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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

Generating Income with Cash-Secured Puts


Cash in hands

In recent years, options trading has gained traction among everyday investors thanks to its enhanced accessibility and practicality. Among the various options strategies employed, selling cash-secured puts stands out as a method for investors to generate income while potentially acquiring stocks at a desired price. This strategy involves an investor setting aside sufficient cash to purchase shares of the underlying stock and then selling put options on that stock. The investor collects a premium from the sale of the put option, which gives the buyer the right to sell the stock at a specified price within a certain time frame. If the stock price remains above the strike price by the expiration date, the option expires worthless, and the investor keeps the premium received when the sale of the option occured. However, if the stock price falls below the strike price, the investor is obligated to purchase the stock at the strike price.


Employing cash-secured puts as an options strategy offers several benefits and drawbacks. One advantage is the opportunity to generate income by leveraging available cash reserves through premiums obtained from selling put options. This approach also provides a method to acquire stocks at a potentially lower price, which can be advantageous if the investor believes in the long-term value of the stock. However, downsides include the risk of having to purchase the stock at the strike price if the market price falls significantly below it, which can lead to substantial losses. Additionally, the strategy requires a significant amount of cash to be set aside which limits liquidity. Lastly, it's crucial to consider the opportunity cost of selling cash-secured puts. If the stock price rises significantly, you keep the premium from the put option sale but miss out on the potentially larger capital gains you would have earned if you had bought the stock directly instead of selling the option.


With this background in mind, let's delve deeper into this potentially lucrative strategy by examining a real-life example. Gavin McMaster, an author for Investors Business Daily, recently provided an example to illustrate a cash-secured put scenario involving Walmart (WMT). He wrote, “The goal is to either have the put expire worthless and keep the premium, or to be assigned and acquire the stock below the current price. It's important that anyone selling puts understands that they may be assigned 100 shares at the strike price. Let's assume we're happy to buy 100 shares of Walmart at a price of 65 any time between now and Aug. 16. Selling an Aug. 16, 65-strike put would generate around $140 in premium. The put seller would have the obligation to purchase 100 shares of Walmart at 65 if called upon to do so by the put buyer. The break-even price for the trade can be calculated by taking the strike price less the premium received. In this case, it's a break-even price of 63.60.” 


McMaster highlights several crucial factors in his example. First, each option contract controls 100 shares of the stock. Therefore, if Walmart's stock price falls below the $65 strike price, you would be obligated to purchase 100 shares at that price, amounting to a total of $6,500. This is the amount you would need to keep on the sidelines, ready to deploy if called upon. Additionally, he notes that the breakeven price is $63.60 when accounting for the $140 premium collected from selling the put. This means that if the stock is anywhere above $63.60 at the August 16 expiration, the trade is profitable. For example, if the stock ends at $64 and the buyer exercises the option, you would be obligated to buy 100 shares at $65, totaling $6,500. When you subtract the $140 in premiums you received, it’s essentially like spending $6,360, meaning you earned $40 on the trade. If the stock ends anywhere above the strike price, in this case $65, you keep the entire premium and move on to your next trade.


The two main risks are if the stock drops significantly below the strike price or if it rises so much that you miss out on potential capital gains. For instance, if Walmart stock closed at $60 per share on August 16, you would be required to purchase 100 shares at $65, resulting in a loss of $360. While this might initially seem unfavorable, if you believe in the long-term prospects of the company and are comfortable holding the stock at $65, this can align with your long-term investing strategy. Conversely, if the stock closed well above the $65 strike price on August 16, you still collected your $140 premium, but you missed out on potential additional capital gains that could have come from just simply buying the stock origionally. This example demonstrates the intricacies of the cash secured put strategy. 


In conclusion, cash-secured puts offer a compelling strategy for investors looking to generate additional income while positioning themselves to acquire stocks at desired prices. By selling put options, investors can leverage their available cash reserves to collect premiums and potentially buy stocks at a discount. While this strategy has its risks, including the possibility of having to purchase stocks during a market downturn, it provides a structured approach to generate income and buying stocks at a desired price. Investors should carefully consider their financial goals, market outlook, and risk tolerance when employing cash-secured puts to ensure this strategy aligns with their investment objectives.

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