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The Difference Between Stock and Option Trading

Todays Date: October 17, 2018

Let’s discuss the complexities of options and how they differ from trading stocks. First of all stocks are simply one-dimensional trading vehicles, the dimension of “price movement.” For example, one can go long a stock if he/she is forecasting a rise in the price of the underlying asset. The stock trader doesn’t need to worry about time or changes in volatility affecting the outcome of his trade. The stock trader only needs to focus on the asset’s price movements.

So those are the basics about stocks, but what about trading options? Options are like trading 3 dimensional vehicles…direction, time and volatility. Let’s look at a real-trading example to clarify the difference in the trading world:

What if Google moves up 25% in 2 years? Well, those stock owners would have just made 25% by holding on to their investment all that time. However, if an option trader held on to his Call options for 2 years, most likely there would be very little if any gain on the trade.

We know why the stock holder made money, but why would the option buyer lose money? Everyone thinks there is leverage in options, and it’s true, but in this case, the leverage didn’t work out for 2 reasons. One, the asset took too long to move, so the option time value decayed. Secondly, the asset moved up, causing its volatility level to fall, and this also helped the option price to move down.

This is why we need to be educated in order to trade options. Simply buying Calls and Puts makes option trading very difficult because of the elements of time and volatility. Remember, options are three-dimensional vehicles, and if we don’t understand how to manage these 3 complexities, we shouldn’t trade them. After we understand options more in depth, these investment vehicles can make money in any type of market. Options are very adaptable and allow investors to be very creative once the understanding is there.

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