A Low-Risk Income Strategy That Puts The Odds In Your Favor

No matter how you define risk in specific terms, the concept of risk always involves losses. High risk is associated with a greater-than-average possibility of loss.

By that definition, selling options could be one of the lowest risk strategies an investor can use.

Options have a reputation for being high-risk. Investors are often told that “80% of options traders lose money.”

Let me be clear: I’ve never been able to find a report that validates that number.

Why Selling Options Is Better Than Buying

Think of options as an investment where there will be an equal number of winning and losing positions. This is simply a result of the way options are designed. Whenever an option is bought, someone else must be selling. On one side of the trade will be a winner while the other party will face a loss.

Options give the buyer the right to buy or sell 100 shares of a stock or an ETF at a predetermined price (known as the exercise price) before a specific date. Because they have an expiration date, on that date the option buyer will have either a gain or a loss and the trade is over either way.

There are only two possible outcomes, and if the buyer wins, then the options seller must have a loss. Conversely, when the options buyer loses, the seller wins.

Studies (and experience) show that the options buyer does not have a 50/50 chance of winning. They actually have a very high probability of losing. A study done using Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) data showed 83% of all options on stock indexes expired worthless.

Now, remember… There is a winner on the other side of every losing options trade. So if the options buyer loses on 83% of these options that means the sellers win that often.

I know that may sound a little simplistic, but in principle, this tilts the odds in our favor.

Now, stick with me, because we can tilt the odds even more in our favor slightly more by looking at whether call or put selling would be more profitable.

Remember, a call option gives the buyer the right to buy the underlying stock and a put option gives the buyer the right to sell the underlying stock. So call buyers profit when prices go up, while put buyers profit when prices decline.

CME data showed that 60% of calls expired worthless while 94% of puts expired worthless. This data shows that selling puts has a high probability of success.

An Example Of How To Nab A Quick 4.7% Return

When you sell a put, you will generally sell it at an exercise price that is below the current market price. Unless the price of the underlying stock or ETF falls below the exercise price, the put will expire worthless.

To minimize the risks of put selling, you should only sell put options on stocks or ETFs that you would like to own. For example, let’s say we’re looking at the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE: SPY).

Right now, SPY is trading at $468. You’d be interested in buying it on a 10% pullback, so you could sell a put at $421 that expires in one to two months and earn income while waiting to buy at your desired price. Alternatively, you may feel the the chances of the market falling 10% in the next couple of months is low — and if so, you’d be a buyer.

The caveat, of course, is that if SPY falls more than 10% you will still have to buy it at $421.

Buying 100 shares of SPY at $421 each would cost $42,100. To initiate this trade, your broker will likely require you to deposit a percentage of that obligation in your account, like a down payment on a house. This is called a “margin requirement.” It usually runs about 20% of the amount it would cost you to buy the shares. This trade would require a margin deposit of $8,420 (20% of $42,100).

Based on prices for the Jan-21 $421 puts, traders could expect to receive about $400 in premium for making the trade. That’s about 4.7% return on your money in a little over two months. And once this trade expires, you could repeat a similar trade again…

Closing Thoughts

I believe one reason the success rate for put sellers is so high is because the market is dominated by professionals. They know the fair value of the puts they are willing to sell and take trades only when the time is right. Individual investors can easily profit from selling puts just like the professionals, but this strategy requires doing some homework.

An SPY put with an exercise price of $450, for example, will have a higher price than a put with an exercise price of $400, but the higher strike price is more likely to be exercised. It is a good idea to use puts that are at least 10% below the current market price to earn a high amount of income and help ensure you only buy the underlying stock or ETF at a bargain. But that also depends on other factors, such as volatility, options premiums, the time period for the trade, and more.

The point is, trading options could be a way to increase your income by hundreds or even thousands of dollars every month. But you need to know the ropes before making trades. That’s where my premium Income Trader service comes in…

Each week since February 2013, I have provided my subscribers with low-risk put selling opportunities. And so far, more than 90% of my trades have been winners.

I recently sat down with my publisher for a tell-all interview to explain how it all works.

You can go here to check it out now.