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Since options decay as time passes, selling them has an advantage.  Every day that passes, including weekends and holidays, lowers their value.  Since the goal in selling options is to buy them back lower, having the certainty of time’s passing is a great ally.

Selling uncovered or “Naked” Calls has theoretical unlimited risk.  Call option sellers, or writers as they are also known, obligate themselves to deliver a stock at a set price no matter how high the market goes.  The seller of a Covered Call doesn’t have market risk of a runaway stock, because they can deliver out of their own inventory.

Selling Naked Puts obligates the sellers to buy the stock at the strike price if the buyer of the Put chooses to exercise their right.  In a sense, writing a Put is like writing an insurance policy.  If the stock crashes, it crashes on the insurance company, the Put seller.

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Selling options can be played two ways.  First, you can sell them with the intent of buying them back later for less.   The basic buy low/sell high, albeit in reverse order.  Or you can sell them and hope they expire worthless for the person who bought them.  Sell high without ever having to buy.  Question:  Is it Infinite Return Investing when you profit from things without a cost basis?

Naked Puts have the same risk characteristics as Covered Calls.  Basically if the stock price closes below the strike price, the writer of either option will own the stock.  On the Covered Call, they will own the stock because they won’t be called out.  The writer of the Naked Put would own the stock because it would be Put to him.

On the same token; if the stock price is above the strike price, both option writers would NOT own the stock.  The Covered Call writer would be called out, while the Naked Put seller would have stock assigned to them.

The Put premiums should almost equal the Call premiums.  Their only true difference should work out to the Interest Rate and/or Dividend calculations.


A big advantage to selling Put options is the lower margin requirements.  When you buy a stock, whether you write Covered Calls or not, you have to pay for it.  You may be able to buy it on margin.  Typically margin works this way; your broker will loan you 50% of the value of a stock.  They’ll use stock as the collateral for the loan.  Interest rates vary from broker to broker.

If the stock increases in value, your broker will let you borrow additional sums.  But if the stock price drops, the broker may ask for more money.  Generally, they want to have at least 35% equity.  Any less than that will cause a house call or margin call.

Margin calls are not phone calls you want to receive.  If you can’t come up with the extra money to bring your account to the minimum requirements, your broker has the right to sell your position off at a loss to you.  There’s nothing you can do but turn an unrealized loss into a realized one.  You ‘re obligated to give them security or pay them their money.

Margin also measures security.  When allowing Naked Put selling, brokers will require a certain amount of good faith money.  This is also known as margin.  Typically the margin requirements for selling Naked Puts will be 50% lower than buying stock.  It works out to around 25% of the value compared to 50%.  Since it only takes a small fraction of the price to obligate oneself to buy it, only more experienced traders should consider selling uncovered options.

Margins can and do change, often dramatically.  Brokers typically want a minimum 25% of the strike price before allowing Put writing.  Some will allow you to subtract the amount Out of The Money (OTM) on the option.  Example: a $50 Put on a $55 stock is Out of The Money by $5.  The margin required to write this Put would be $7.50.  One fourth of the $50 strike equals $12.50, minus the $5 OTM totals $7.50.  If the stock were to drop, the margin required would increase.  A $50 Put on a $53 stock equals $9.50, $12.50 less the $3 OTM.  If the stock dropped another $5 down to $48, the margin would increase to $14.50.

A One Dollar drop in the stock raises the margin requirement by the same dollar.  A Five Dollar move on a $50 dollar stock equals 10%, but the margin could move by 50% or more.

Either start with a lot of money or be prepared for margin calls.  For that matter, only consider Naked Puts with your excess money.  Cash lying around in accounts doesn’t provide income like selling Puts can.  But solely selling Puts can tie up money that could be used better buying options.


It’s one thing to invest in stocks, it’s another to trade them.  Trading implies a shorter time frame.  Investing means looking for price appreciation.  Dividends play an important part to many investors.  Most traders have never received a dividend, nor do they miss them.

Investors are willing to tie up most of their money.  Their gains are the product of appreciation and time.  They look for better than average returns to maximize their investments.  As well as selecting plays, traders manage money.  They tie up as small an amount as possible.  Their gains are the product of repeatability and speed.

An option’s limited time frame match better to the trader mentality.  Most option traders have a much smaller time horizon than the long term buy and hold investors.  Trading options adds leverage to the mix.  Options fit perfectly to the trader time and money management mentality.

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To trade successfully, option buyers need to be right and right on time.  Buying options resembles betting on direction.  Buy Calls on bullish expectations.  Buy Puts on bearish expectations.

Options cost money, their premium pays for the potential stock price movement.  Potentially up for Calls, potentially down for Puts.  You need big fast price moves to make any money trading options.  If a stock doesn’t move far or fast enough, you will lose money.

If you buy the right option, the stock may only need to move a little before being profitable.  Buy the wrong option, the stock will need to move farther and/or faster to make a profit.  Playing the right stock may heal any wounds caused by picking the wrong option.

Option buyers have rights which if the option is as little as 1 penny in the money get exercised automatically.  The seller, also known as writer, has an obligation.  Call options give the right to buy stock and the obligation to sell.  Put options give the right to sell stock and the obligation to buy.

If we buy Calls on bullish expectations, why not sell them on bearish expectations?  If we buy Puts on bearish expectations, why not sell them when bullish?  Remember, until the option is closed, there can be no profit.

If we sell a Call option we are obligating ourselves to deliver stock at the strike price anytime until the option expires.  For that obligation we collect a premium.  If we already own the stock, it’s known as a Covered Call.  Our obligation to deliver is covered, guaranteed by the fact we already own the stock.  Our broker should put a lien against our stock.  They won’t let us sell it to anyone else.  In the end, they are responsible.  When you think about it, they are covered.

The profit in Covered Calls potentially comes two ways, from the premium collected and from any appreciation in the stock’s price.  Like long term investors, Covered Call writer’s gains come from appreciation and time.  Only, not from the multiplication of time on a return, but from the decay of time’s value on options.

Selling an uncovered, or naked, Call is the riskiest of all option strategies.  The seller, or writer, of uncovered calls is obligated to sell stock they don’t own.  If the price skyrockets, their losses take off.

Selling Put options obligates the writer to buy the stock at a set price for a specific period of time.  Think of a Put option as an insurance policy.  The buyer of the policy pays the insurance company a premium, for that premium they can insure against loss.  Unlike naked Calls, which have unlimited risk, uncovered Puts maximum risk is if the stock becomes bankrupt.

Put selling profits comes from two sources.  Time’s passage deflates the value of options.  Time passing is truly the only guarantee in life.  When you buy them, they decay on you.  When you sell them, they decay on you.  The other profit doesn’t come from appreciation, but the lack of depreciation.  If buying Puts is a bet the stock will go down, selling Puts is not a bet it will go up but a bet it won’t go down.

Selling Covered Calls and selling Naked Puts have the same risk curve, but not the same reward curve.  Our example will be a $20 stock, one position will be buying the stock and selling the $20 Covered Call.  The other position will be selling the $20 Naked Put.

Buying the stock for $20 and selling the $20 Covered Call gives no room for appreciation, the only profit comes from the premium collected.  The only Profit from selling a $20 Put would be the premium.

In either case, if the stock were to go above $20, you would not own the stock.  The Call buyer would call you out on the Covered Call.  The Put buyer would have their option expire worthless.  If the stock closed below $20 before option expiration, either position would end up owning stock.  The Call Buyer wouldn’t exercise.  The Put buyer would force the Put seller to buy the stock.

A great strategy combining both would be to initially sell a Put Option – I prefer selling a Weekly Put Option.  If the Put Option expires worthless then you get to keep the premium and repeat for the next week.  If the Put gets exercised you end up with the stock and then the next step is to sell a Call – resulting in a Covered Call.  Let me know what you think!

My goal is to help people become better traders.  It is less a goal to teach which stocks to trade, and more a goal to teach identifying situations, and matching strategies to those situations.  If you know ahead a stock’s price is rocketing to the moon, it’s easy, just bet the farm.  However, if you’re not sure, you don’t know if a stock will soar, but you have sound fundamental information and technical analysis to help reasonably know the direction of price, you can learn to develop successful strategies.

I would like to think, I can give information worthwhile to read, worthwhile to learn, and more important, worthwhile to trade.

Most investors do not understand the difference between price and value.  Value is what a stock should be worth.  Price is the last trade of record.  The key to successful investing is finding undervalued and overvalued stocks whose price becomes more in line with their value.  This is also called reversion to the mean.

The daily opinion poll, known as the market, determines price.  Like the political climate in America today, the financial climate is often a confusing and changing environment.  Bill Clinton and Amazon.Com have a lot in common.  Contrary to long time expert opinions, both are scoring amazingly high in the public opinion polls.  Trying to call their early demise might be the biggest mistake of the end of the 20th century.

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My major problem is that I am a one man army.  Attacked on all flanks and seriously out gunned.  I had to develop a hand to hand combat method of investing… Trench Warfare.  I knew my weaknesses (market predictions) and my strengths (logic, mathematics, analysis, and experience).  I would pick my battles and my battlefields…Options.

I hate stocks.  Their valuations are one dimensional…PRICE.  Stocks don’t know time.  This is evidenced by one of the oldest forms of Technical Analysis: Point and Figure Charting.  Options on the other hand are multi-dimensional.

Option pricing is based on the values derived from the Nobel Prize winning Black-Scholes formula.  Options are derivatives.  That is they have no value in and of themselves, their values are derived from something else.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?  Aren’t derivatives responsible for breaking a British Bank?  Actually it was a young rogue trader in Singapore misusing derivatives that broke the long time institution.  If he knew some of things I plan on teaching, history could have been different.

I intend to take a complicated mathematical equation and give you the basics to successfully trade with this information.

You will learn how options are valued.  The components are simple; Time, Price, Potential, Dividends, and Interest Rates.

Time:  The one true constant.  Stocks go up, stocks go down, stocks stay the same, TIME passes.  The value of time does not decay linearly.  For true math heads only… Time Value decays at its square root.

Price:  Not only the price of the stock, but the difference of the Strike price versus the Stock price.

Potential:  Known as Volatility, measured in Standard Deviations.

Dividends:  Applicable only to stocks that pay dividends.

Interest Rates:  Short term risk free rate of borrowing.

These Mathematical counterparts have Greek terms.  This adds to the difficulty experienced by seasoned Stock Brokers as well as neophyte investors.

Time Decay-Theta, Price movement-Delta and Gamma, Potential-Vega, Interest Rates-Rho.

Strategies include almost every kind of spread imaginable, and some only a veteran such as myself could dream up.  They will include:

Bull Spreads, Bear Spreads, Put Spreads, Call Spreads, Credit Spreads, Debit Spreads, Calendar Spreads, Ratio Spreads, Back Spreads, Butterfly Spreads, Condor Spreads, Anticipation Spreads, Subsidy Spreads, Straddles, Strangles Combinations, Time Diagonals, Synthetic positions and Position Trading.

If risk can be minimized or hedged away, there is a spread that can do it.

Sounds Great?  Well it’s meaningless if you can’t trade it.

The public opinion poll on Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) recently shown a less that happy result.  The price gapped down.  Not unlike many other stocks have done.

If you look at a long term chart of AMD you will see exactly why you don’t want to be a “long term buy and holder”.  This is a high tech company and the price hasn’t moved much?  Actually it has moved nicely, up and down!  Is now the proverbial Low from “Buy Low-Sell High”?  I don’t know.  But I can trade on the possibility.

AMD is almost a commodity.  They manufacture CPU’s to compete with Intel (INTC).  With consumers wanting less and less expensive computers, one would think things would be well for AMD.  However, Intel wants not only a bigger market, but bigger market share.  They have come out with cheaper chips to compete with AMD.  Chips that allow box manufactures the low entry price with the familiar Intel Inside logo.

We’ll enter a Position Trade, buying a long term call and selling short term calls against it.  We’ll look at a number of hedged positions where we buy and sell risk, buy and sell time decay and buy and sell potential.  It will cost us a certain amount of money to enter this trade and then a certain amount of money to maintain this trade.  The key to Position Trading is to have less money in the trade as time goes on and more profit potential.  It is money management.

Percentage movement is meaningless in stocks.  Own 1000 shares of a $10 stock and you have the same $10,000 tied up as owning 500 shares of a $20 stock.  The same $10,000 buys you 100 shares of a $100 stock.  If any of these stocks move up 10%, a $10,000 position would increase to $11,000.

Percentage movement for option is essential.  Stocks need to make decent price moves in order for its options to have their prices affected.

Strike price choices on a $10 stock maybe limited to $7.50, $10, and $12.50.  Going two strikes In or Out of The Money (ITM, OTM) would add the $5 and $15.  Both of which are 50% from the current price.

The $20 stock would have $17.50, $20 and $22.50 strike prices.  If two strikes In or Out of The Money (ITM, OTM) are available, they would only be 25% from being At The Money (ATM).

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The $100 stock’s strike price availability would all be closer in terms of a percentage.  The $90 and $110 choices would be two In or Out (ITM, OTM), yet they would only be 10% In or Out (ITM, OTM).

If a $100 stock moves 10%, it will pass through two strike prices.  If it moves 10% down, it would pass through the $95 and $90 strikes.  If it moved up, it passes through the $105 and the $110 strikes.

If a $20 stock moves 10% it comes close to moving one strike.  It would still be $0.50 away from either the $17.50 or the $22.50.  Close, but not close enough.

A 10% move on a $10 stock doesn’t get the price much closer at all to the next strike price.  Less expensive priced stocks need bigger percentage movements.

The significance of strike price distance versus stock prices as terms of a percentage should be clearer.  All equal percentage price movements affect all stocks equally, they do not affect options the same.  A 10% move is a big thing to options on high priced stocks, but lower priced stocks require larger percentage moves to affect their options.

If a stock’s price is too low, you may consider buying the stock as opposed to trading options on it.  You should certainly rule out trading Out of The Money (OTM) options on them.  Match the strategy to the stock price.

Margin requirements vary on plays.  Buying options requires the money to pay for them.  Buying stock either requires full payment, or you may purchase them on margin.  (Check with your broker for specific margin requirements.)  Generally speaking stocks need to be around $5 minimum in price to be optionable.  In such case the typical margin is 50%.  That is, you need to have half the money available, your broker will loan you the other half.

When you sell options, you will need to put something up as collateral.  With Covered Calls, the most often sold option, the collateral is the stock the option is written against.  You either need to pay for the stock in full, or buy it on margin.  By putting up only 50% of the cost and selling the option and receiving 100% of the premium you may more than double your return.

Naked Puts have more aggressive margin still.    Many brokers only require 25% security for the value of the stock.  Successful Naked Put selling may have less commissions than Covered Calls.  Naked Puts done right cost one commission versus Covered Calls three.

Always run through different strategies and pick the best one depending on your risk tolerance, account size and your expected move in the asset.

Profits from stock trading come by buying low and selling high.  Profits fuel capitalism.  Profits built America.  Corporate profits come from buying low and selling high.  Every successful business is based on this simple concept.

The main difference between corporate profits and investing profits is, the adding of value.  McDonalds buys potatoes low and sells them high.  They add value by peeling, cutting and frying these potatoes; then selling them as french-fries.  The basic concept remains buy low/sell high.

Investors don’t add value.  They can’t dip their stock certificates in chocolate and have fancier more valuable shares.  A share is a share, is a share.  All shares are equal.

Buying low and selling high requires valuations.  How else would you know if something is high or low.  You can’t trade using 20/20 hindsight.  You need to know what something is worth and what it should be worth.  Not just stock or option valuations, but for anything.

There are rules of thumb for everything.  Example, something is only worth what someone is willing to sell it at or pay for it.  Price measures value.  To measure the value of a stock at any time look at the last price traded.  It is the most current match of a willing buyer and a willing seller.  Trades require buyers and sellers.  With every trade, you truly have both opinions.  Prices move based on supply and demand.  More buyers cause increasing prices, more sellers and prices decline.

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Free Appraisals

Antique dealers earn their living through their knowledge.  Buying and selling provides their income, but their knowledge allows their transactions.  They need to verify authenticity, rate condition, know market values and marketability.  They use this insight to buy low/sell high.

Many antique dealers supplement their antique trading profits by offering appraisals.  Often before insuring certain items, insurance policies will require professional written appraisals stating value.  In the worse case scenario of a claim, a written appraisal saves untold amounts of grief.

Some antiques are too large or delicate to transit, so the appraiser must travel to inspect them.  Time cost money.  The appraisers need to charge for their time.  None of this is done for free, well almost nothing.  Many people seeking appraisals are doing so to value their item for sale.  Loss leader appraisal services generate antiques coming through the doors.  Many dealers offer appraisal services as a means to buy.

An antique dealer friend of mine told me a story of a client who didn’t want to pay for his services, but wanted them just the same.  He explained how this person had a “valuable” piece of antique furniture.  When told of the cost of the appraisal, including the travel time to come look at it, the client asked for a free appraisal over the phone.  The antique dealer was used to people trying to avoid paying for his services and played a little game with any skin-flints.

Hold It Up To The Phone

He told them to bring the phone near the piece to be able to better describe it.  Then he asked to have the phone held closer so he could see the item better.  He asked to have the phone moved around the piece very systematically.  The phone was placed inside every nook and cranny.  Upon completion, the antique dealer announced the piece looked counterfeit.  The person became so concerned.  Was he sure?  Well only in person could he know.

Knowledge also provides professional stock traders with their living.  And unlike antique dealers, they give free appraisals.  Every time they buy or sell, they state their opinion on what that particular stock is worth at that very moment.

The last trade gives the universally accepted valuation of a stock.  Whether one share or one million shares exchanged hands, the last recorded trade sets the value of all existing shares.  This skew allows profit potential.  Volume is a key to stock and option traders.  Price movements on low volume don’t confirm valuation changes as well as large volume moves.

The market capitalization of a company is figured by multiplying the number of shares outstanding by the current price of the stock.  Theoretically, if a stock trades millions of shares at a level, then trades one last share at a much different level, the market cap is based on this last share.

This is the problem with after hours trading.  The spreads are wide, with volume low.  Valuations swing wildly as trades take place from low bids to outrageous offers.  The willing buyers want to steal stock.  The willing sellers want a small fortune.  Until after hours trading gets tight bid/ask spreads, think of it like unscrupulous antique dealers trying to underpay ignorant owners or overcharge non-knowledgeable collectors.

Unlike businesses that add value, traders need to mine equity.  Investors need to use knowledge, experience and research to find gold mine stocks.  Not literal gold mining companies, but value waiting to be pulled out.  Gold in the ground is worthless until someone stakes a claim, commits resources to extract the value.