Selling a cash-secured put is an options strategy that some traders utilize to help generate income, but it involves certain risks.

Using Cash-Secured Puts to Help Generate Income

Cash-secured puts can be used to produce income (through the premium received) or to possibly purchase the underlying security at a lower cost basis than the current market price.

When you sell short or write a cash-secured put, you must have enough money in your account to cover the potential purchase of the underlying security. You receive a premium from the buyer, but the option may be assigned, meaning you would be required to buy the underlying stock at the option strike price. The cash reserve must remain in your account until the option position is closed or the option is assigned.

Selling short (or writing) a cash-secured put is considered a neutral to bullish strategy. If your objective is to profit solely from the premium, you would likely have a bullish outlook for the length of the option's life. If your objective is to acquire the underlying security you would likely have a longer-term bullish view.

What happens if the option is in the money at expiration?

If the put option is 1 penny ($0.01) or more in the money (meaning the market price is lower than the strike price) at expiration, the option will likely be assigned and you will be obligated to buy the underlying security at the put option's strike price.

What happens if the option is out of the money at expiration?

If the put option expires out of the money (meaning the market price is higher than the put strike price), the option expires worthless and your obligation to buy the underlying security expires as well. You will retain the premium.

How to Calculate Max Profit, Break-Even and Max Loss

The maximum profit from a cash-secured put is the premium received, minus commissions and fees. The break-even point is the strike price less the option premium received, or the price at which you would start to incur a loss. The maximum loss assumes you would purchase the underlying security and its price falls to zero. The loss would be partially offset by the premium.

Example:

Profit and Loss Graph

The blue line represents the profit or loss of a stock-only position, and assumes you buy the stock at $100 per share. The yellow  line represents the profit or loss of a short put position.
This illustration is hypothetical and does not reflect actual investment results or guarantee future results.
 

Important Considerations

The following factors will influence an option's premium and should be considered when implementing an option strategy.

  • Volatility: Periods of higher-than-normal volatility tend to cause option premiums to rise. Periods of lower-than-normal volatility tend to cause option premiums to decline.
  • Time Decay: The value of an option declines to its intrinsic value as it approaches expiration. The rate of decline increases as the option gets closer to expiration. Time decay can benefit the seller of an option and be a detriment to the buyer.
  • Delta: Delta helps measure the amount that an option's price could change relative to a one-point move in the underlying security's price. Out-of-the-money options tend to capture less of a price move than in-the-money options.
  • Assignment: Assignment happens when the owner of the put option exercises his right to sell the underlying security at the option's strike price. Assignment can happen at any time with an American-style option, but is unlikely if the option is out-of-the-money or still has time value built into the option's premium. A European-style option can only be exercised/assigned at expiration.
 
The information and content provided is for informational and/or educational purposes only. The information presented or discussed is not, and should not be considered, a recommendation or an offer of, or solicitation of an offer by, Scottrade or its affiliates to buy, sell or hold any security or other financial product, or an endorsement or affirmation of any specific investment strategy. You are fully responsible for your investment decisions. Your choice to engage in a particular investment or investment strategy should be based solely on your own research and evaluation of the risks involved, your financial circumstances, and your investment objectives. Scottrade, Inc. and its affiliates are not offering or providing, and will not offer or provide, any advice, opinion or recommendation of the suitability, value or profitability of any particular investment or investment strategy.
 
Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. Detailed information on our policies and the risks associated with options can be found in Scottrade's Options Application and Agreement, Brokerage Account Agreement, and by downloading the “Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options” booklet. You can also order a copy of the booklet by phone at 1-888-OPTIONS or obtain a copy at a Scottrade branch office. Supporting documentation for any claims will be supplied upon request. 
 

Examples used will not show the deduction, or inclusion, of commissions and other costs that may significantly affect the performance of the given strategy. They do not take into consideration tax consequences or fees with minimal impact on a given strategy. An investor should understand the impact of transaction costs, margin fees and requirements, and tax considerations before entering into any options strategy. Consult with your tax advisor for information on how taxes may affect the outcome of these strategies. Keep in mind profit will be reduced or loss worsened, as applicable, by the deduction of commissions and fees.

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