1. 25 Investments: Introduction
  2. 25 Investments: American Depository Receipt (ADR)
  3. 25 Investments: Annuity
  4. 25 Investments: Art and Collectibles
  5. 25 Investments: Bonds
  6. 25 Investments: Cash
  7. 25 Investments: Closed-End Investment Fund
  8. 25 Investments: Common Stock
  9. 25 Investments: Convertible Bonds
  10. 25 Investments: Corporate Bond
  11. 25 Investments: Futures Contract
  12. 25 Investments: Life Insurance
  13. 25 Investments: The Money Market
  14. 25 Investments: Mortgage-Backed Securities
  15. 25 Investments: Municipal Bonds
  16. 25 Investments: Mutual Funds
  17. 25 Investments: Options (Stocks)
  18. 25 Investments: Exchange-Traded Funds
  19. 25 Investments: Preferred Stock
  20. 25 Investments: Private Equity
  21. 25 Investments: Real Estate & Property
  22. 25 Investments: Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
  23. 25 Investments: U.S. Treasury Securities
  24. 25 Investments: Unit Investment Trusts (UITs)
  25. 25 Investments: Venture Capital
  26. 25 Investments: Zero-Coupon Securities
  27. 25 Investments: Conclusion

Options represent an agreement between a buyer and seller that provides the owner the right, but not obligation to buy/sell an underlying asset at a set price for a set period (or duration ) of time. The essence of an option is it lets an investor leverage the financial return (gain OR loss) for a much smaller upfront investment. The risk is an option can expire worthless and subject an investor to huge upside and downside. It is also known as a derivative security because its performance is derived from an underlying security (such as a stock).

There are two basic types of options: calls and puts.

A call gives the holder the right to buy an asset (usually stocks) at a certain price within a specific period of time. Buyers of calls hope that the stock will increase substantially before the option expires, so they can then buy and quickly resell the amount of stock specified in the contract, or merely be paid the difference in the stock price when they go to exercise the option.

A put gives the holder the right to sell an asset (usually stocks) at a certain price within a specific period of time. Puts are very similar to having a short position on a stock. Buyers of puts are betting that the price of the stock will fall before the option expires, thus enabling them to sell it at a price higher than its current market value and reap an instant profit.

The exercise or strike price of the option is what the stock price must pass (for calls) or go below (for puts) before options can be exercised for a profit. All of this must occur before the maturity date, also known as the expiration date. It should be noted that an option gives the holder the right, not the obligation, to do something. The holder is not required to exercise if he/she does not want to or if the terms are not favorable.

Objectives and Risks

There are a nearly unlimited number of ways for investors to utilize option contracts to both hedge investment risk and speculate for return. A significant difference from futures contracts, which oblige a future transaction to occur between a buyer and seller, is that an option holder only has the right to buy or sell during the contracted term and agreed upon price.

How To Buy or Sell It

Options trade very similarly to stocks and can be purchased through just about any discount or full-service broker. To trade options, you need to be approved by the brokerage first. They will typically ask questions to determine if you have enough knowledge or experience before they will approve you. Options are usually bought through a margin account, or borrowed money. (For a more in-depth look at options, see our Options Basics Tutorial.)

Strengths

Leveraged exposure

The option to both hedge and speculate

Relatively liquid options for liquid underlying securities

Weaknesses

Leveraged downside

Generally short-term strategies and high short-term taxes

Many very complicated strategies

Key Considerations

Liquidity: High

Historical Returns: Depends!

Inflation Protection: Medium (not really a goal of options)


25 Investments: Exchange-Traded Funds
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