In spite of the odds against winning, many people seem to like to invest in individual stocks. It is sort of like picking horses at the race track (and often for similar sound selection reasons, like the reputation of the trainer or the jockey or the color of his silks, or the horse’s name or his recent race record, or what the touts are touting).
To our way of thinking, picking individual stocks is a lot more like gambling than carrying out a prudent option strategy such as the 10K Strategy. But picking individual stocks is easier, and a whole lot more fun for many people.
If you insist on picking individual companies, there are two good ways to use an options strategy to multiply your gains if you are lucky enough to pick a winner. First, the 10K Strategy, our favorite strategy, is best if you merely like a particular company. Second, if you really LOVE the company, you might use the Shoot Strategy.
At Terry’s Tips, we conduct options strategies based on several individual companies we feel good about. For example, in October 2013 we set up a portfolio based on Nike (NKE), a company we liked. If we had really loved NKE, we would have used the Shoot Strategy. We were lucky to have picked a good company. We started with $4000 in the portfolio (set up in an actual brokerage account with no other positions) when NKE was trading at $63. By the end of November 2014, NKE had surged to $99, up 57%. Our portfolio was then worth $11,435, a gain of 186%. Our options portfolio had performed more than 3 times as well as the stock had gained.
If we had loved the stock at the outset, rather than just liking it, we would have used the Shoot Strategy instead of the 10K Strategy, and we would have gained even more. This time around. the Shoot Strategy would have done much better. On the other hand, we felt pretty good about almost tripling our investment in 16 months while taking less risk than is involved in the Shoot Strategy.
While we don’t use the Shoot Strategy in any of our actual portfolios, we show you exactly how to do it if you have a company you really love. It is more risky than our 10K Strategy but it should outperform if the stock actually does move up a lot. If the stock stays flat, the Shoot Strategy will usually about break even. On the other hand, if the stock stays flat, the 10K Strategy is designed to make a nice gain.
Les Brown said “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. And Confucius said long ago “If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s OK. But you’ve got to shoot for something. A lot of people don’t even shoot.”
This is how the Shoot Strategy works –
1. If the stock goes up, the Shoot Strategy will make money. The gain will be considerably greater than the percentage gain would have been if the stock had been bought instead of the LEAPS.
2. If the stock stays flat, your account value will be about flat as well, or a small gain might result. Since you are collecting slightly more than the average monthly decay of the LEAPS each month (until they have only a few months of remaining life) you might often make a small gain. However, even a small gain is more than you would have made if you had bought the stock and it doesn’t go up a penny.
3. If the stock falls, a loss will usually result just like it would if you had bought the stock, and the loss will likely be a greater percentage loss than if the stock itself had been purchased instead. However, in many cases, the loss could be reduced (or eliminated) if the stock fell during those months when our Trading Rules call for selling in-the-money calls.
General Trading Rules for executing the Shoot Strategy:
Pick a stock you believe is headed higher (we suggest using www.magicformulainvesting.com. as a guide – see discussion below).
1. Buy slightly in-the-money or out-of-the-money call LEAPS. At least two LEAPS must be purchased. If your budget does not warrant buying at least two true LEAPS, shorter-term calls can be purchased as long as they have at least six months of remaining life.
Calculate the average monthly decay of the LEAPS (time premium divided by the number of remaining months).
2. Sell enough slightly out-of-the-money current month calls to cover the average monthly decay.
3. Near or at expiration, roll over the short calls to the next month (if they are in the money), again selling enough out-of-the-money contracts to cover the average monthly decay. If the expiring calls are out-of-the-money, let them expire worthless and sell the next month out, as above.
4. If short-term calls that have been sold become in the money (i.e., the stock has gone up), they must be bought back during expiration week, and the amount paid must be added to the remaining decay of the LEAPS and a new (higher) average monthly decay bogey established based on the number of remaining months of the LEAPS.
The biggest differences between the Shoot Strategy and the 10K Strategy is the calls are used exclusively in the Shoot Strategy and all of the short calls are at the money or out of the money (i.e., at strikes which are at or above the current price of the stock. These positions will cause the portfolio to have a strongly positive net delta at all times.
Deciding Which Companies to Buy:
The best single source we have found for selecting individual companies is the Magic Formula system outlined in the small book by Joel Greenblat called “The Little Book That Beats the Market” and is available online at www.magicformulainvesting.com.
Rather than relying entirely on the Magic Formula, it might be even better to select individual stocks that also rank high at Investors Business Daily (IBD), Value Line, and by composite analyst rankings. While we prefer the 10K Strategy because of its lower risk, using the Shoot Strategy offers considerably higher returns than merely buying the stock, and if you carry it out correctly, you can sometimes make money with the Shoot Strategy even if the stock stays flat.