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Covered Calls for Income Investing

Why don’t more people write covered calls? There are numerous reasons. The general population is unaware such an investment exists. Only a hand full of investing services promote them but popularity has increased as more brokers push option trading strategies these days. Also, they do require a level of education to learn them in depth. The popularity increase has moved covered calls by leaps and bounds as it should. This is moving investing to the next level which is income investing.

Many financial advisors, brokers, planners and others in the finance industry either are not comfortable with covered calls or simple don’t understand the opportunity for covered calls in their clients’ portfolios. Many advisors are fee based and accept sizable commissions from funds to recommend their products. They make extra money when you buy these paid recommendations in place of a strategy such as covered calls. Basically, covered calls are just not on their priority list.

The information disseminated about covered calls by advisors and websites who don’t know the theory behind covered calls tend to paint the strategy as being dangerous with little return for the risk taken. Then, these same advisors recommend you to hold low performing stocks or churn your account to increase commissions. If they used covered call writing on the buy and hold stocks it would generate income that will lower overall risk of the investment.

How can producing income from an asset increase the inherent risk of owning an asset? This argument against covered call is nonsense on the face. For example, a real estate developer is usually wiling to hold properties that generate positive cash flow. If they don’t cash flow, then you have a tax write off and a hope to sale at a higher valuation – sounds like buy and hold right!  Advisors recommend buying stock and funds based on commissions. If you are in the hammer business, everything looks like a nail.

Brokers fear liability when customers lose money, even on self-directed option trades and they make little on option trades.  The education of clients on options will increase the risk of them deflecting to discount option brokers online once they feel comfortable with covered calls.

You can’t blame the financial industry for doing what is in their best economic interest any more than in other industries such as plumbers, electricians and other trades. Just recognize your interest are different than the financial industry in terms of your long-term investing. Advisors make money when you do and they make money when you don’t. Your choice is to rely upon their advice or handle your own investing. What should you do?

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Here is a great quote from the greatest options expert Larry McMillan: “You will have to predict something in order to profit, for only market makers and arbitrageurs can construct totally risk-free trades that exceed the risk-free rate of return.”  Regardless of your style, stock picking or options trading, you must make choices and you must predict outcomes.

At Get Rich Investments, we believe covered calls do require a prediction but they lower the overall risk of investing. They produce premium income to offset some downside in stock price movement. If used with dividend stocks, they add another layer of income. Then, we couple a portion of our portfolio to monthly dividend stocks to lower portfolio volatility and risk while maximizing total portfolio income.

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How to Get More Protection from Stock Price Declines

In a flat to bullish market, most call writers will sell an at-the-money call on the stock they own.  the rationale for selling an ATM call is that they have the highest premium in terms of time value.  Of course, the option seller can sell at any strike price.  What should the call seller do in a market driven by fear such as potential debt defaults, FED changes, financial chaos, etc.?  The smart call writer will change their strike price to get more downside protection.

Suppose you want to write a call on a stock that you are concerned about a potential price drop,  you can look to write an in-the-money call.  The stock is trading at $7.80 per share.  You can write the $7.50 call for $0.90.  This call has a $0.30 intrinsic value so you are getting $0.60 in time value. As long as the stock is above $7.50 at expiration you keep the $0.60 in time value and the $0.30 intrinsic value.  Now you have created a situation where you still make money if the stock declines by 3.85%.

Let’s try another example.  The stock is trading at $136.00 per share.  You can sell the 135 call for $10.25; the 130 for $13.15; the 125 for $16.40; the 120 for 20.05.  You can go down to the 120 call strike to produce a 13% downside protection.   Yet you still get a $4.05 time value premium that is almost a 3% return.  Now you have created a situation where you still make money if the stock declines 13%.

Considering an average volatility, this is a great way to protect yourself for an anticipated price downturn.   While selling ITM calls does not usually realize a return as high as selling ATM calls, it does have the benefit of creating more downside protection for the stock price to fall and still return a profit.  You should only sell ITM calls if you are willing to let the stock be called away.

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