Sunday, March 25, 2007


Some years back I set up a small account just for trying out a variety of options strategies that I, what else, learned in a book. It only took me 9 months to blow out that account and more. And even though it was small I think in all that time I made maybe 2 good trades and 20 bad ones. And because I believed in multiple contracts (i.e. 10 or more always going for the bulk discount) that was a lot of money blown.

It taught me two valuable lessons - one you can't learn to trade out of a book and two even after reading several books I didn't know jack about options. Since that time I have improved my knowledge level and have discovered that I'm just not willing to play the game in all the innings any more. In other words I have become laid back in my elder years and prefer to just buy some stocks for swing trading, do a few day trades a week and play golf - options and futures and all the myriad other ways to play the market are best left to youngsters who would rather play dodge ball than fantasy baseball.

One of the biggest problems in playing options is that you need a stock that is going to move - either up or down. Nothing is worse than having a couple of dozen contracts on an IBM say and then watching your price degrade while IBM moves in and 80 cent range bound arc for a month. At the end of the time what you paid a buck each for are now worth nothing. If you had bought the same number of IBM shares outright then at the end of the month you would have at least 80 cents in profit per share (1920) and that is a lot more than a 2400 dollar loss not counting the extra fees associated with options contracts.

But if you are insisting on playing options it might be a good idea to have some in depth training and the CBOE provides some good tools that are free for the taking. My favorite was the optionstoolbox which contains an education as well as a method to set-up options positions and see how various changes over time effect the premium - i.e. profit/loss. It is neat to play with and you will be surprised in how much even deep in the money options can lose you if the stock either goes against you or doesn't go at all (which is worse). This is a screen cap of the model once you fill out the set-up screen (easy to do).

You can change days remaining, stock price, and volatility to get a good idea of how many thousands of dollars you are going to make.

I don't recommend options to the casual trader - if you don't have time to devote to your position all day long during market hours then some bad things can happen.

Of course you can use options to hedge a position but that's another story altogether.

1 comment:


I would avoid most options.