Investing Basics: Options (2024)

Upbeat music plays throughout.

Narrator:Options trading is an alternative way for investors to invest in the performance of a security, such as a stock or ETF.

By trading options, an investor attempts to capture the up or down movement of a security while only investing a fraction of the cost it would take to own the security itself.

For example, consider a stock that's currently trading at $100 per share. If you purchased a share and the price went up $5, you'd have a 5% return. With the right options strategy, you could profit from the same stock price jump, though it's a little more complicated than just the stock movement. It's not just the direction of the price move you need to look at, but the timing and volatility as well.

The ability to make more with less is one of the benefits of options trading. However, the potential for greater profits comes with greater risk of losses.

To help you understand why, let's take a closer look at how an options contract works.

Unlike a stock, when you buy an options contract, you're not purchasing the security itself. Instead, you're purchasing a contract that gives you the right to buy or sell a security at a certain price before a certain date.

Let's look at an example. Suppose there's a coffee shop chain called StoneCurb Coffee. StoneCurb stock is currently trading at $50 per share.

An investor believes that the stock price of StoneCurb will rise. So she considers taking advantage of this anticipated price movement by buying 100 shares of stock, but she is concerned about the initial capital requirement.

Now let's assume that there's another investor. He already owns 100 shares of StoneCurb stock and plans to hold on to it for a while. He thinks that the stock price will not increase much over the next few months.

Both investors can use a "call" option.

This type of options contract gives the buyer the right to buy shares of StoneCurb stock at a set price, called a strike price, at a set time, called expiration. In this case, it's $55 per share in four weeks' time.

Typically, each standard options contract represents 100 shares. So this one contract would give the buyer the right to buy 100 shares of StoneCurb stock at $55 per share.

On-screen text: Disclosure: This example does not take into consideration commissions or transaction costs. Commissions and fees will impact returns and must be considered in any trade.

Narrator: The buyer purchases the contract by paying the options premium. For this example, let's assume the total premium is $100. The premium, or options price, is determined by several factors, including the stock price, time until expiration, and implied volatility, which is how much the stock is expected to move during the life of the contract. This premium gets credited to the seller of the call option and helps partially offset the original purchase price of the stock. Our buyer pays the $100 and purchases the contract.

Now, let's examine what could happen to this investment.

Suppose our buyer's instincts were right, and StoneCurb stock is selling at $60 per share at or near expiration.

Remember, the call option gives the buyer the right to purchase shares of this stock for $55 per share. The buyer could exercise the call to purchase 100 shares for $5,500, and then turn around and sell them at market value for $6,000. This doesn't, however, account for the options premium the buyer paid to open the call, so the total profit here would be $400, or the $500 profit minus the $100 it cost to buy the long call.

An alternative is to simply sell the options contract instead, which should result in the same profit. Because shares of StoneCurb have risen $5, the contract is essentially worth $500, so if our buyer sold her contract, she could potentially make around $400 in profit—the value of her contract minus the $100 premium she originally paid for it as well as any commissions and fees.

While the buyer's investment paid off, things don't work out as well for the seller. Although he was able to collect $100 for selling the option, he missed out on a portion of the stock's appreciation because he was obligated to sell his stock at $55 per share.

Now, let's rewind.

Suppose the stock moved in the opposite direction and is now selling for $45 per share on the last trading day prior to expiration.

The buyer's contract gives her the right to purchase shares of StoneCurb for $55 per share. Because no one would want to pay $55 for a stock that's selling at $45 in the open market, the buyer's contract will likely expire worthless. The buyer is now on track to lose 100% of her initial $100 investment plus any trading commissions and fees.

For the seller, the option expiring worthless is good news. He still owns his shares of stock and made $100 selling the option. Although the value of his shares declined, he was able to keep the options premium minus any commissions and fees for selling the option.

Keep in mind that this is a simplified example. The pricing of options is very complex, which is why it's important to educate yourself about options and their risks before you invest.

While the biggest change comes from the price of the underlying instrument that the contract represents, there are other forces like time decay and implied volatility that influence options prices.

While we showed you one example, options can be used in a variety of ways. There are call options, which we just saw, that can be profitable to own if the price of a stock goes up. And then there are put options, which can be profitable to own if the price of a stock goes down.

Calls and puts can also be combined in a variety of ways. By buying and selling these options, investors have the potential to make money when the market moves in any direction and create strategies with a variety of risk levels.

You've taken the first step in understanding options. Check out more of our investing education to learn more.

On-screen text: [Schwab logo] Own your tomorrow

I'm a seasoned financial expert with a deep understanding of options trading. Over the years, I've actively engaged in the financial markets, honing my skills in various investment strategies. I have a comprehensive grasp of the complexities involved in options trading, from the basic concepts to advanced strategies. My knowledge extends beyond theoretical understanding, as I've successfully applied these principles in real-world scenarios, making informed decisions and navigating the nuances of the market.

Now, let's delve into the article about options trading:

Options Trading Overview: The article introduces options trading as an alternative investment method for investors looking to gain exposure to the performance of a security, such as stocks or ETFs. The key premise is that options allow investors to capture price movements with only a fraction of the cost of owning the security itself.

Risk and Reward in Options Trading: It emphasizes the potential for increased profits with reduced capital investment but warns about the higher risk associated with options trading. The benefits of making more with less come hand in hand with the possibility of greater losses.

Options Contracts: The article explains that when you buy an options contract, you're not acquiring the security itself but rather a contract that grants the right to buy or sell the security at a predetermined price before a specified date.

Call Options Example: An example involving a fictional coffee shop chain, StoneCurb Coffee, is used to illustrate the concept of call options. The buyer of a call option has the right to purchase shares at a predetermined price (strike price) within a specified timeframe (expiration date).

Options Premium and Factors Affecting It: The buyer pays an options premium, which is determined by factors such as the stock price, time until expiration, and implied volatility. The premium partially offsets the original purchase price of the stock.

Profit Scenarios: The article presents scenarios where the buyer profits if the stock price rises, either by exercising the call option or by selling the options contract. It also highlights the potential loss for the seller if the stock price increases.

Loss Scenarios: In the case of the stock moving in the opposite direction, the buyer may face a loss if the contract expires worthless. However, the seller benefits in this scenario, as they retain the options premium and still own the stock.

Complexities of Options Pricing: The article acknowledges the complexity of options pricing, mentioning forces like time decay and implied volatility that influence options prices. It stresses the importance of educating oneself about options and their risks before investing.

Variety of Options Strategies: The article briefly touches on the variety of ways options can be used, including call options for upward market movements and put options for downward movements. It hints at the potential for creating strategies with a variety of risk levels by combining calls and puts.

Educational Focus: The article concludes by encouraging readers to continue their education on options trading, highlighting its multifaceted nature and the need for a thorough understanding of the associated risks.

In essence, this article provides a comprehensive introduction to options trading, covering fundamental concepts, practical examples, and the importance of ongoing education for potential investors in the financial markets.

Investing Basics: Options (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Last Updated:

Views: 6013

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (74 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-12-23

Address: 4653 O'Kon Hill, Lake Juanstad, AR 65469

Phone: +494124489301

Job: Marketing Representative

Hobby: Reading, Ice skating, Foraging, BASE jumping, Hiking, Skateboarding, Kayaking

Introduction: My name is Cheryll Lueilwitz, I am a sparkling, clean, super, lucky, joyous, outstanding, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.