It’s been two months since my last update on my covered call strategy on $F while I wait for a dividend to be reinstated. As outlined in my first post, the ~6% dividend Ford was offering in 2019 was the primary reason I started accumulating shares. With the COVID “crash” in March the dividends were “suspended” while the company stabilized. That was probably the correct move for the company’s longterm future, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss those quarterly payments!
With that in mind, I started selling covered calls at strike prices above my average price to generate some income on that tied up capital I had in Ford. As the share price has rebounded, I have found myself in the money on my positions, but I have still been able to roll them out for an acceptable rate of return.
As of my last update, I had two February 19 covered calls, one at $9 strike and $10 strike. I had taken in $67 in credits before commissions. $F is now trading in the mid-$11s. Since then, I have been able to roll both of those out to March for another credit.
On January 22, I rolled the $9 covered call out to March 19 for a net credit of $16.68. This is a 1.9% return over 57 days, which is 11.9% annualized. With that credit, I bought one additional share for $11.47. This is similar to a DRIP (Dividend Reinvestment Program) with a traditional dividend.
On February 2, I was able to roll the $10 covered call out to March 19 expiration for a net credit of $31.68. This is a 3.2% return of 46 days, which is 25.1% annualized! As of now, I haven’t reinvested that credit and have just kept the cash.
This brings the total net credits from selling covered calls to over $115. At a current share price of $11.58, that’s a return of 5% over the course of about 3 months.
These positions, especially the $9 strike, are sitting pretty far in the money at this point. This means that there is very little extrinsic value remaining in these contracts, which means sooner or later I will choose to let it expire at have the shares called away. Fortunately, I have more than 200 shares of $F that I’ve own for more than 1 year, so my gains on those shares will be taxed at longterm capital gains if I’m forced to sell when they’re called away (to be clear: all the credits I’m receiving for selling the covered calls are taxed as ordinary income, unfortunately). If the stock price sees a pullback down below $11 again, I will look at rolling these out again as it’s likely there will be some more extrinsic value again. As long as I can get a 1% net credit for rolling out between 1 to 2 months, I think it will still be worthwhile as that’s a 6-12% annual return that, I feel, is pretty low risk.
I do expect Ford to resume the dividend at some point, so it would be nice if I could continue to roll out until then. But if Ford continues to climb higher and I get further and further in the money, that becomes increasingly unlikely. Either way, I will continue to update the blog with what happens.
The market in January had a strong start before Game Stop mania threw a wrench into things. I actually participated in the craziness in a very small way. I sold a call credit spread that was WAY in the money for a few days (like… $300 in the money!) Since it was a defined risk trade I had no problem waiting it out. In the end I was probably the only person on that $GME trade that ended up with a $10 profit. I think most were were up or down 100x, 1000x or more than that. As the dust began to settle, $SPY retreated a bit and closed the month down 1.0%.
My total profits from trading were $2,623.63, another best ever month by 13%! That was a 1.5% total portfolio return from options trading. Not bad for a month where the markets were in the red. My total portfolio value across all accounts – which includes options trading profits, current stock & options positions, contributions & withdrawals for extra mortgage principal payments – was up 0.6%. I did contribute $6,000 into my ROTH IRA in January, but that isn’t included in the returns for the month. In January I closed 71 trades with a win rate of 96%*.
(* That win rate is a bit misleading because it doesn’t count positions that were assigned as losses. The only way I get a loss according to my tracking is if I close a position with a negative net credit. I took assignment on 3 trades. If those 3 are counted as losses, my win rate comes down to 92%.)
I continue to split my accounts between two strategies. One is to trade mostly credit spreads and naked puts in margin accounts and the other is to sell cash-secured puts & covered calls (i.e. “the wheel” strategy) in non-margin and IRA accounts. As I wrote in my January update of my mortgage pay off, I am starting to do some “poor man’s covered calls” as well. The goal for the margin accounts continues to be to 1) raise cash to increase trading capital and 2) run through my mortgage pay off strategy. The other accounts are reinvesting the profits into stock positions for future growth or passive income via dividend stocks.
My favorite part about writing these monthly reviews is looking back at what was my biggest winner and loser. Since I am doing so many trades in a month, each trade is closed and put behind me quickly. It’s only because I keep detailed records of each trade that I can look back and learn what’s working and what isn’t.
My biggest winner for January came from a poor man’s covered call on $AAPL. On January 26th I opened a $100 strike June 2022 Call LEAP contract for $49.50 ($4,950 total). I’m bullish on Apple going higher. This contract gives me almost 18 months to be right and gives me a break-even of $149.50. I then sold a covered call at $152.5 strike for the January 29 expiration for $1.85 per contract ($185 total). Due to the frenzy around earnings (which Apple killed by the way with quarterly revenues topping $100 billion!) the premiums were pretty rich even for such a short dated contract. I closed it two days later (one day before expiration) for a net credit of $178.34. This was all in an IRA, so it’s all mine to keep!
I will continue to sell covered calls at $150 or above to generate income from that LEAP contract and hope I don’t get assigned. If I do, however, I know I will make a profit because my break-even is at $149.50. I may occasionally sell credit spreads if I think there is a chance the stock price could blow past my covered call. Selling a spread is more likely to allow me to roll the position up when I move it out because of the long call as extra “protection” allows me to widen my spread.
You can see my LEAP is in the red at this point. With 16 months remaining in the contract, however, I’m still feeling pretty good about it.
I’m going to consider a cash-secured put that I was assigned at expiration on as my biggest loser for January. It was a January 29 short Put on $SBUX at the $99 strike that I sold on January 7th. I collected a $1.25 credit ($124.34 net commissions), but was assigned while the shares were trading at $96.79. Therefore, at assignment, I was down a net $96.66 ($1.2434 – $99 + $96.79). Looking at the chart below you can see I had a comfortable margin of safety until it really dragged down just before expiration.
Fortunately, I happen to think Starbucks is a fantastic business and was not worried at all by the assignment. I immediately sold a covered call that, as you might expect from looking at the rebound at the beginning of February, is now in the money and looking like I will get assigned in the other direction now! This one was also in an IRA so no tax-man to collect on all these trades.
Another great thing about writing these blogs is that they hold me accountable. In my December review I posted some goals for the year. Here’s a look at how they are going so far:
Contribute $6,000 to my ROTH IRA. CHECK! I already funded my ROTH IRA in the first few days of the new year. Now the trick is to put those dollars to work!
Build $100/month in passive income, primarily from dividends. I want to finish 2021 with a forward looking $100/month in 2022. I am now tracking my dividends separately from my options trading. I collected $55.97 in January. The biggest contributor to that was a quarterly dividend from $SPY.
$10,000 in non-W2 income. It will take $833 per month on average to hit this. Adding the $55.97 from dividends and $751.86 from my taxable accounts puts me at $807.83. Very happy to be at 97% of the monthly goal in January!
Increase our 401k contributions. I have increased my contributions to hit the maximum $19,500 by the end of the year. My wife’s contribution has remained the same so far. We’ll see if we are able to maintain that throughout the whole year, but we are off to a great start.
Increase net worth by 30%. A 30% net worth increase for the year will take a 2.21% compounded monthly return. For the month of January our net worth was up 2.51%. So we’re on track! As I wrote in my post where I set this goal, an increased savings rate, at this point in our accumulation phase of growing our wealth, has a dramatic impact on our net worth. As we grow our net worth we will be more subject to market conditions (assuming we have a decent amount of our wealth in the stock market, for example).
That’s a wrap on January. We are off to a slightly slower start than January so we’ll see if I can close the gap for another record breaking month. If not, no sweat. I’m trying to stay on a consistent path of progress and not looking for home runs.
Disclaimer: I am long $AAPL, $SBUX and $SPY. I am not a financial advisor. This is not investment advice. Please do your own research before investing in anything discussed herein.
The market had another strong month, though not quite as great as November. $SPY was up 3.3% in December, closing on New Year’s Eve at an all-time high. If I had told you there would be a worldwide pandemic and most of the world would shut its doors in 2020, I bet you wouldn’t have guessed the S8P 500 would be up more than 16% by the end of year? Crazy.
Since I’m just a few months into this blog, it doesn’t make sense to have a big yearly review of my performance in my accounts. I will review some changes I made this year, what I plan to do going forward, and some goals. But first, let’s wrap up December!
For the month of December, my total profits from options trading were $2,320.73, my best month yet and nearly 10% more than last month. That’s a total portfolio return of 2.1% and below the market’s 3.3% for the month. However, my total portfolio value across all accounts – which includes options trading profits, current stock & options positions, contributions & withdrawals for extra mortgage principal payments – was up 3.6%, just edging out the markets performance. The portfolios had net contributions of $246.30 for the month. I closed 69 options trades with a win rate of 97%*.
(* That win rate is a bit misleading because it doesn’t count positions that were assigned as losses. The only way I get a loss according to my tracking is if I close a position with a negative net credit. I took assignment on 5 trades. If those 5 are counted as losses, my win rate comes down to 90%.)
I continue to split my accounts between two strategies. One is to trade mostly credit spreads and naked puts in margin accounts and the other is to sell cash-secured puts & covered calls (i.e. “the wheel” strategy) in non-margin and IRA accounts. The goal for the margin accounts continues to be to 1) raise cash to increase trading capital and 2) run through my mortgage pay off strategy. The other accounts are reinvesting the profits into stock positions for future growth or passive income via dividend stocks.
My biggest win of the month, and ever by total profit, was a cash-secured put on $LOW. Lowe’s has shown to be very resilient during the COVID shutdowns thanks to many people taking up home improvement projects (myself included! In fact, I swiped my Lowe’s credit card countless times in 2020). There was a big pullback on November 9 and I decided to open the December 18 cash-secured put at the $150 strike for a credit of $3.75. At one point I was in the money, but held my ground and let it ride, knowing that if I was assigned I would be happy to own $LOW at $150. About a week before expiration the stock jumped back up and I took that as an opportunity to close the trade for a net credit of $340.68, a 2.3% return (25.1% annualized).
My biggest loss was on Chinese EV company $NIO. The loss was only $15, and looking at the chart below, would have been a winner if I had held until expiration. It was a Put credit spread for December 18 expiration at the $41/$40 strike. I opened the trade on December 9. The stock started moving against me, and rather than holding the line, I decided to roll out one week and down a bit. I also increased the width of the credit spread, allowing me to bring in some credit for this trade. I ended up with the December 24 expiration now at the $39/37.5. Once the stock began moving in my direction, I decided to let it go and pocket a $31 profit. So net was a positive $16. Not bad for my biggest loser!
I had an actual paper loss due to an assignment on $PFE at expiration. I had a cash-secured put at the $41 strike. At expiration, $PFE was trading at $37.68, so the paper loss was $332 ($41-37.68). I did collect $102 in credit, so net is a loss of $230. Pfizer is obviously a very strong company and am not worried holding a long position. I will sell covered calls at above $41 and collect premiums until I get assigned. Currently I have the February 19 expiration $42 covered call for a net credit of $64. If I hold it until expiration, that is a 9.2% annualized return. In addition, Pfizer currently pays a dividend of ~4%, which I will collect until the shares are called away.
Looking forward to 2021
In my first few months of options trading I’ve had some really great success. While I’m not about to retire from my day job and go YOLO on selling options, I do see potential to make this sort of a side hustle. One thing I am realizing, and one of the things I am drawn to, is it is not at all a passive form of investing — at least not the way I’m doing it! I do, however, believe that passive index investing is a great strategy for building wealth and that is what my wife and I are doing in our 401k’s.
With that said, here are some of my investing related goals for 2021 (in no particular order):
Contribute $6,000 to my ROTH IRA. I opened my ROTH towards the end of 2020. With $12,000 in the account I should have some good options for… options trading.
$10,000 in non-W2 income. This includes profits from options trading, dividends, interest, etc. only in my taxable accounts. This is pretty aggressive, and definitely a stretch goal. Last month was my best month of option trading profits yet at $620 for the month in those accounts. I will need to average $833 per month.
Build $100/month in passive income, primarily from dividends. Again, this is in my taxable accounts. The goal isn’t to have $1,200 in dividend income for the year as I think that is too aggressive for me at this point, but to be averaging $100/month as I go into 2022 (or $300/quarter since most stocks pay out quarterly). I haven’t added up all the numbers, but I was probably around $60/month in 2020. I might start including dividend income in my monthly updates.
Increase our 401k contributions. We certainly won’t be in a position to max out both of our 401k’s this year, but I’d like to get there over the next few years.
Increase net worth by 30%. This one is also a bit of a stretch goal. As we become more invested each year, net worth increases will become more subject to market conditions and less due to our savings. We benefited from being able to put more into the market in March and April of last year, and it’s unlikely we will have another opportunity like that. But who knows! We ended 2020 up 32%.
Reduce mortgage length by 1 month. As a part of my mortgage pay off strategy, I’m hoping to be able to pay enough towards the principal to reduce the length of my loan by one month. As of this month, I need to put another $643 towards principal to accomplish this. At my current rate of monthly progress, that would take less than 6 months to achieve. However, I’m not putting quite as much directly towards the mortgage as I did the first two months. In the long run it will “pay off”, but may make this goal more difficult to achieve in 2020.
According to this article (which I found via googling, “picking up pennies in front of a steamroller”, so take it with a grain of asphalt…), “The term `picking up pennies in front of a steamroller’ is linked to Nassim Taleb, an acclaimed author on randomness and risk, whose books describe an investment strategy that has a high probability to yield a small return (pennies), and a small probability of a very large loss (steamroller).”
I didn’t look further into what specific types of investments Taleb wrote about, but one clear example, at least through the lens of this blog, is writing puts and calls in options trading. We are collecting “pennies” at high probabilities, but once in a blue moon the “steamroller” is going to sneak up on us. Will all the pennies be worth it? Well, that of course depends on how shiny those pennies are and how many you pick up.
Let me tell you about how I just got steamrolled by over $1,100 while picking up $55 worth of pennies. The steamroller was $FCEL. I opened a position on FuelCell Energy on October 8 by purchasing 100 shares at $2.34. I then went on to sell multiple covered calls over the next couple of months at the $2 and $2.50 strikes, proudly picking up $10 to $15 at a time. With a $234 initial investment, each of those premiums represented a 4-7% return!
Things were looking just fine until mid November when the stock price shot up, way past my strike price. The price eventually reached over $10 (and over $13 today)! Had I not had that covered call position at $2.50 strike expiring December 18, I would have been up almost $800. A 336% return! Instead, I got my $55 worth of premiums and $16 in capital gains… a ~30% return.
Well, the short answer is no, I didn’t learn a lesson here. I am still selling covered calls on positions. There is one thing I might do differently with these types of positions in the future.
$FCEL was a pretty speculative play. In fact, my original covered call was an in the money call at the $2 strike. I expected to make about a 6% return after selling for a capital loss and be done with it. I didn’t know if it was going to go up, down or sideways.
In the future, if I’m in a similar speculative play, I could potentially participate in the upside by buying “protection”: buying a cheap, long call at a strike price way out of the money. This would make my covered call a call credit spread. For example, if I had bought a call at the $4 strike, it probably would have only cost me a couple bucks. Sure, my return if the contract expires out of the money would have been those couple dollars less, but I could then have participated in the upside a bit. In this case, if I had a long $4 Call position, that would have been worth over $600 when the stock rocketed up past $10!
Since writing that post, $F price went from $8.80s to almost $9.50 and now has pulled back down to nearly $9 again. We all know volatility is great for options sellers!
Here are the trades I’ve made and the current positions I have open:
Prior to writing that post, I actually had two open covered call positions on $F, one that was right at the money at $9 due to expire on November 20. Rather than risking the shares being called away, I closed that position and sold the December 24 $9.50 Call for a net credit of $.11. $.11 may not sound like a lot, but if that was a dividend payment, it would be the equivalent of an 11.5% yield! I used that credit to buy 1 share of $F for $9.00.
I had another $9 Covered Call position for December 18. I rolled that one out to January 15, this time keeping the $9 strike price. I took in a net credit of $.16 that time (11.9% annualized yield). Again, I reinvested that net credit by purchasing one share of $F at $9.10.
On December 3, I rolled the December 24 $9.50 out again to January 8 for a net credit of $.11 (10.7% annualized yield). I purchased one more $F at $9.26 with the credit.
On December 9, I rolled the January 15 $9 Covered Call (which is now pretty well in the money at this point), out to February 19 for a net credit of $.21 (11.3% annualized yield). I then purchased two $F at $9.43 with the credit. It’s unlikely $F will come down below $9 by February, but I will continue to roll this one out for as long as possible.
As the price of $F continued to tick up, I decided I wanted to try to roll out and up this time. I took that $9.50 January 15 covered call and rolled it out to February 19 for a net credit of $.08 (7.9% annualized yield). Since I didn’t get enough in credit for this one to buy another share of $F, I just pocketed the cash. However, it puts me in a great position to start selling covered calls at the $10 or higher strike price in the future.
Overall, I have taken in $67 of credits, less commissions, by doing this strategy over a fairly short time period. Let’s say that $67 was the quarterly yield amount for holding 200 shares of $F at the current trading price of $9.03, that would be equivalent to a dividend rate of 14.8% ($67 * 4 / (200 * $9.03) = 14.8%)!
I always want to be mindful of what risks I am taking. 14.8% yield sounds pretty good for a savings account, but of course, this isn’t in an FDIC account. This is real money that could be lost. With that said, before beginning options trading, I was OK with the risk of holding $F, at that point, because I thought the reward of the dividend payments and maybe some modest growth was worth it. In that case, I have no more risk than I had prior to selling these covered calls.
On the other hand, I have limited my upside potential. This isn’t a risk per se, but may make the risk I am taking less worth it. Some argue that option selling is the wrong kind of asymmetric risk… limited upside and unlimited downside (although in this case, the downside actually is limited because the stock can’t go below $0, but you get the point). To that, I would ask them would you rather be casino or the gambler? I’ll pick playing the casino every time. In addition, I’ve demonstrated that sometimes you are able to roll positions up to allow for even more upside from the stock. This is often an option so long as the stock hasn’t had an incredible run up in a short amount of time. And if it has, since I have been reinvesting my credits back into the stock, I still get to participate somewhat in that upside.
I do hope that Ford chooses to reinstate its dividend in 2021. There is still lots of chatter over at SeekingAlpha on when that might occur. However, as long as I am able to continue to roll out and, hopefully, up, I won’t be missing it much!
November was an incredible month for the markets. The S&P 500 rose 10.8% for the month and hit an all-time high. The Dow Jones’s 11.8% return for the month is the best single month since January 1987!
Because of my option writing (aka selling) strategy, my option trading returns weren’t able to beat the market. However, a large portion of some of my portfolios remain heavily invested in the markets, which keeps me from feeling too much FOMO and giving me the confidence to continue on with this strategy. I’m looking for lots of base hits here, from month to month. Over a long period, I think I can outperform the market, but only time will tell.
For the month of November, my profits from option trading were $2,114. That’s a total portfolio return of 2.3%, which is well below the S&P 500’s 10.8%. My total portfolio value across all accounts – which includes options trading profits, current stock & options positions, contributions & withdrawals for extra mortgage principal payments – was up 10.7%, inline with the markets. Contributions to these accounts were small this month, and $114 was withdrawn, so actual return is probably right around 10%. Remember that the markets were down 2.5% last month, and I generated options trading profits then, too. I closed 71 trades with a win percentage of 91%.
I continue to split my accounts between two strategies. One is to trade mostly credit spreads in margin accounts and the other is to sell cash-secured puts & covered calls (i.e. “the wheel” strategy) in non-margin and IRA accounts. The goal for the margin accounts continues to be to 1) raise cash to increase trading capital and 2) run through my mortgage pay off strategy. The other accounts are reinvesting the profits into stock positions for future growth or passive income via dividend stocks.
Last month almost half of my profits came from my margin accounts despite being just 11% of the total portfolio size. Many of my non-margin accounts had longer holding periods with expiration dates further out, so I realized a lot more profits in those accounts in November than I did in October. As a result, 84% of the profits came from the non-margin accounts this time. The margin account profits were a 3.7% return on total capital (43.1% annualized) and the non-margin profits were a 2.1% return (24.7% annualized).
10% is often cited as the historical annual performance of the S&P 500 since the 1920’s. Every month that I am beating that annualized return with options trading profits (and I crushed it this month with a combined 27.4% annualized return) and my total portfolio value is roughly inline with the overall market when it’s up (which I was within by about 1%), that’s a huge win. Just a couple years of this type of performance will have huge effects in my family’s longterm wealth creation. Let’s see if we can continue!
My best trade for the month in terms of profit was a wide Put credit spread on $FSLR. First Solar has been moving a lot over the last few months so the option premiums are really good. My original intent was to sell a cash-secured put (“naked put”), but decided I wanted to take some of the risk off the table so went with the spread instead. On November 13 I sold the $76 strike December 4 Put for a $2.04 credit and bought the $65 strike December 4 Put for $.35, giving me a net credit of $1.69 before commissions. When the stock moved up shortly after, I decided to close the position to lock in most of the profits on November 20. After commissions, I ended up with a profit of $130.36 on a 7-day trade which is an 11.9% return (541% annualized).
With the initial credits I actually purchased 1 share of $FSLR for $80.30, which is now up 11.9% to $89.26.
My biggest realized loss was $52 on a Call credit spread on $SPY. On November 2 I sold the $348 strike December 2 Call for a $3.57 credit and bought the $349 strike Call for $3.26, for a net credit of $31 (commission free trades with Robinhood). This trade had a 74% chance of profit when I placed it, making the $31 possible gain with a $100 risk worthwhile. However, the market went way against me and I decided to cut my losses early on November 9 for a $52 loss. In hindsight it was the right move because the market just kept going and going, so I saved myself another $17 in potential losses ($100 risk – $31 credit – $52 loss = $17).
This trade was part of a strategy I coined “ETF Challenger” that I mentioned in previous posts. Essentially I am challenging the ETF to continue moving in the same direction when it made a greater than 1% move. So when $SPY is up more than 1% on the day, I sell a Call credit spread above it near the .30 delta (Investopedia: Understanding Position Delta). If it’s down more than 1%, a Put credit spread. I’m seeing just as many losers as winners on this, so I’m probably going to be ditching it going forward.
My biggest paper loss is actually much worse than $52. I sold the November 20 cash-secured Put on $GOLD at $27.50 for a credit of $.30. At expiration, the stock was trading down at $24.28, so I was assigned the 100 shares at $27.50 and immediately had a paper loss of $292 (+$30 – $2,750 + $2,428 = -$292). Unfortunately $GOLD has continued to pullback to $23.50 currently. I took in a small credit $7 credit for selling a December 18 $28 covered Call, which makes my current paper loss at $363 (+30 +7 – $2,750 – $2,350). I’m going to be patient with this one and continue to sell covered calls above my originally assigned price of $27.50. This position is in an IRA, so when I look at a horizon over many years I expect there to be an instance where I will want the hedge against the market in gold (while $GOLD is actually a mining stock, it generally moves in the same direction as the price of gold).
Funding ROTH IRA
My last update for the month of November is that I finally funded a ROTH IRA! My wife and I are still under the household income limits for funding a ROTH, but I hope and expect that to no longer be true at some point in the future. I’m hoping to be able to fund that account with the maximum limit of $6,000 until we no longer qualify.
The obvious benefit of a ROTH over a traditional IRA is that future withdrawals are tax-free. Because of this, I’m hoping to create a stream of dividend income that can grow to a sizable amount at age 59.5. At that point, we will be able to take those dividend payments out each month/quarter and pay no taxes on them! For now, I’m planning to build the portfolio with REITs. My first trade: a cash-secured put on Realty Income $O, of course!
The second benefit I like about funding a ROTH is that, since contributions have already been taxed, they can be withdrawn at any age without penalty. It can essentially be used as a savings account where the principal is always available but the interest can’t be touched until age 59.5. My wife and I are keen on getting more involved in real estate, which means we will have a need for capital at some point in the future. By funding the ROTH rather than putting more money into a traditional IRA or regular 401k, we aren’t giving up control of that money for the next 30+ years.
Recently I have become an avid reader over at Seeking Alpha. I find the analysis to be good, varied, and I like the more personal takes by the individual contributors than what you typically see on an investing website. It is my current go-to for analyzing stocks. My favorite types of posts at Seeking Alpha are the monthly or quarterly portfolio updates (Dividend Derek’s are one of my favorites). It’s great to see what actions people are taking with their investments and how they are performing. While I am not going to go over each and every options trade I made this month, I plan to go over some of my performance metrics and my strategies.
October was my first full month of options trading. Overall, I was able to net $723.57 across my various portfolios that I am now trading options in. The market was down over the month, with S&P 500 pulling back 2.5%, so to generate that kind of “revenue” in my first month highlights one of the key advantages to being an options trader – there is money to be made regardless of the direction of the market, even if it doesn’t move at all!
I am currently splitting my strategies in two. One is to trade mostly credit spreads in margin accounts and the other is to sell cash-secured puts & covered calls (i.e. “the wheel” strategy) in non-margin and IRA accounts. The margin accounts are focused on building cash to increase my trading capital and the other accounts are focused on investing profits into stocks for future growth or passive income via dividend stocks. Almost half (46%) of my profits came from the margin accounts despite only representing 11% of all my portfolios combined. The profits from options trading in my margin accounts generated a 3.5% total portfolio return (41.4% annualized) and the other accounts generated 0.5% total portfolio return (5.4% annualized). It’s worth noting that the non-margin accounts have the majority of their funds invested in stocks and much less in cash than the margin accounts, making total portfolio return potential from options trading limited.
Going forward I am looking forward to continuing to learn new strategies as well as perfect the ones I am using. I am very happy with my performance thus far, especially in the margin accounts. I anticipate better performance in November in my non-margin accounts as I have more contracts expiring this month than last, allowing me to realize those gains. In the past few days we have seen a huge move up by the market, which is generally good for those accounts currently since I have more short Put positions (bullish trades) than Call positions (bearish trades) currently.
Rather than listing out every trade I made last week, going forward I am most likely going to highlight a couple trades only. Like my options trading skill level at this point, this is all still a work-in-progress and hope to settle into a posting routine that is regular, sustainable and still achieves a level of transparency.
First, the basic numbers: Closed 18 trades for $23.63 profit (78% win rate). Opened 17 trades.
This week I plan to highlight two of my biggest losers to date: a trade in Nike and Tesla. One of which I would probably make again, the other I hopefully have learned something from and won’t make the same mistake in the future.
I opened this trade the day before earnings were to be announced. I made a guess that, due to COVID-19, the earnings report would not merit the recent rise in the stock. I guessed wrong, as Nike’s online presence appears to be taking off. In addition to the stock price immediately blowing past both my short and long strike prices, implied volatility had increased as well. So not only did I pick the wrong direction of the move, I also was on the wrong side of volatility. On top of all this, the liquidity in NKE options trading isn’t all that great. If I was set on making a trade, I should have either waited until after the earnings to see what happens, or I really wanted to make a speculative play, buy either a long put or call so that I still have defined risk and I don’t lose to the increased volatility, as well. I’m curious how a basic calendar spread would have done here.
This one is my biggest loser to date. It is my first time trading a spread with more than a $1 spread, with this one being $2. I took in a decent premium thanks to the high implied volatility, limiting my possible loss to $125. One thing I also was able to do was sell some put spreads below the market, effectively making an iron condor. I rolled those up a bit as I approached expiration, picking up a credit each time to help decrease my total loss. Tesla goes all over the place, often for no apparent reason, which is why we see such high premiums in the option contracts. For that reason, I will chalk this one up as just a loser and nothing more, rather than a bad trade like the Nike one above.
My biggest winner from the week? Not surprisingly: TSLA. I made $25 on a Put credit spread at $388/387 with the same expiration as the previously mentioned Call credit spread. I was actually able to roll this one up closer to the money for an extra $6, putting me at $31 on the put side for TSLA. Not enough to cancel out my loser, but certainly is better than just taking the full $125 loss I would have had if I didn’t react at all.
I picked this one up after looking over Option Alpha’s stock scanner. I was literally my first couple days into options trading (funny how long ago just a couple weeks ago seems now…) and was trying to get my Level 3 options trading approval through Robinhood. I read online that once you’ve done ~10 trades you are more likely to be approved for Level 3. Since I was still Level 2 when I placed this trade, I couldn’t actually submit this as a single spread order. First I sold, essentially, a cash-secured put (at $19) and, once that was filled, immediately bought the $1 spread (at $18) to limit my risk. I was left with just a $6 credit on an ~80% probability trade… not a good risk/reward situation! Decided to finally close this to take that $94 risk off the table.
SPY Put Credit Spread (October 5, 2020 $335/334 @ +$.28)
From last week’s opening trade: This is my second attempt at reducing a potential loss by selling the opposite trade, effectively making an iron condor. Option Alpha recommends this rather than cutting losses by selling the initial, losing trade (in this case the $341/342 Calls that ended up being profitable thanks again to the dip from the president’s COVID-19 results). In the end, this one worked out for me because SPY opened up on Monday morning. Had I let this expire at the end of the day, I would have kept the entire $28 premium, but since I was basically 50/50 at that point whether I’d make $28 or lose $72, it made sense to close for just the $4 gain.
F Cash-Secured Put (October 16, 2020 $6 @ +$.08)
Max Profit: $8
Max Loss: $592
Opened: September 16, 2020
Closed: October 16, 2020
P/L: +$5.33 (After commissions)
Return on Capital: .9% (15.4% annualized)
I am long F in this account with 200+ shares with a cost-basis of ~$8.80. Prior to learning about options, I’ve been lowering that cost-basis by slowly buying more shares. Going to be using cash-secured puts (and covered calls) to hopefully turn this one into a winner going forward.
As mentioned last week, I have held a long position in AAL since it tanked due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have a comfortable feel for the stock’s recent range now and I will continue to sell calls and puts when the premiums make sense. This trade was triggered when the position fell into my 50% profit target range when President Trump tweeted that congress needs to sideline stimulus package talks until after his Supreme Court nominee is confirmed. Thanks for the volatility, Donald!
ANF Put Credit Spread (November 20, 2020 $13/12 @ +$.35)
TL;DR: My wife was right! From last week’s opening trade: This might sound crazy, but my wife says she has seen lots of “influencers” on social media sporting Abercrombie lately. She thinks it’s going to be a “cool” brand again. I took a look at the premiums available, and they make sense from a risk-reward-probability perspective, so I pulled the trigger. That’s one of the things I love about options trading is that for a small amount of capital, you can make speculative trades that are still high probability of success regardless of whether the stock moves much at all AND have defined risk.
GPRO Cash-Secured Put (October 9, 2020 $5 @ +$.50)
Max Profit: $50
Max Loss: $450
Opened: October 1, 2020
Closed: October 6, 2020
P/L: +$26.68 (after commissions)
Return on Capital: 5.3% (325% annualized)
From last week’s opening trade: After successfully closing last week’s short put on GPRO, decided to do another one. If I get assigned, I will sell calls at probably $5. If I don’t, I will probably buy a few shares of GPRO essentially “for free.” Stock took off, so pocketed ~1/2 the premium and bought a few more shares.
GE Put Credit Spread* (October 9, 2020 $6.5/6 @ +$.05)
Max Profit: $5*
Max Loss: $50
Opened: September 18, 2020
Closed: October 9, 2020
P/L: +$17.99 (after commissions)
Return on Capital: 2.8% (46% annualized)
This trade was my first attempt at a credit spread, but I wasn’t approved for spreads by my broker yet! So I made my own by selling the $6.50 put and buying the $6 put. GE was struggling around $6.20 for most of the time I had these contracts, but decided I’d be OK getting assigned on this one so I sold my long put for $14, which is the majority of the profit from this trade. GE jumped up the last few days before expiration as well.
Weekly Roundtrip Trades (Positions opened and closed within the week)
I had no roundtrip trades this week. This is because I currently have many at a paper-loss, and those that are winners, are generally balancing out my losers (e.g. losing on a bearish call credit spread, but winning on a bullish put credit spread). I have
This is part of an ongoing strategy I am working on that, in my notes at least, I’m referring to as “ETF Challenger” (it’s a working title, OK!). There are several other trades below that are all part of this strategy, so I’m not going to comment on each one. As my experience grows and I refine the strategy, I will more formally document it, but the idea is to challenge the market when it makes a large move up or down, which is about 1%. I then sell puts or calls at the ~.30 delta, if the premium is high enough. I think I got a little carried away with this in this week, but I chalk it up to learning!
UNM Cash-Secured Put (November 20, 2020 20 @ +$2.30)
Max Profit: $230
Max Loss: $1,770
Opened: October 5, 2020
This is an IRA trade on a stock I’m very interested in going long on. I don’t intend to keep a full 100 shares, assuming I get assigned, but will put some of the premium I earn into buying the shares and then use covered calls to get my initial $2,000 principal back.
I’m starting to warm up to the idea of more cash-secured puts (and covered calls). As I said last week, I’m already long Ford at an average price of $8.80ish. At $7 I’d be willing to add to the position. Will immediately be selling covered calls on this if it gets filled.
GPRO Cash-Secured Put (October 16, 2020 $5 @ +.18)
Max Profit: $18
Max Loss: $482
Opened: October 6, 2020
Go Pro has been super hot this week, so premiums are pretty good. The stock is now trading in the $6, so very unlikely this will be challenged again at $5. Will probably let it go until expiration next week.
SLV Put Credit Spread (November 6, 2020 $20.5/20 @ +$.14)
Max Profit: $14
Max Loss: $36
Opened: October 6, 2020
This one fits in with my “ETF Challenger” plan. Tuesday afternoon had lots of stocks taking a big dip after the previously mentioned Trump tweet. I tried to jump on the opportunity and put out lots of trades, but had trouble getting fills. This is one that did.
UNG Put Credit Spread (November 6, 2020 $10/9 @ +$.25)
Max Profit: $25
Max Loss: $25
Opened: October 6, 2020
See SLV above
SLV Put Credit Spread (November 6, 2020 $20.5/19.5 @ +$.27)
Max Profit: $27
Max Loss: $73
Opened: October 6, 2020
Same trade as SLV above, but in a different account with a slightly larger spread.
The market opened big on Wednesday after Trump essentially said, “JK.” As a result, lots of opportunities for “ETF Challenger.” Probably ended up with too many of essentially the exact same position (bearish on the overall market), which will mean either some big wins or big losses. Still learning here, so going to see how it plays out for now.
This trade actually gives me an iron condor on the November 20 expiration with a nice wide range from $9 to $15. Assuming AAL stays within this range, I will probably try to close both positions with one order for a combined ~50% of max profit.
DIA Call Credit Spread (November 13, 2020 $293/294 @ +$.33)
“ETF Challenger”, as above. Actually identical to one of the above trades, but in a different trading account that was able to get filled at a really good premium of $.38.
BAC Cash-Secured Put (October 16, 2020 $25 @ +$.60)
Max Profit: $60
Max Loss: $2,440.67
Opened: October 8, 2020
I’m looking to get some financial exposure in our IRA account (it’s currently pretty tech heavy), and Bank of America is a stock I’d like to own at $25. Will probably accumulate shares with premiums, and if I get assigned, sell covered calls because I’m not sure we want $2,500 of that portfolio tied up in one stock (unless that money is being put to work with covered calls!).
SKT Cash-Secured Put (November 20, 2020 $6 @ +$.32)
Max Profit: $31.33
Max Loss: $568.67
Opened: October 8, 2020
Also an IRA trade. I’m a sucker for a high-yield REIT. This one has been beaten down by COVD-19, down 55% YTD, and for good reason. Tanger operates high end shopping malls! So this is speculative and, if I end up with shares, hoping that dividend gets going again soon. Also a decent premium for such a cheap stock (because volatility!).
These next four trades are part of my mortgage pay down strategy. You can read my introductory post here. I will have more updates regarding my specific strategy in the future, but essentially it is using extra cash flow, thanks to a refinance, on building a small portfolio concentrating on cash-secured puts and covered calls, and then paying down the mortgage with the premiums generated.
Mortgage pay down strategy. But this one is a little different because it is deep in the money, below my purchase price of $2.34. FCEL is from the dot-com bubble (checkout the historical chart — an all-time high of $7,731 back in September of 2000 and an all-time low of $0.13 last year!), so this one can go all over the place. It’s a small position, so worth the risk I think ($7 in 8 days on a $234 investment is 124% annualized return!).
RKT Put Credit Spread (November 20, 2020 $19/18 @ +$.26)
Max Profit: $26
Max Loss: $74
Opened: October 8, 2020
New mortgages are at all-time highs because of the housing and refinance markets, and Rocket is one of the biggest players these days. I feel good about this one holding above the $19 mark.
This week kicked off my first full week diving into the world of options trading. I’ve been interested in stock market investing since I graduated high school in 2006. At one point in college I thought I could be a day trader, but then had a short series of losses that made me reconsider the viability of that. If this goes well, perhaps I will go into further detail on how I ended up on options trading. But for now, I’m looking to post weekly trading reviews (and perhaps a monthly review as well) to hold myself accountable and to have a history to look back on. Let’s get started…
Closing Previous Weeks’ Trades (Positions closed that were opened previous to this week)
GPRO Naked Put (October 16, 2020 $4.50 @ +$.55 Credit)
Max Profit: $55
Max Loss: $395
Opened: September 24, 2020
Closed: September 29, 2020
P/L: $26.66 (After commissions)
Return on Capital: 5.9% (360% Annualized)
This trade was in my regular brokerage account that hasn’t been approved for Level 3 Option trading yet. So silly that they will let me trade naked puts (so long as they are “cash secured”), but not risk-defined spreads. Anyway, sold this put just above the money, giving me a solid premium. My goal on this stock (and this account in general, at the moment), is to sell aggressively priced puts (at the money or even just above), knowing that I will likely be assigned. Then, I will sell calls if/when I am long the stock with 100 positions. I closed this one based on a GTC limit order at roughly 50% max profit. Actively looking to get into another one of these.
This was my first calendar spread. I found this using the Option Alpha scanner ($47 for a lifetime access). Since I’m just getting my feet wet here, I wanted to take the early profit. Looking to get into another one of these in the future.
AFL Naked Put (October 16, 2020 $35 @ +$.70)
Max Profit: $69.33
Max Loss: $3430
Opened: September 17, 2020
Closed: October 2, 2020
P/L: $38.67 (After commissions)
Return on Capital: 1.1% (25.2% Annualized)
I’m bullish on most insurance companies, generally speaking, and am looking to add some to me and my wife’s retirement portfolio. We have some cash in there thanks to a rollover from a pension that my wife had from a previous employer she worked a couple years with. I’m going to put that cash to work with naked puts. The plan is to sell puts on companies I want to have in our portfolio (ideally ones with a solid dividend — Aflac currently yields 3.1% and they have grown their dividend for 38 consecutive years! A true dividend aristocrat.). If the stock expires out of the money, then I keep the premium and purchase one or two shares of the stock. If it expires in the money, I will sell some covered calls to guarantee a return on that capital. When doing this on strong companies (like big insurance companies!), this really feels like a win-win. Ultimately I closed the contract early since I was able to guarantee the premium necessary to purchase one share. Rinse and repeat!
AAL Put Credit Spread (October 16, 2020 $11.50/10.50 @ +$.31)
I jumped into AAL after COVID-19 hit and it started spiraling downward. I was just a simple stock investor then and hadn’t wised up to options trading yet. I am currently long 68 shares at an average price of $14.69. This stock has been trading in a range between about $11 to $14 and I think I have a good feeling for its price movement. With some good news eventually, I expect this to actually pop and I will get out of my long position. I decided to close out of this position on Friday since it shot up from $12.26 to $13.33 on news that they would be furloughing 32,000 workers. Hardly seems like good news to me… so decided to take the opportunity to snag a profit.
Weekly Roundtrip Trades (Positions opened and closed within the week)
I have made a number of trades in TSLA because I like the option premiums there (implied volatility is high). NKLA sneaks into some of the headlines since it’s a recent IPO competitor. I took a look at the premiums on offer, and I liked what I saw. The stock jumped up the next morning, and since this is a pretty speculative play on a stock with a 52-week range of $10.20-93.99, I figured I’d take my quick profit. Will consider trading this one again.
NKE Put Credit Spread (October 16, 2020 $125/124 @ $.40 Credit)
This is a trade I immediately regretted once I hit send. I got into it because I have a Call Credit Spread at $125/126 which was a pure, bearish speculative trade before earnings last week. That position is currently at a loss with the stocking sitting around $126. My original thinking here was to reduce my loss on the initial Call Credit Spread, but then I immediately realized that we have three weeks for the stock to come back in my profitable range. Happy to get out of this one for a small $5 profit. I think this might be a viable strategy, but only as we get closer to expiration.
You are going to see plenty of SPY trades in my trading journal. A critical component to success in high probability options trading is that you need to be making a high volume of trades, ideally in very liquid stocks. With three expiration dates per week (Mon/Wed/Fri), SPY appears to be the perfect candidate. I am working out my strategy still, but on this trade specifically I wanted to take a bearish position when the market jumped up on Monday morning this week. In hindsight, I think I should be looking beyond a one-week contract as there is more time “to be right”, but this one worked out. I did, however, get tested with the market climbing up just past my break even point in the middle of the week. Luckily I stuck it out (though I added a put position that I’m probably going to regret on expiration next week), and thanks to President Trump’s timely COVID-19 diagnosis, the market opened down on Friday morning. I took the profit on a silver platter. Thanks Donald!
As I said in my AAL trade above, I feel comfortable about the range of AAL. Implied volatility is pretty high for AAL right now and there are plenty of trades that look good from a risk/reward/probability standpoint. Since I am long this stock, this gives my portfolio some bearish upside, as well. Looking for about 50% of max profit.
SQQQ Put Credit Spread (October 16, 2020 $22.50/22 @ +$.20)
Max Profit: $20
Max Loss: $30
Opened: September 28, 2020
SQQQ is a 3x leveraged ETF of the Nasdaq. This is effectively a bearish position on the market. I personally think It will make a move down, which will make SQQQ go up and I should be able to close this one for a profit if and when we see a jump up in price of the stock. Risk-reward was really good on this trade, as well, thanks to very high implied volatility and only $.50 spread.
Basically the same justification as above, but with a longer timeframe.
ANF Put Credit Spread (November 20, 2020 $13/12 @ +$.35)
Max Profit: $35
Max Loss: $65
Opened: September 29, 2020
This might sound crazy, but my wife says she has seen lots of “influencers” on social media sporting Abercrombie lately. She thinks it’s going to be a “cool” brand again. I took a look at the premiums available, and they make sense from a risk-reward-probability perspective, so I pulled the trigger. That’s one of the things I love about options trading is that for a small amount of capital, you can make speculative trades that are still high probability of success regardless of whether the stock moves much at all AND have defined risk.
In the past few weeks I’ve really dove head-first into options trading, and I have Option Alpha to thank (blame?). On their most recent podcast, this trade in XLV was featured on their “Closing Bell” segment, though they took a much bigger spread at 108/113, I believe. I checked the chart and options available, and the trade still made sense to me.
The market moved up on Wednesday, so I’m challenging it with this position. Similar to the closing trades for SPY that I mentioned above. This one didn’t close on Friday like the other two due to the Trump COVID-19 induced pullback..
Put Credit Spread (November 18, 2020 $27/26 @ +$.41)
Max Profit: $41
Max Loss: $59
Opened: September 30, 2020
This is a speculative trade. The probability was a lot lower than the other trades I’ve been making (56% vs ~70%), but the payoff is decent and I think as we continue to move toward the election that we will see an increase in volatility, pushing the VIX higher. I actually sold this position in the money (trading at ~$25.50 when I placed the trade), hence the larger premium and lower chance of profit.
SPY Put Credit Spread (October 5, 2020 $335/334 @ +$.28)
Max Profit: $28
Max Loss: $78
Opened: October 1, 2020
This is my second attempt at reducing a potential loss by selling the opposite trade, effectively making an iron condor. Option Alpha recommends this rather than cutting losses by selling the initial, losing trade (in this case the $341/342 Calls that ended up being profitable thanks again to the dip from the president’s COVID-19 results).
Same XLV trade as listed above, but decided to add essentially the same position in another portfolio.
GPRO Naked Put (October 9, 2020 $5 @ +$.50)
Max Profit: $50
Max Loss: $450
Opened: October 1, 2020
After successfully closing last week’s short put on GPRO, decided to do another one. If I get assigned, I will sell calls at probably $5. If I don’t, I will probably buy a few shares of GPRO essentially “for free.”
QQQ Put Credit Spread (November 6, 2020 $264/263 @ $.32)
Max Profit: $32
Max Loss: $68
Opened: October 2, 2020
Tech was down quite a bit on Friday, so taking a similar strategy that I have going right now in SPY now in QQQ.
PMT Naked Put (October 16, 2020 $15 @ $.20)
Max Profit: $20
Max Loss: $1,380
Opened: October 2, 2020
PennyMac Mortgage Investment Trust is a stock I came across recently that is obviously invested in real estate. It caught my eye because it is local to me and its dividend currently yields over 9%. I’m planning to continually sell some out of the money puts on PMT and then invest premiums into buying the stock.
TSLA Put Credit Spread (October 16, 2020 $388/387 @ $.32)
Max Profit: $32
Max Loss: $68
Opened: October 2, 2020
TSLA had a bit of a sell-off. I think this stock is way overpriced, but was able to get a ~70% probability trade at nearly $40 below current market price.