduce risk. Most of the time, this involves selling rather than buying the options. Terry's Tips describes several ways to reduce financial risk by selling options.

Since most stock markets go up over time, and most people invest in stock because they hope prices will rise, there is more interest and activity in call options than there is in put options. From this point on, if I use the term "option" without qualifying whether it is a put or a call option, I am referring to a call option.

Real World Example

Here are some call option prices for a hypothetical XYZ company on February 1, 2010:
Price of stock: $45.00

Expiration Date  
Strike Price Feb '10 Mar '10 Jan '12 Terminology of Option
(price of call option)  
40 $5.50 $7.00 $18.50 "in-the-money"
(strike price is less than stock price)
45 $2.00 $4.00 $16.00 "at-the-money"
(strike price is equal to stock price)
50 $0.50 $1.00 $14.00 "out-of-the-money"
(strike price is greater than stock price)

The premium is the price a call option buyer pays for the right to be able to buy 100 shares of a stock without actually having to shell out the money the stock would cost. The greater the time period of the option, the greater the premium.

The premium (same as the price) of an in-the-money call is composed of the intrinsic value and the time premium. (I understand that this is confusing. For in-the-money options, the option price, or premium, has a component part that is called the time premium). The intrinsic value is the difference between the stock price and the strike price. Any additional value in the option price is called the time premium. In the above example, the Mar '10 40 call is selling at $7. The intrinsic value is $5, and the time premium is $2.

For at-the-money and out-of-the-money calls, the entire option price is time premium. The greatest time premiums are found in at-the-money strike prices.

Options that have more than 6 months until the expiration date are called LEAPS. In the above example, the Jan '12 calls are LEAPS.

If the price of the stock remains the same, the value of both puts and calls decreases over time (as expiration is approached). The amount that the option falls in value is called the decay. At expiration, all at-the-money and out-of-the-money calls have a zero value.

The rate of decay is greater as the option approaches expiration. In the above example, the average decay for the Jan '12 45 LEAP would be $.70 per month ($16.00/23 months). On the other hand, the Feb '10 45 call option will decay by $2.00 (assuming the stock stays the same) in only three weeks. The difference in decay rates of various option series is the crux of many of the option strategies presented at Terry's Tips.

A spread occurs when an investor buys one option series for a stock, and sells another option series for that same stock. If you own a call option, you can sell another option in the same stock as long as the strike price is equal to or greater than the option you own, and the expiration date is equal to or less than the option you own.

A typical spread in the above example would be to buy the Mar '10 40 call for $7 and sell the Mar '10 45 call for $4. This spread would cost $3 plus commissions. If the stock is at $45 or any higher when the options expire on the 3rd Friday in March, the spread would be worth exactly $5 (giving the spread owner a 60% gain for the period even if the stock stays the same – less commissions, of course).

Spreads are a way of reducing, but not eliminating the risks involved in buying options. While spreads may limit risk somewhat, they also limit the possible gains that an investor might make if the spread had not been put on.

This is an extremely brief overview of call options. I hope you are not totally confused. If you re-read this section, you should understand enough to grasp the essence of the 4 strategies discussed in Terry's Tips.

Further Reading

Two more steps will help your understanding. First, read the Frequently Asked Questions section. Second, Subscribe To My Free Options Strategy Report, and receive the valuable report "How to Create an Options Portfolio That Will Outperform a Stock or Mutual Fund Investment". This report includes a month-by-month description of the option trades I made during the year, and will give you a better understanding how at least one of my option strategies work.

Stock Option Symbols

In 2010, option symbols were changed so that they now clearly show the important fearure of the option - the underlying stock that is involved, the strike price, whether it is a put or call, and the actual date when the option expires. For example, the symbol SPY120121C135 means the underlying stock is SPY (the tracking stock for the S&P 500), 12 is the year (2012), 0121 is the third Friday in January when this option expires, C stands for Call, and 135 is the strike price.

Stock LEAPS are one of the greatest secrets in the investment world. Hardly anyone knows much about them. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times do not even report stock LEAP prices or trading activity, although sales are made every business day. Once a week, Barron's almost begrudgingly includes a single column where they report trading activity for a few strike prices for about 50 companies. Yet stock LEAPS are available for over 400 companies and at a great variety of strike prices.

LEAPS, Simply Defined

Stock LEAPS are long-term stock options. The term is an acronym for Long-term Equity AnticiPation Securities. They can be either a put or a call. LEAPS typically become available for trading in July, and at first, they have a 2.5-year lifespan.

As time passes, and there are only six months or so remaining on the LEAP term, the option is no longer called a LEAP, but merely an option. To make the distinction clear, the symbol of the LEAP is changed so that the first three letters are the same as the company's other short-term options.

LEAPS Are Tax-Friendly

All LEAPS expire on the third Friday of January. This is a neat feature because if you sell a LEAP when it expires, and you have a profit, your tax is not due for another 15 months. You can avoid the tax altogether by exercising your option. For example, for a call option, you purchase the stock at the strike price of the option you own.

Owning Call LEAPS Is Much Like Owning Stock

Call LEAPS give you all the rights of stock ownership except voting on company issues and collecting dividends. Most importantly, they are a means to leverage your stock position without the hassles and interest expense of buying on margin. You will never get a margin call on your LEAP if the stock should fall precipitously. You can never lose more than the cost of the LEAP - even if the stock falls by a greater amount.

Of course, LEAPS are priced to reflect the inputted interest that you avoid, and the lower risk due to a limited downside possibility. Just like in everything else, there's no free lunch.

All Options Decay, But All Decay is Not Equal

All LEAPS, like any option, go down in value over time (assuming the stock price remains unchanged). Since there are fewer months remaining until the expiration date, the option is worth less. The amount that it declines each month is called the decay.

An interesting feature of the monthly decay is that it is much smaller for a LEAP than it is for a short-term option. In fact, in the last month of an option's existence, the decay is usually three times (or more) the monthly decay of a LEAP (at the same strike price). An at-the-money or out-of-the-money option will plunge to zero value in the expiration month, while the LEAP will hardly budge.

This phenomenon is the basis for many of the trading strategies offered at Terry’s Tips. Quite often, we own the slower-decaying LEAP, and sell the faster-decaying short-term option to someone else. While we lose money on our LEAP (assuming no change in the stock price), the guy who bought the short-term option loses much more. So we come out ahead. It may seem a little confusing at first, but it really is quite simple.

Buy LEAPS To Hold, Not To Trade

One unfortunate aspect of LEAPS is due to the fact that not many people know about them, or trade them. Consequently, trading volume is much lower than for short-term options. This means that most of the time, there is a big gap between the bid and asked price. (This is not true for QQQQ LEAPS, and is one of the reasons I particularly like to trade in the Nasdaq 100 tracing equity.)

The person on the other end of your trade is usually a professional market maker rather than an ordinary investor buying or selling the LEAP. These professionals are entitled to make a profit for their service of providing a liquid market for inactively traded financial instruments such as LEAPS. And they do. They manage to sell at the asked price most of the time, and to buy at the bid price. Of course, you are not getting the great prices the market maker enjoys.

So when you buy a LEAP, plan on holding it for a long time, probably until expiration. While you can always sell your LEAP at any time, it is expensive because of the big gap between the bid and asked price.

Back to TOP

Terry's Tips Stock Options Trading Blog

November 22, 2021

On Target Trade


Target
(TGT) reported earnings before the bell on Wednesday that beat estimates on
both revenue and profits. The company also expects its fiscal Q4 comparable
sales growth to be higher than previous forecasts. Moreover, TGT claimed the
supply chain mess has not been an issue - store shelves are full and ready for
the holiday buying onslaught.





Analysts
were mostly bullish on the report, giving TGT several target price increases
(there was one lower price). One went as high as $350, a 38% premium to
Friday’s closing price. The stock price was not rewarded, however. The shares
dropped 4.7% on Wednesday and slid further the rest of the week. However, this
was a common theme among several retailers, including Walmart (WMT). In fact,
the overall retail sector was lower for the week.





The pullback dropped the shares to just above their 50-day moving average (blue line in chart). This trade is thus a bet that TGT will regain its footing and stay above the 50-day as holiday sales numbers – that are predicted to be robust – start rolling in. The short 245 strike (red line) of our put credit spread is below the 50-day, relying on trendline support to hold through expiration.









If
you agree that TGT will stay atop its 50-day moving average line in chart),
consider the following trade that relies on the stock remaining above 245  (through expiration in six weeks.





Buy
to Open TGT 31Dec 240 put (TGT211231P240)

Sell to Open TGT
31Dec 245 put (TGT211231P245) for a credit of $1.60 (selling a vertical)





This
credit is $0.02 less than the mid-point
of the option spread when TGT was trading around $251. Unless the stock rises
quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.





Your
commission on this trade will be only $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $158.70. This
trade reduces your buying power by $500 and makes your net investment $341.30
($500 – $158.70) for one spread.  If TGT
closes above $245 on December 31, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would
be 46% ($158.70/$341.30).


November 15, 2021

An AFRMation Trade


Affirm
Holdings (AFRM) provides a platform for point-of-sale payments for consumers
and merchants. In August, AFRM announced a partnership with Amazon.com (AMZN)
to offer flexible payment solutions to customers with AMZN purchases above $50.
AFRM reported earnings on Wednesday after the bell that missed on profits but
beat on revenue. The company also raised sales guidance.





Wall
Street apparently forgave the earnings miss, largely because it was not clear
if the discrepancy used comparable numbers. Moreover, AFRM said its AMZN
relationship as a buy-now-pay-later service was exclusive. Clearly, analysts
were looking at AFRM’s growth prospects, as the company was greeted with
several target price upgrades that reached as high as $185 (the stock closed at
$149 on Friday).





After a nasty, four-day 21% plunge heading into earnings that pulled the stock to its 50-day moving average, the stock rebounded 13.7% the day after the earnings news. Given the earnings rebound, analyst target upgrades and deal with AMZN, we are going with a bullish trade on AFRM that keys on the stock maintaining its three-month rally and staying atop its 50-day moving average (blue line in chart). The short put strike of our credit spread sits at $133 (red line in chart), just below the 50-day.









If
you agree that AFRM will continue its uptrend and stay atop its 50-day moving
average line in chart), consider the following trade that relies on the stock
remaining above $133  (through expiration
in seven weeks.





Buy
to Open AFRM 31Dec 128 put (AFRM211231P128)

Sell to Open AFRM 31Dec
133 put (AFRM211231P133) for a credit of $1.85 (selling a vertical)





This
credit is $0.05 less than the mid-point
of the option spread when AFRM was trading at $149. Unless the stock rises
quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.





Your
commission on this trade will be only $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $183.70. This
trade reduces your buying power by $500 and makes your net investment $316.30
($500 – $183.70) for one spread.  If AFRM
closes above $133 on December 31, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would
be 58% ($183.70/$316.30).


November 10, 2021

A Me(h)T Trade


MetLife
(MET) won’t get anyone’s juices flowing. It’s frankly a rather boring insurance
and financial services company that’s been around for 158 years. But who cares …
if we can make money on a trade, right?





MET
reported earnings last week that beat estimates on the top and bottom lines.
Hardly anyone noticed. Analysts were silent. There were no stories other than a
dry listing of its key performance numbers. And the stock fell 2% the next day.
Ho hum.





But MET is up 36% for the year, which is well ahead of the S&P 500’s 25%. After a swoon in June and July, the stock has been grinding steadily higher along the dual support of its 50-day and 200-day moving averages. The key is the 50-day (blue line in chart), which has allowed just three daily closes below it during the past three months. This trendline, which is rising slightly, sits at $61.10, which is above the short strike of our put spread trade. Thus, MET would have to pierce this support to hurt this trade. And the 200-day (red line in chart) sits at $61 to provide another layer of support. The last time MET closed below the 200-day was more than a year ago.









If
you agree that MET will continue its slow ascent and stay atop its 50-day
moving average line in chart), consider the following trade that relies on the
stock remaining above $62.50  (through
expiration in six weeks.





Buy
to Open MET 17Dec 60 put (MET211217P60)

Sell to Open MET 17Dec
62.5 put (MET211217P62.5) for a credit of $0.75 (selling a vertical)





This
credit is $0.04 less than the mid-point
of the option spread when MET was trading at $64. Unless the stock rises
quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.





Your
commission on this trade will be only $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $73.70. This
trade reduces your buying power by $250 and makes your net investment $176.30
($250 – $73.70) for one spread.  If MET
closes above $62.50 on December 17, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would
be 42% ($73.70/$176.30).


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.

Order Now

Sign Up Your 2 Free Reports & Our Newsletter Now!

Sign up for Dr. Terry F Allen’s free newsletter and get immediate access to his most current report on his stock option trading strategies.

tastyworks

tastyworks, Inc. (“tastyworks”) has entered into a Marketing Agreement with Terry’s Tips (“Marketing Agent”) whereby tastyworks pays compensation to Marketing Agent to recommend tastyworks’ brokerage services. The existence of this Marketing Agreement should not be deemed as an endorsement or recommendation of Marketing Agent by tastyworks and/or any of its affiliated companies. Neither tastyworks nor any of its affiliated companies is responsible for the privacy practices of Marketing Agent, its website or this email. tastyworks does not warrant the accuracy or content of the products or services offered by Marketing Agent or its website.

Member Login  |  Programs and Pricing  |  Testimonials  |  About Us  |  Terms and Conditions  |  Accessibility Statement  |  Privacy Policy  |  Site Map

TD Ameritrade, Inc. and Terry's Tips are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s services and products.

Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading my expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before investing in options

©Copyright 2001–2022 Terry's Tips, Inc. dba Terry's Tips
235 Primrose Lane, Ferrisburgh, VT 05456

Close Window

Sign up for the Terry’s Tips Free Newsletter and Receive 2 Options Strategy Reports:

or

Login to Your Existing Account Now

No Thanks

Newsletter Signup

Member Login

Enter your primary email below, and we'll send you a new password