Weekly Newsletter   Challenge account


Posted by Martin January 04, 2021
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Is investing and trading in the stock market a passive income?


The simple answer is NO, it is not. Investing in the stock market could be considered a passive income, trading is not passive at all.

So, why investing is not a passive income?

Although you may reach the fruits of investing and create a passive income in investing, it is only a small portion of the entire business that can be considered passive. The rest is hard work. Why?

First, if you invest in the growth companies, then there is nothing passive in it. If you invest in dividend stocks, only the final part of your work will be passive. Everything before that – again, hard work.

Just look around in Facebook, MeWe, or other discussion forums and all you find is people asking what to do, how to start investing. They have no clue. But they are willing to learn. And the process of learning, trying, avoiding mistakes, tracking their portfolios, learning about the stocks, learning about dividends, all that is not an easy job. And you will agree with me on that if you try to remember when was the last time you tried to learn something you had absolutely no clue about and many times you wanted to give because it was too complicated.

But if you think that you learned everything, found the perfect stocks, and bought them that your job is over and now you will only have the passive income and nothing else (besides a yacht, helicopter, and ten-bedroom house), you will be disappointed. There is nothing “buy and forget” in the stock market. You can buy stocks, forget them, and one day open your account and find out you have nothing left. Unless you buy index funds and settle with it.

But if you want to own individual stocks, by buying them your job doesn’t end. You need to watch them, read about them, and make sure they still meet your original criteria why you decided to invest in them in the first place. And if you do not know why you invested in them, you should have stayed away from the market too.

None of it looks like an easy job and passive income to me. It still is hard work. But, if you know the ropes, it is fun work.

And trading?

Multiply everything I just said ten times.




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Posted by Martin January 04, 2021
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So, I was waiting for media to tell us what happened today


And sure, the old song has been used to describe the selling in today’s markets:
 

Stock market news live updates: Stocks sink in first session of 2021 as virus concerns, election uncertainty weigh
 

Market Recap: Monday, January 4
Stocks fell Monday in the first session of 2021, as concerns over a post-holiday spike in virus cases compounded with uncertainty over the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff elections.
 

‘Faltering rollout’ of the COVID-19 vaccine will continue to impact the markets: Sanders Morris Harris CEO
 

Stock Market Today: Stocks Stumble Out of the Blocks to Start 2021
The 2021 trading year got off to an inauspicious start, with the major indices lurching lower Monday amid peaking political uncertainty and continued COVID-related pressures.
 

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks drop as virus cases rise; gold rallies
 

Can you see the common trait here? The common message in today’s news? Yes, it is all old news. The markets sold-off today but the media failed to find any reason or catalyst for this selling. So the old song has been used to describe markets shaking the weak hands. Volatility is normal and to be expected. We rallied a lot last two months, a pullback was needed. Typically, if we rally into the close of the year, then, historically, January is bullish too (except in 2019). Who knows what is ahead of us but this is not the big sell off or a market crash bears are calling for the last 10 years.




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Posted by Martin January 03, 2021
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2020 in charts


The 2020 year was an interesting year. It looked like it would be a complete disaster at first, yet it turned around very fast and it became my best year investing so far. Here are some of the achievements in the charts:

 

 · Net-Liquidation Value

 

It was in August 2019 when my $20,000 account tanked to $1,600 after a series of costly mistakes trading 0 DTE SPX Iron Condors. I could manage the trades and grow the account until July. After that, volatility in the market kicked in and I was not able to navigate the trades through it. Losses were piling up fast. It took a month to completely destroy the entire account.

For the rest of the 2019 year, I was sitting tight and thinking about what should I do about this situation. I knew, that I will no longer trade SPX. It was a dead-end and I was trying hard. Yet, the strategy was in front of me for the entire time. Right in front of my nose, advocating it on this blog but ignoring it.
 

2019 TW Net-Liq
 

At the beginning of November 2019, I decided to go back to what I knew best – buying dividend growth stocks and monetizing them. I salvaged what I could and started aggressively buying dividend aristocrats such as PBCT, PPL, and AT&T. And, I started selling strangles around these positions. And the account started going up again.

In March 2020 when Covid hit the markets, the account tanked again. At first, I was depressed and on the brink of completely giving up. But I remember 2008 when everyone was panicking and selling I should have been buying. I was telling myself not to make the same mistake. So, I deposited some cash in the account and started aggressively buying depressed stocks. And as the market started recovering, I was selling puts like crazy.

This action paid off. As the markets continued recovering, my options were mostly expiring worthless for full profit. And I kept reinvesting those profits. Soon I could buy LEAPS against SPY and IWM. And I started selling covered calls against those positions. And reinvesting the profits. And the account continued growing even faster.
 

2020 TW Net-Liq
 

Could this be the end of my trading experiments and continuous growth? I believe so. My trading was a zig-zag move so far and not very encouraging:
 

Overall TW Net-Liq
 

I am pleased with the new strategy and its results. But I will not be as aggressive in 2021 as I was in 2020. I will be building reserves in cash to protect the trades in case I get assigned (the biggest issue is not the options, they have very little to no risk, but the assignment and not having enough cash to cover it). I will also start depositing $1,000 a month to this account and grow it even faster.

 

 · Dividends

 

Prior to 2020, I had no stock positions. I only traded SPX. I might have only a few shares as a result of some bright moment in my wicked trading thinking and bought one or two shares here and there. But in 2020, I started aggressively building my dividend aristocrats portfolio. From the dividend perspective, I am at the beginning of my journey. Note, that I am talking about the business account, not my ROTH or IRA accounts where I was investing primarily into dividend stocks and these have nice dividend income already. But this “business account” is a do-over.

Yet, I collected $2.27 in dividends in 2019 and $178 in 2020. My projected dividends grew from $26.15 in 2019 to $525.43 in 2020.
 

TW Annual Dividends
 

I expect the dividend income to grow as I keep adding more shares to my portfolio. The growth seems high and fast when you look at it but the projected dividend is calculated using the current dividend amount times the existing stock holdings and expected stock holdings or accumulation of the stocks during 2021. I plan on accumulating AT&T, MO, and AFL to reach 100 shares of each company during 2021 (if I get more, the better). If I achieve this goal, my projected dividend will be $1,106.50 in 2021.
 

TW Annual Dividends
 

I also understand that received dividends will be lagging behind the projected dividends as I will be accumulating stocks during the entire year and I may make some purchases after the dividend ex-day, so the projected dividend will increase yet I will miss that dividend payout in the given period. But I will receive it in the very next period.

 

 · Options

 

Options income was tricky in 2020. I collected a nice dividend income but the results are skewed due to a few factors:

1) I still hold a few bad SPX trades. These are included in the current net-liq so they will have no impact on the account value. I do not plan on salvaging those trades unless a good and cheap opportunity presents itself. But if these trades expire (mostly call spreads in the money), they will be recorded as a loss in the options income.

2) I am not only selling premiums but I am also buying LEAPS. When I buy a LEAPS call, it will also show up as options cash outflow and could be considered a loss if you do not know that it was a purchase and not a loss. In 2020 I purchased a few LEAPS against SPY and IWM for almost $5,000 dollars. Thus, in 2020, it seems that I have lost $14,976.91 in options premiums. But it is not correct. I yet have to come up with a good recording method to filter out these purchases. Of course, in the following years, I expect these LEAPS to make a profit and it will show up as income in the next year(s).
 

TW Annual Dividends
 

I hope, this provided a good insight into my 2020 trading and investing efforts. I am happy with the results and I hope, I will continue growing my account in 2021 towards my goal of financial freedom. By 2021 my goal is to reach the $42,344.06 net-liq value of my account. Let’s see, if I will be able to achieve it or even exceed it.
 

Good luck to you and Happy New Year!




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Posted by Martin January 02, 2021
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Starting small


It is hard to start investing and trading when you have a small account and only a few dollars in your account. Unfortunately, a small investor is doomed to take a larger risk than if you have thousands of dollars at your disposal.

Taking a $500 risk on one trade feels different in a $1,000 dollar account than in a $1,000,000 account.

And, you will need double or triple of patience than a large investor. I have seen many small investors, myself included, blowing up their accounts because of being impatient. They wanted to grow their accounts fast, took too much risk, doubled up on trades, and blew it all.

But it can be done.

I personally started trading by buying cheaper stocks. It is appealing to want to trade AAPL but if you do not possess at least $20,000 cash in your account, you can forget it.

I was always into dividend stocks. My philosophy always was that if I would be owning a stock I want to be paid holding it. If you own a good company that pays you a dividend, you get paid in good times as well as in bad times. If the market crashes and all your stocks go south, you still want to receive a check in your mail (well, virtual mail). With growth stock, you do not get this benefit. The growth stock is down and all you can do is to wait empty-handed for it to recover.

But which company is so good that it will pay you even when the markets crash? Not guaranteed, but dividend aristocrats are good candidates to start with.

I went to the dividend aristocrats list and picked People’s United Financial, Inc. (PBCT). It is a dividend aristocrat that has paid and increased dividends continuously for 28 years and it was priced between $10 and $13 a share. The stock is optionable although not as great as more expensive stocks.

First, I started accumulating shares of this stock to gain confidence. Once I accumulated 100 shares, I started selling 50 DTE – 60 DTE covered calls. This takes a lot of patience because you have to wait 50 to 60 days to repeat the process. Many novice investors are not willing to do it. They engage in risky trades for which they do not have enough capital to handle the trade if it turns against them.

You take a credit you have received and buy 1 or 2 shares of another stock. I used PPL. Brokers made it easy today when you pay no commission to buy a single share of any stock. It was not possible just two years ago. When adding more cash into my account, collecting dividends and premiums, I soon could add put options towards my PBCT trades. At first, I went partially naked (I only had 50% saved to cover the put side) but I was selling a partially covered strangle now.

Soon I accumulated enough shares in PPL to repeat the process and started selling covered calls and naked to partially covered puts. I kept saving cash buying an ICSH fund that pays dividends and holds value in volatile times. If I get assigned to any of the stock I just sell the required portion of my ICSH holding to release enough buying power to cover the assignment. But with a single put or call, I do not have to do it. I roll the options. Rolling the single options, unlike spreads, is easy. Many times in 2020 my holdings were on a roller coaster yet I could lower or raise my strangle as needed to avoid assignment.

And cash kept rolling into my account. At first slowly, but soon faster and faster. You need to give your trades and stocks time to grow. Nothing will ever happen overnight. There is no quick rich strategy, no fast profits. Fast profits will come once you accumulate a large enough portfolio so you can afford to take riskier trades.

Don’t rush it. Rushing it will lose you money. If you give it time, you will be surprised how quickly it all turns around and how fast your portfolio will go up despite the initial turtle moves.
 

Cash flow
 




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Posted by Martin January 01, 2021
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Cost basis and income in various accounts over time


As I keep closing the books (so to speak) and analyzing my trades and accounts for the year, here are additional metrics I like to watch in my accounts.

I like to see what would happen to my dividend holdings if I keep holding them for the next 20, 25, and 30 years.

As you know, I like to invest in dividend aristocrats. Although the 2020 year was really bad when many good stocks were forced to cut their dividends due to covid, I still like being paid while holding the stocks. If you are a dividend investor, you may be familiar with YOC (yield on cost). This metric pretty much tells you how much a company will pay you in dividends in the future based on their dividend growth and your initial investment. Here are the estimates for our accounts:

 

 · Account #1

 

Initial data as of January 1, 2021:
 

Shares owned: 403
Cost per share: $30.94
Current yield: 3.51%
Dividend growth: 3.45%

 

If I keep holding our current shares and never sell them, we will experience the following YOC and dividend income:

 

YOC in 20 years 31.26% Annual dividend Income: $3,897.21
YOC in 25 years 71.11% Annual dividend Income: $8,865.33
YOC in 30 years 190.42% Annual dividend Income: $23,739.79

 

 

 · Account #2

 

Initial data as of January 1, 2021:
 

Shares owned: 532
Cost per share: $35.85
Current yield: 5.76%
Dividend growth: 11.37%

 

If I keep holding our current shares and never sell them, we will experience the following YOC and dividend income:

 

YOC in 20 years 959.63% Annual dividend Income: $183,023.70
YOC in 25 years 15,040.54% Annual dividend Income: $2,868,579.84
YOC in 30 years 731,690.07% Annual dividend Income: $139,550,267.90

 

 · Account #3

 

Initial data as of January 1, 2021:
 

Shares owned: 510
Cost per share: $60.80
Current yield: 4.05%
Dividend growth: 7.52%

 

If I keep holding our current shares and never sell them, we will experience the following YOC and dividend income:

 

YOC in 20 years 73.79% Annual dividend Income: $22,879.25
YOC in 25 years 249.32% Annual dividend Income: $77,303.90
YOC in 30 years 1173.89% Annual dividend Income: $363,975.12

 

Of course, this assumes that I will not be adding more shares in each account, no dividend cuts, or similar events. I plan on adding more shares, more investments, and holdings. I also plan to trade options against those shares and that would add more income over time.

Let’s see how these calculations change over 2021 and what we will achieve at the beginning of 2022.




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Posted by Martin January 01, 2021
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Goal 2020 review and 2021 Resolution


The year 2020 is over. It was a very difficult year for many. It was a difficult year for me on a personal level too. I almost lost a job but found a second job and secured income to support my family. But on the investing and trading level, 2020 was an exceptional year.

At the end of 2019, I realized that my trading was wrong. I traded SPX Iron Condors (as you may know reading this blog). I loved this trading and I tried to learn as much as I could. But it didn’t work for me. So, I stopped trading it. And it was a good decision.

For the 2020 year, I set a goal to recoup the losses and trade what I know that worked for me in the past. I also wanted a strategy that was easy to manage, protected my cash, and made money. And selling options around the dividend stock positions is that strategy.

Fro 2020, I set up a goal to accumulate dividend aristocrats. Own the shares, collect dividends, and sell options against these positions. I started selling cash-secured puts and immediately reinvested the premium I have received. And when dividends arrived, I have reinvested them too. I started with cheaper stocks like PBCT, PPL, or GAIN, T, MO, and others. I took a bit of risk that not all puts were cash secured. But I knew that a single put option is easy to manage. Easier than an SPX spread. I was surprised how quickly my account started growing up again. Even during the coronavirus problems where I had to roll many of my trades and my net-liq tanked hard, I knew, I would be in good shape when the mess is over. And when the market started recovering, the net-liq shot up like a rocket.
 

Account growth Month to month
 

And as the market was growing and accumulating cash I started saving money for more trades. Soon I was able to start trading more expensive trades such as buying LEAPS against indexes and selling covered calls against those positions (poor man’s covered call) and start trading strangles against stocks such as AAPL. I set a goal that helped me in focusing on accumulating either cash positions or stocks and grow the account.

Originally, I set a goal with only 22 tasks but later during the year, I started expanding the goal.
 

Initial Goal 2020
 

During the year, I added a few more tasks. It was not that I would be accomplishing them all. I didn’t expect it. It would be a stretch and financially, it was not feasible. Although my account was going up fast, it didn’t go up that fast. The reason for adding more tasks was to capture the ideas I had during the year. For example, I was thinking about ways how to increase income and decided that one way to do it would be to trade strangles against more expensive stocks such as Apple. So I added those tasks to my goal list. Now, I do not forget about it and will work towards that goal. Of course, if during the year something has changed and I found out that the idea was not reasonable, I deleted the task.

As of December 2020, I ended up with this:

 

Goal 2020 Year End
 

So, although I accomplished this goal by 36.86% only, I am actually happy with the results because those tasks I wanted the most were fulfilled.

 

 · 2021 Goal

 

I plan to continue with this kind of planning and set the goal for 2021. I rolled over the goals from 2020 and added a few more goals I wanted to focus on. Over time, I may add a few more goals the same way I did during the 2020 year. Here is my initial goal:
 

Initial Goal 2021
 

I will also continue accumulating the following stocks during 2021:
 

AAPL
ABBV
ABC
AFL
BABA
CB
GAIN
GD
KMI
MO
PBCT
PPL
SNA
SNOW
T
TSN
 

I will be accumulating these stocks on all four accounts. Some accounts have the stocks accumulated and I sell covered calls. I will focus on stocks that provide better premiums first, for example, I would be prioritizing accumulating MO, or AFL over GAIN stock due to options.
 

And again, I will be primarily an investor and a trader later on.
 

This year, I will use the same strategy:
 

We are investors, not traders. We buy assets – dividend-paying companies. We buy dividend growth companies. Our plan is to hold those companies forever. We treat those businesses we are buying as our businesses. It is like real estate. People do not buy homes just to sell them the next day, or next month. People buy to hold their home for the next 30 years or more. We buy dividend growth companies for the same reason.

We buy dividend growth companies to generate income receiving dividends. We want our businesses to reward us for holding their shares and paying us for it. We reinvest the dividends to accumulate more shares. Our goal in accumulating shares of a selected company is to reach 100 shares of that business. All dividends and account deposits are used to accumulate shares.

Once we accumulate 100 shares of a company, we start selling covered calls. When selling covered calls, we sell to avoid our shares being called away. We deploy all hedging strategies to avoid the exercise of the calls. If, however, our shares are called away, we immediately start selling naked or cash-secured puts. We sell puts as a means of investment to buy shares, not to speculate or sell put just to bring premiums. We sell puts against companies we want to buy. Once the shares are assigned to us, we implement the Wheel of Fortune strategy by immediately start selling covered calls again.

All premiums generated from selling covered calls or puts are used to buy more shares of the companies we want to hold.

We only sell our companies when they no longer meet our requirements – reduce or suspend the dividend.

From time to time, we use other options strategies to generate income: poor man’s covered calls, butterflies, covered strangles, or collars.

 

 · Poor man’s covered call

 

We use this strategy against expensive stocks where we do not have enough capital to trade a standard covered call right away or in the near future and when saving money would take many months or years; usually indexes such as SPY, RUT, IWM, etc. We also use it against ETFs or individual stocks while accumulating shares of that stock.

 

 · Butterflies

 

We use this strategy as a directional trade. When we identify a strong trend in any direction, we may apply this strategy to limit our risk but reap a decent profit. For example, buying a call against SPY to participate in a strong trend would cost us $800 while the same butterfly would cost us $200. This limits our risk in case we are wrong.

 

 · Covered strangle

 

This strategy is selling an OTM put and a call against a stock which we want to add shares to our holdings and we already own shares. For example, we own 100 shares of a stock XYZ, and we are OK to buy another 100 shares. We sell covered strangle and our calls are covered by the existing position we already own and our put is covered by cash we have in our account in case we get assigned.

 

 · Collars

 

We may use this strategy (selling covered calls and use the premium to buy protective puts) if we see a need to protect our holdings and buy insurance. The covered calls will generate income for us to buy the puts.

 

 · Cost basis offset

 

Selling covered calls and puts, as well as other strategies, will be used to offset our cost basis. This is more of a psychological or mental offset. However, it helps to see it as having less risk in our stock and see it that we have purchased our shares for “free” (we used premiums collected when selling the calls and puts, although on many occasions we started collecting these premiums after we purchased the stock).

 

 · What about other options strategies?

 

From time to time we may use a different options strategy, for example, naked call, if we see it fit and we are prepared for any consequences from such trades. But, these trades will be very rare. One strategy we will employ will be credit spreads where capital requirements are too high. An example could be trading Iron Condors against SNOW stock.
 

I also updated my Trades & Income page where you can see all open trades and stocks accumulation during 2021 trading year.
 

I wish you a Happy New Year and a lot of success!
 
 




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Posted by Martin January 01, 2021
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2020 Year End results in a nutshell


December 2020 and the entire year 2020 is over. I trade 4 accounts and have slightly different strategies for each. That depends on the type of account. If it is a cash account, the strategy is different than in the margin account.

Considering how difficult the 2020 year was, it was a very profitable year for my trading business. And I love this business.

Account #1 ($20,624.47) YTD: +419.15%
Account #2 ($22,216.46) YTD: -2.54%
Account #3 ($37,116.28) YTD: -0.39%
Account #4 ($11,312.36) YTD: +37.96%

My Account #1 was an account I placed a lot of effort and focus on in 2020. I made many mistakes trading options without properly protecting my money. Fortunately, in 2019, I realized I was wrong and changed my strategy to what I knew was working for me. The results exceeded my expectations.

Account #2 is a cash account and the loss was due to the same mistakes I made in account #1 (trading 0 DTE SPX Iron Condors). This account was definitely suitable for this strategy, well this strategy is not suitable for me at all. Although the account shows a loss for the year, I was actually down almost 30% due to losses I accumulated. I dedicated this year to fix this account and I am satisfied with the results.

The same could be said with account #3 which I was also in a “repair mode”.

Account #4 is a very conservative account. I trade the same strategy as in account #1 but not as aggressive. So, I could call it a passive income account.

I have seen people despising 30% a year gains in the stock market (or even 12% a year) saying that starting a business brings better results some in a realm of 1000%. Yes, it may. But be realistic. How many people achieved such success? Definitely not all of those who despise 12% a year. Even mature and well-established companies such as Amazon are growing by 30% a year, AAPL’s CAGR is 30.5% a year. Yes, they grew by thousands of percent over the decades, but annually, they only grow 30%. If you manage to grow your trading business by 30% a year (my personal expectations were 45% a year), you do the exact same as Amazon or Apple.

Happy New Year 2021 and let’s see what my trading will look like in 2021.




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Posted by Martin December 21, 2020
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Market gapped down on Covid fear, new trades, and adjustments for 12/21/2020


The stock market gapped down more than 2% on renewed fear of the new strain of Covid. That is, what the media are telling us. I don’t think this is the reason for selling. The market was quite over-extended and some sort of a pullback was needed. That is what has happened this morning. Since the opening, the market has rallied up erasing almost all losses so far. Will it continue tomorrow? Not sure. We have to wait and see.

On one hand, I welcome this pullback as I still have a trade against IWM (a covered call) which has run away from me so much that I am not able to roll it for credit and I am already too far away in time. I decided to wait and attempt to roll after some time is gone.

But I had a few trades that needed adjustments.
 

The trade, that needed an adjustment was a strangle against TSN (Tyson Foods):

cherries Roll 1 TSN Jan 15 (monthly) 65p/72.5c strangle to Jan 29 64p/68c for 0.50 credit
 

Our 65 put in TSN strangle got in the money as the stock continued dropping. We decided to roll the strangle lower to keep the price of the stock between the two legs. I was not able to roll everything as one trade (the options were mispriced and I couldn’t find a good price that would execute), so first, I closed the call side for 0.21 debit, then rolled the call side lower for 0.20 debit, and then I added a call side for 0.91 credit. Overall, this adjustment lowered our put side down and we collected additional 0.50 credit.
 

TSN
 

Last week, we got assigned 100 shares on our PPL strangle when our put side ended in the money. We bought 100 shares of PPL at $27 a share. Today, we sold a covered call:
 

fish STO 1 PPL Jan 15 (monthly) 27 covered call for 0.47 credit

Last week our puts ended in the money and we were assigned to 100 shares of PPL at 27 a share. In this account (fish ) we now hold 124 shares of PPL. We now will be selling covered calls against this position until we get assigned and sell the shares (the wheel strategy).
 

PPL
 

We used the collected credit to buy shares of stocks we like to accumulate. We bought one share of the ICSH fund and one share of AT&T stock:
 

fish BTO 1 T shares @ 29.06 debit
fish BTO 1 ISCH shares @ 50.51 debit

We generated income selling covered calls in this account and we reinvested this income and bought 1 share of AT&T and 1 share of the ICSH fund. The ICSH fund serves as a savings account to us. It holds value relatively well during selloffs and it pays a nice dividend (currently the dividend yield is 1.60%).
 

T and ICSH
 

We also opened new trades replacing expired trades from the last week:
 

cherries STO 1 SNOW Dec 24 Iron Condor 295/300/365/370 for 0.70 credit
cherries BTO 1 ICSH shares @ 50.51 debit
cherries BTO 1 T shares @ 29.00 debit

This morning we sold another Iron Condor against SNOW stock and collected $70 credit. We reinvested the credit and bought 1 stock of ISCH (our capital reserves ETF) and one share of AT&T (T) which we are accumulating to reach 100 shares.

Since the markets are selling off (finally) we will be waiting before we open more trades for the panic to settle down. This selling may just be a dip to buy.

SNOW @ $333.92
 

SNOW
 




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Posted by Martin December 19, 2020
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Selling Covered Calls below your stock cost basis. What to do?


The covered calls strategy is considered the safest strategy good for beginners and almost all brokers will allow you to trade this strategy in their basic options trading tier level. Yet, that doesn’t mean that this strategy is riskless and has no potential to give you a hard time trading it. It can become a nightmare and guarantee losses if you do not know what to do when this situation happens.

I trade covered calls in my accounts and I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could protect those trades when they get into trouble. And there are several strategies you may deploy to save your trade and make it a winner. The hardest part is when to pick the right one.

A typical strategy of selling covered calls is that an investor already owns 100 shares of a stock and she decides to start selling covered calls to generate additional income. I love doing it and it is my goal in my portfolio. I accumulate shares of a stock of my interest until I reach 100 shares. Once I reach 100 shares, I start selling covered calls and collect premiums on top of my dividend income. This is called portfolio overwriting.

The second most common covered call strategy is a buy-write strategy. An investor buys 100 shares of a stock and immediately sells covered calls. It is all done in one trade. Usually, this investor is not interested in holding the stock for a long period of time in his portfolio. He hopes, that he would sell his position when the call expires in the money and his shares are called away. Some investors use this strategy to create a triple income strategy. They position their trade so on top of the covered call premium they also capture a dividend. Then, their stock is called away.

No matter what you do, there is a risk involved. The risk, however, is not on the option. The option strategy is still a very safe one. The risk is with the stock.

What can happen is that an investor buys a stock, for example, for $40 dollars a share and sells a covered call with a $45 strike price. All looks great, until the stock tanks to $20 a share. The $45 strike covered call will expire worthless but the investor can no longer sell a new $45 strike because at this strike there is no premium anymore. She can sell a $25 strike covered call, but the problem is that she bought the stock at $40 and if the stock recovers and her new $25 covered call is assigned, her shares will be called away at $25 a share. This will cause a $15 a share loss (or $1500 in total dollar amount). So, what can you do to prevent this?

In this article, I will try to describe all strategies I apply myself when this happens. As I mentioned before, the hardest part is to choose the right one at the right moment.

I will list all the ideas in no particular order below and try to explain what each trade can do to your position but also what risks such adjustment can carry. Let’s begin.

 

 · Do nothing!

 

Sometimes, the best action to do is no action whatsoever. Usually, when you wake up one day, open your computer, log in to your brokerage account and find out that your stock position gapped down significantly, the best approach may be to just sit and wait. Let your original covered call expire and wait. I sometimes do this to assess my next move and see what a stock may or may not do next. Jumping the gun may not be the best approach. In today’s market, we saw fast selloffs and fast recoveries. In 2020 the March selloff was the shortest in the entire market history. The only second-fastest sell-off happened in 1987. The recovery also took a very short time. Many of my stocks in my portfolio, which were impacted by this selloff and I got assigned, already recovered and today trade higher than before the Covid selling. This may not be always the case, but in this situation waiting and sitting on my hands paid off.

 

 · Sell cash-secured puts instead of the calls

 

When your stock drops deep below your cost basis, it is sometimes better to sell a cash-secured put rather than trying to sell another covered call below your cost basis. This idea is OK if you have enough cash to cover this trade because you will be taking another obligation of buying 100 shares if the stock keeps falling. But in this case, I always managed to roll the puts down and away. At some point, the stock started recovering, and after it got back to the new cost basis, I switched to selling covered calls again. When collecting premiums, keep track of the received premiums and your actual adjusted cost basis.

 

 · Roll the covered call deep in the money

 

This strategy is good when you happen to catch the knife and start seeing your stock falling off the cliff. Let’s say, you were bullish on your stock, you bought 100 shares at $40 a share and sold a covered call at $45 strike price. Soon after, the situation in the market changes, or the company fundamentals are no longer bullish and you become bearish. The stock starts selling off and the selling is rather harsh. In this case, immediately roll your $45 strike price call deep in the money. For example, the stock starts falling from $40 a share to $35 a share, you buy back your 45 strike call and sell new deep in the money $20 strike call. If there is still enough time in the original contract, you can keep the same expiration date, if the contract has 10 days or less to expiration, roll it also away in time.

What does this do to your position?

By rolling deep in the money, you collect a premium but also an intrinsic value of the option. And that intrinsic value provides you with further downside protection. In our example, if the stock is at $35 a share and you roll to a $20 strike, you will collect, for example, a $15.95 premium. The 0.95 is the new extrinsic value, the premium you can keep, the $15.00 is an intrinsic value providing your stock a cushion that it can fall all the way down to $20 a share and you will not lose that money. Your stock will be losing $2,000 but you have received $1,500 + premiums. You effectively mitigated a large loss. With this strategy, however, be prepared that your stock will be called away. This is the last adjustment you could do. Once you do it, you won’t be able to repair it as rolling deep in the money options is not possible. At least, not for credit.

 

 · Swap the cost basis

 

This idea is a bit complex in the way how you look at a trade. Many times I look at a trade as a part of a more complex strategy, so selling and buying in and out of a position is not an isolated trade to me but a series of steps of one big trade.

What I do in this case is that I start selling covered calls below the stock cost basis and if the stock starts recovering I try to roll the calls higher and away in time. I do it for credit only. But when it is no longer possible to roll that call, I let it assign, and immediately sell new in the money put. For example, I got a stock assigned to me at $40 a share. I kept selling covered calls all the way down to $15 a share (my lowest premium was $17.50 at some point). I could roll the covered call up and down from 17.50 to 25 and back down to 20 as the stock kept bouncing around. At some point, I got stuck at 20 strike price and the stock rallied to 24 a share. I was not able to roll my 20 strike price call, so I decided to let is assign. Immediately, I sold 25 strike in the money put and let that put assign. My new cost basis dropped from $40 a share to $28 a share (with all the collected premiums, dividends, and the swap). Now I could start selling $30 strike price calls. Instead of selling cash-secured puts, you can buy the stock back immediately after it is called away to re-establish the position.

Note that this idea may not always be feasible to do. Usually, you do not want to do this strategy when the difference (spread) between the call assignment and in the money put is too large. For example, you get assigned at $20 a share but you would have to be selling puts (or buying shares back) at $38 a share. That gap is too large and the loss would be too big to be offset by this swap. So, before you do it, review the math first. Another implication of why this idea may not be always feasible is tax implications. This swap will most likely be considered a wash sale and you will not be able to use the loss for a tax deduction.

 

 · Sell covered strangles

 

If it happens to you and you sell a covered call that is already below your cost basis and on top of that also deep in the money because in the meantime the stock recovered sharply and left your calls way behind, strangles are the best strategy to get out of the hole. To create a strangle, you sell an OTM put adding it to your existing covered call. You then use a premium from the put to roll the call higher. This strategy can help you with rolling deep in the money calls which would be a lost trade otherwise. For example, you have a stock trading at $30 a share, your original cost basis was $40 a share and your covered call is at $25 a share (in the money) and unable to roll it higher. You sell a new cash-secured put with a $25 strike (out of the money) and collect a 0.45 premium. That premium will allow you to roll your $25 covered call up to the $26 strike price. As the expiration nears, you roll both legs (put and call) away in time and higher, for example, you can close a December 2020 position and open a new January position while rolling puts from 25 strike to 28 strike and call from 26 strike to 30 strike. You keep doing this as long as your calls get out of the money. I had a position against SIG stock which dropped from $25 a share all the way down to $10 a share. I converted my covered call to a strangle and kept rolling higher. I was able to keep my put strike at the same strike ($13 a share) all the time while rolling my calls higher and still collect nice premiums. Again, if you decide to deploy this strategy, make sure you have enough cash in your account because adding puts means that you are accepting another obligation to buy 100 shares of the stock if the puts get in the money. However, strangles are extremely easy to roll up or down as needed, and should the stock drop down again you can roll the entire strangle down too, this time, you will collect a premium on your covered call which will help you offset the put cost. Just make sure, the entire trade is always a credit trade.

 

 · Always protect your trade against early assignment

 

When it happens and you end up having your calls deep in the money (or puts if selling strangles), you want to protect yourself against early assignments. It is not a 100% bulletproof strategy but it works most of the time. I always roll the trade 90 days to expiration and keep adjusting every time it gets to 45 – 60 days to expiration. To illustrate it better: for example, I have 10 days to expiration (DTE) covered call, the stock recovers fast and the call gets in the money. I roll it from 10 DTE to 90 DTE and higher strike. When the trade gets down to 45 – 60 DTE, I roll it again to 90 DTE and so on. This means the expiration is so far away that it is highly unlikely that anyone would assign this early. It still may happen, but the chance of it happening is low.

 

 · Hedge your call with new stock position

 

If the stock is recovering and you can’t roll your covered call higher (for example, you have a stock that doesn’t offer too many strikes and/or premiums) then you can hedge the call by buying another 100 shares. For example, you had 100 shares of a stock with a $40 cost basis, you ended up with a $20 strike price covered call and the stock is trading for $28 a share. There are no more strikes or premiums available to allow you to roll the call strike higher and away in time. Buy 100 shares of the stock at $28 a share and let those assign.

 

 · Just close it

 

If none of the ideas above are appealing to you and all if it seems like too much work and too much hassle, then the best approach would be just to close the covered call position by buying it back. You can set a stop loss (most brokers allow you to set a stop loss on a single call or put option) and let the stop loss kick you out of the trade. You can use this strategy when you want to retain the stock position. You can use this strategy to close your covered call trade after it reaches 90% of your premium, for example, you sell a call with 30 DTE for 1.00 premium, ten days later, the call is worth 0.10 only. There is no reason for waiting another 20 days to capture $10, so close the trade and move on. You do the same with loss protection, set the stop loss to close the trade when the premium is 2x received credit. For example, you collected a 1.00 premium, you close the trade when the option trades at 3.00.

 

 · Roll it for debit, but…

 

Sometimes, when the stock and the covered call is not deep in the money and not too deep below your cost basis, it makes sense to roll an in the money covered call for debit. A covered call is a ceiling (cap) to your profits, rolling this ceiling or cap higher gives you more profit potential on the stock. Thus giving up some premium still makes sense. For example, you have a stock that trades at $200 a share. You sold a $210 strike covered call. The stock jumped up to $280 a share. You check the options chain and see that you can roll your covered call from 210 to 250 for 0.30 debit. There is no doubt here, just do it. You will pay $30 dollars to roll but you gain $4000 on the stock profit. You raised your capped profit from $210 a share to $250 a share. And if the stock doesn’t drop in the next few days, you can repeat the process and raise the ceiling higher again. As long as the stock potential profit is larger than the debit you paid, it still makes sense of doing it.
 

These are all my ideas I apply to my options trading. I do not mind rolling options away in time, higher or lower, adopt additional strategies to help me to dig the option in trouble out of the hole. There is no limit to your thinking. As long, as the trades result in more credit and more income, I do it.
Options are a great tool and you can be playful when using them. Just make sure, your options are protected in some way – either by holding enough cash or have enough shares to cover the trades. Then, you can use whatever you want and options will be safe and rewarding.

Do you know about any other idea about how to trade covered calls when they get in trouble? If so, please, leave a comment below.
 




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Posted by Martin December 13, 2020
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Would you worry about valuation getting stocks for free? Yes, or no?


What if you could obtain shares of a stock you want to have in your portfolio for free? Would you worry about the valuation of that stock?

For example, when looking at the valuation of Apple (AAPL) the stock is permanently, grossly overvalued since 2019:
 

AAPL
 

And what about Coca Cola? A great stock I want to own. I always wanted to own the famous KO. But, look again at its valuation:
 

AAPL
 

Coke had a favorable valuation only in the 2008 crisis. Before, and after, it was always traded at a premium, always overvalued. If you decide to buy stocks when they are undervalued then you would never buy stocks like KO, or AAPL. You will be waiting for a better valuation of these stocks, you probably never buy. Or, you decide to give up and buy shares no matter what their valuation is.

But, what if you could buy those shares and it cost you nothing?

Trading options could help you buy shares for free. I sell puts and collect premiums. I take those premiums and reinvest in stocks I like. For example, last week, I sold an Iron Condor against SNOW… and I sold a strangle against MO:
 

AAPL
 

Both trades expired worthless and I kept the premium. I used that premium and bought shares of AT&T (T) and ICSH stocks. I bought them for free. I used money the “house” paid me. Should I be worried about valuation?




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