Investing 101: Options Trading

Investor portfolios are often comprised of stocks, bonds, and ETFs, but options are another asset class that is getting more attention in the news. An option is a contract that gives the buyer the right to buy or sell the specified stock at a pre-determined price on or before a certain date when the contract expires. A call option gives the holder the right to buy a stock, while a put option gives the holder the right to sell a stock.

Options are generally used for income, to speculate, and to hedge risk. A stock option contract is typically comprised of 100 shares of the underlying stock. Options can usually be bought and sold like stocks on your brokerage account, such as Webull, Robinhood, or Fidelity.

People who buy options are called holders, and those who sell options are called writers. Options holders (buyers) are not obligated to buy or sell, they simply have the choice to exercise their rights. This limits the buyers’ risk to only the premium spent on the options contract. However, options writers (sellers), are obligated to buy or sell if the option expires. This means that a seller may be required to make good on a promise to buy or sell, even if that negatively impacts them. It also implies that option sellers have exposure to more risks. Writers can lose much more than the original price of the options premium.

There are four basic options trades: buying a call option, selling a call option, buying a put option, and selling a put option. With call options, the buyer is betting that the stock price will be higher than a predetermined price called the strike price. The call options seller is betting the price will go down. With put options, the option buyer is betting the stock price will fall below the strike price, while the seller is betting it will be higher than the strike price.

When valuing option contracts, it’s all about determining the probabilities of future price events. The more likely something is to occur, the more expensive an option would be that profits from that event. Generally, the closer an expiration date is, the less value an option will have because there is less time for the stock price to make a big move. For example, an option for a fairly stable priced stock will be more valuable as a three-month option than it will as a one-month option.

So, if you buy a call option then you are betting the stock price rises above the predetermined strike price listed in the options contract, that way you have the option to buy the shares for the cheaper strike price compared to the current market trading value. If you’re selling a call option, you’re betting the price will fall below the strike price, so you have the option to sell the shares for more expensive than the current market value. For put options, it’s the opposite of calls, where the put option buyer is betting the stock price will go down and the put seller is hoping it goes above the strike price.

That was a simplified quick breakdown of options trading but I hope you understood and liked it. Don’t forget to like this blog post and subscribe to see more weekly posts about investing and news in the stock market. Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts or experience with options trading.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
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