Using Options to Pay Off My Mortgage Early: Month 4

Recapping from last month, I had put a total of $220 towards my mortgage principal from options trading profits, saving a total of $338 in interest over the life of the loan. I started to diversify away from putting all my profits straight into my mortgage by beginning to split it three ways: mortgage principal, preferred stock, and Hedgefundie’s Excellent Adventure. With everything included, my $3,328.42 invested in this strategy had returned $470.38 (14.1% ROI/69.7% CAGR!). Surely those returns aren’t sustainable, right?!

In my fourth month, my options trading returns set another record-high of $188, a 5.2% return on capital. My principal barely grew from $3,498.35 to $3,515.08 however, thanks to a big stumble in the markets in the last trading day of January.

For the most part I have continued the same strategies from the past few months. I did add a couple synthetic covered calls (aka “poor man’s covered call” or “PMCC”). I will share those positions and strategy below.

My positions & trades

$AAL, 100 shares at $13.98 average ($1,398 total principal). Principal is currently up 22.8% ($319), however I currently have a $16 covered call position expiring on February 19, limiting my capital gains to $202 total. I closed two positions for the month and for a profit of $34. Similar to last month, I collected a net credit of $12 after rolling up from a $15.50 strike position to the current $16 position.

Last month I mentioned I may continue to sell at the $15.50 strike even if it stays in the money. I opted to roll up to the $16 instead. American Airlines continues to have some very high implied volatility and I think some longterm upside. In the short term I’m really limiting my monthly returns by continuing to roll up, but I think it will pay off over the next few months in terms of total return.

As a sneak peak to February’s update, I’ve actually already rolled up to $17. This time with a very respectable credit due to the reddit frenzy over stocks like $AAL. I also sold another put credit spread at the $14.5/$13.5 strikes.

$APHA, no open stock positions. I continued selling cash-secured puts on Aphria this month for some modest profits. I closed two trades for a combined $23 profit from a maximum collateral of $700, which is a 3.2% return.

In recent days $APHA has really taken off. If I choose to sell more puts I will most likely switch to credit spreads to limit my downside and give me more flexibility with rolling positions down and out when challenged. Currently I have a $13/$12 put credit spread for the February 26th expiration.

$CLSD, no open positions. I sold one cash-secured put on Clearside Biomedical at $2.50 for a credit of $41. I came across this one after reading this “breakout” post over on Seeking Alpha. The article was compelling enough for me to make a speculative trade on it. It worked out, and I closed the trade with a $21 profit a few days later, leaving me with an 8.4% return.

$GE, 1 LEAP January 21, 2022 $5 Strike at a cost of $6.55. GE and MRO (below) are my first attempts at synthetic covered calls (aka “poor man’s covered call” or PMCC). I’ve had good success in the past few months using typical covered calls on stocks like $AAL, $GPRO & $FCEL. Rather than purchasing 100 shares of a stock, I am buying a deep in the money LEAP contract to use as collateral for selling my covered calls. So instead of paying $1,140 for 100 shares of $GE, I bought 1 LEAP contract for $655. When I sold a $12 strike covered call for a $.38 credit, I got a return of 5.8% (38/655) vs. 3.3% (38/1140).

So the obvious benefit is you are putting up (and risking) less capital. There are two main drawbacks to using this method vs. using typical covered calls to consider. The first is that this is a leveraged position. So when $GE goes up by 5%, the price of my LEAP goes up by ~8%, and when it goes down by 5%, I’m losing ~8%. So this drawback actually goes both ways. The other major drawback is my collateral now has an expiration date! This means that if $GE closes below $5 next January, I lose all of my principal. However, I know I will be selling lots of premium before then and feel confident that I will have plenty of opportunities to get out for a profit or sell for a more manageable loss before then.

I am currently selling $12 strike covered calls and look forward to showing those results in the next month.

$GPRO, no open stock positions. In January I had some good results with selling put credit spreads on Go Pro. I closed a total of two trades for a total profit of $39. The largest spread I had for the month was $200, so that’s a 19.5% return. It’s really tough to beat the ROI of credit spreads.

I adjusted one contract by moving the long Put leg down from $7 to $6 strike when the price started challenging the $8 strike. I had decided that I would be OK with taking assignment at $8 if it came to it, so I was willing to increase the spread to $2, increasing my max loss for the trade but not effecting the likelihood of the position getting assigned. In the end the stock moved up dramatically about a week later so I decided to close it when there wasn’t much extrinsic value remaining. I then opened a similar position that same day with an expiration of one week later for a high probability “easy” profit.

$M, no open stock positions. Macy’s is now trading in the mid teens. Crazy that I was selling covered calls in the $6 range when I started. Here is an example of where I could have made a lot more money just buying and holding. But who knew the stock would nearly triple in a few months? For this month I closed 3 positions for a total profit of $32. I ended the month with another credit spread with a potential profit of $20.

$MAC, no open positions. I just had one trade on $MAC for the month for an $8 profit (5.3% return). I found $MAC on a Seeking Alpha comment. Liquidity wasn’t great so I decided to not continue trading it. It looks like it was caught up in some $GME short-squeeze mania at the end of the month that I wasn’t aware of until looking at the chart just now. It has more that 50% short interest, so it was an easy target for the short-squeeze crowd.

$MRO, 1 LEAP January 21, 2022 $5 Strike at a cost of $3.80. As I wrote above regarding $GE, I am going long with a LEAP contract on Marathon Oil Corporation. I think as things begin to open up we will see an increased demand in oil, raising oil price and profits for many of the oil corporations. I closed two trades earlier in the month for a profit of $31. At the end of the month I had a covered call at the $9 strike with a credit of $34, a 9% potential return.

Extra Mortgage Principal Paid

As I explained in last month’s post, I am no longer putting all profits (less taxes) into the mortgage principal. I think I can do better with other fairly passive, and more risky, investing. Those profits, which will beat the 3.125% return that I get by paying down my mortgage, will then go towards the mortgage. My new minimum goal for the mortgage is 1% of the beginning portfolio value each month. January began with a value of $3,498, so I rounded it up to $35. With a combined $255 put towards my mortgage principal in three months, I will save $392 in interest over the life of the loan.

Preferred Stock

My first passive alternative to directly paying off my mortgage principal is preferred stock. At the end of January, my preferred stock portfolio for this mortgage pay off strategy was worth $116.97 and consisted of five different positions. I purchased three preferred stocks for the month, totaling $69.27. I do plan to write a bit more about my strategy with these, but for now, here are my current holdings (1 share of each):

  1. CDR-C, 6.5% coupon with a yield on cost of 7.39%
  2. NRZ-A, 7.5% coupon with a yield on cost of 8.07%
  3. NRZ-B, 7.125% coupon with a yield on cost of 7.95%
  4. PMT-B, 8% coupon with a yield on cost of 8.08%
  5. SCE-J, 5.375% coupon with a yield on cost of 5.55%

I haven’t received any dividends on these positions yet, but they will go toward the mortgage when they come in. I hope to buy at least one new preferred stock each month.

Hedgefundie’s Excellent Adventure

This strategy is purely for capital growth. The target allocation is 55% UPRO/45% TMF, which are both 3x leveraged ETFs. Once their value is enough to reduce my mortgage term by one month, I will put it all towards the mortgage and start over. I have yet to rebalance this because the total value is still so small, but rebalancing is critical to this strategy’s success. For January, $13 was put into $UPRO and $12 into TMF. At the end of the month, the value in these funds was $60.51. To reduce my mortgage by one month I would need to make a $610 payment, so still a long way to grow.

Accounts Summary

Of the $188 earned from options trading in January, $58 was set aside into the ULP for taxes, $35 was put towards the mortgage principal, $69.27 was invested into preferred stocks and $25 was invested into Hedgefundie’s Excellent Adventure. The remaining $.73 will stay in my trading account. The trading account’s value ended January at $3,515.08, preferred stock was at $116.97 (with a forward yield of 7.4%) and Hedgefundie was at $60.51.

Benchmark Comparisons

In my introduction post I identified three different benchmarks I will be comparing my performance to. Benchmark #1 is putting all of my savings from my refinance, plus a 1 month skipped mortgage payment, into a savings account. When I wrote that post I was actually getting 0.6% APY, but it has reduced twice down to 0.3%. Benchmark #2 is putting all of those savings straight into extra monthly payments to the mortgage principal. Finally, Benchmark #3 is simply buying $SPY.

After 4 months I have invested $3,492.63 (initial $3,000 + $164.21 per month). Benchmark #1 is at $3,497.02, Benchmark #2 is at $3,517.41, Benchmark #3 is at $3,643.84. My actual total has just passed the $4k mark at $4,005.76. This is a total return of $513.12, or 14.7% (50.9% CAGR). My returns include the value of my principal in my trading account + the monthly contribution of $64.21 and interest into my savings + the difference between the original loan and what is actually remaining this month. My results are beating Benchmark #1 by 14.6%, #2 by 13.9% and #3 by 8.6%.

Obviously I am very pleased with the results so far and can only hope things continue to grow at a similar rate. What’s especially cool about all of this is that it all came from refinancing my home loan. The 3.125% rate I ended up with is pretty mediocre relative to what the averages are at right now, but because it allowed us to skip 1 month of mortgage payments and allows us to save $164.21, and because I am aggressively investing it rather than sticking it in a “high yield” savings account or, worse, spending it, I am slowly turning that opportunity into wealth.

Disclaimer: I am long $AAL, $MRO, $GE, $CDR-C, $NRZ-A, $NRZ-B, $PMT-B, $SCE-J, $SPY, $UPRO and $TMF. I am not a financial advisor. This is not investment advice. Please do your own research before investing in anything discussed herein.

Weekly Options Trading Review: October 5 through October 9, 2020

Closed 7 trades for $45.31 profit (100% win rate). Opened 22 trades.

Closing Previous Weeks’ Trades (Positions closed that were opened previous to this week)

  • SLV Put Credit Spread (October 16, 2020 $19/18 @ +$.06 Credit)
    • Contracts: 1
    • Max Profit: $6
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $94
    • Opened: September 21, 2020
    • Closed: October 5, 2020
    • P/L: +$2 ($0 commissions with Robinhood)
    • Return on Capital: 2% (49% Annualized)
    • 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)
    • Max Profit: $28
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $78
    • Opened: October 1, 2020
    • Closed: October 5, 2020
    • P/L: +$4 ($0 commissions with Robinhood)
    • Return on Capital: 4% (292% annualized)
    • 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
    • Collateral: $600
    • 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.
  • AAL Call Credit Spread (October 16, 2020 $14/14.5 @ +$.13)
    • Max Profit: $13
    • Collateral: $50
    • Max Loss: $37
    • Opened: September 28, 2020
    • Closed: October 6, 2020
    • P/L: +$6 ($0 commissions with Robinhood)
    • Return on Capital: 12% (487% annualized)
    • 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)
    • Max Profit: $35
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $65
    • Opened: September 29, 2020
    • Closed: October 6, 2020
    • P/L: +$15 ($0 commissions with Robinhood)
    • Return on Capital: 15% (684% annualized)
    • 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
    • Collateral: $500
    • 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*
    • Collateral: $650
    • 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

Opening Trades

  • SPY Call Credit Spread (November 6, 2020 $351/352 @ +$.34)
    • Max Profit: $34
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $66
    • Opened: October 5, 2020
    • 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
    • Collateral: $2000
    • 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.
  • QQQ Call Credit Spread (November 6, 2020 $295/294 @ +$.33)
    • Max Profit: $33
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $67
    • Opened: October 5, 2020
    • See SPY “ETF Challenger” comments above
  • F Cash-Secured Put (October 23, 2020 $7 @ +$.20)
    • Max Profit: $20
    • Collateral: $700
    • Max Loss: $680
    • Opened: October 6, 2020
    • 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
    • Collateral: $500
    • 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
    • Collateral: $50
    • 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
    • Collateral: $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
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $73
    • Opened: October 6, 2020
    • Same trade as SLV above, but in a different account with a slightly larger spread.
  • IWM Call Credit Spread (November 13, 2020 $166/167 @+$.35)
    • Max Profit: $35
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $65
    • Opened: October 7, 2020
    • 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.
  • SPY Call Credit Spread (November 9, 2020 $352/353 @ +$.34)
    • Max Profit: $34
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $66
    • Opened: October 7, 2020
    • “ETF Challenger”, as above.
  • QQQ Call Credit Spread (November 9, 2020 $295/296 @ +$.33)
    • Max Profit: $33
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $67
    • Opened: October 7, 2020
    • “ETF Challenger”, as above.
  • AAL Call Credit Spread (November 20, 2020 $15/16 @ +$.25)
    • Max Profit: $25
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $75
    • Opened: October 7, 2020
    • 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)
    • Max Profit: $33
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $67
    • Opened: October 7, 2020
    • “ETF Challenger”, as above.
  • SPY Call Credit Spread (November 9, 2020 $352/353 @ +$.38)
    • Max Profit: $38
    • Collateral: $100
    • Max Loss: $62
    • Opened: October 7, 2020
    • “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
    • Collateral: $2,500
    • 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
    • Collateral: $600
    • 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!).
  • AAL Covered Call (October 23, 2020 $14.50 @ +$.44)
    • Max Profit: $44
    • Collateral: $1413
    • Max Loss: $1369
    • Opened: October 8, 2020
    • 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.
  • M Covered Call (October 30, 2020 $6.50 @ +$.29)
    • Max Profit: $29
    • Collateral: $617
    • Max Loss: $588
    • Opened: October 8, 2020
    • Mortgage pay down strategy.
  • GPRO Covered Call (October 23, 2020 $6.50 @ +$.31)
    • Max Profit: $29
    • Collateral: $646
    • Max Loss: $615
    • Opened: October 8, 2020
    • Mortgage pay down strategy.
  • FCEL Covered Call (October 16, 2020 $2 @ +$.41)
    • Max Profit: $7
    • Collateral: $234
    • Max Loss: $193
    • Opened: October 8, 2020
    • 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
    • Collateral: $100
    • 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.