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How to Pick a Good Covered Call

September 6, 2016

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Last update: August 2021

Philosophy of the Covered Call

The Covered Call is a cash flow strategy that includes buying an equity in increments of 100 shares and selling call options against the underlying equity position for 1 contract for every 100 shares owned. Liquidity is an important factor, the options should carry enough liquidity for the trader to be able to buy back calls sold, sell new calls when needed and get in and out of the position as needed. Covered calls can be used in trading accounts, investing accounts and any account that is looking for cash flow as a core component of its performance.

Position Size Rule: Covered Calls can be as small as a trader can trade and up to 10% of your portfolio. The larger the portfolio, the smaller the per position size is recommended. The smaller the portfolio, the Covered Call may need to increase in size but should not exceed 10%

Construction of the Covered Call

Building a Covered Call requires 2 actions:

  1. Buying a stock
  2. Selling a call

The stock should be bullish or neutral, and generally fit the traders’ overall investment objectives. Stability, consistency and credit are important factors to consider. Many traders prefer stocks that pay dividends, but it is not a mandatory component. To build the covered call you need to buy the stock in increments of 100 shares. This can be done individually or it can be done simultaneously with the selling of the call option.

Selling the call requires the trader to select the expiration and strike price of the option. For consistency, use the following guidelines:

Theta Rule (Days Till Expiration – DTE)

28-60 days. For cash flow, 28 days is better; for a trader looking for less management, 60 days is better.

Delta Rule (Strike Price)

Use the call closest to 40 delta. For example, if you have a strike with a delta of .38 and .46 you would use the .38. Traders who are trying to maximize cash flow would use a delta rule with the highest extrinsic value.

Management of the Covered Call

If the stock moves up

The call option will increase in value and eventually need to be bought back (potentially for more $ than the original credit) and rolled to a new call. If the value of your call ever loses its extrinsic value to where that extrinsic value represents less than 1% of the underlying price, then roll the option.

If the stock moves sideways

the call options value will decrease over time. Once the value of the extrinsic value of the call is less than 1% of the stock’s price, roll the call option to a new strike and expiration.

If the stock moves down

The value of the call option will drop, and once its value is less than 1% of the price of the stock, roll the option to a new strike and expiration.

If the stock becomes bearish

Consider either selling the stock and taking your loss as an investor, or buying a put option in the same expiration as the call you’ve sold to protect the downside risk. Buy a put only as a protective measure during short term drops in price and/or market or sector risk that is driving the stock lower. You can buy the put manually, or use a conditional trigger at a specific stock price that represents where you want to protect.

If the stock has earnings or a corporate event that has risk

Buy a protective put in the same expiration with the same delta as the call you’ve sold. Use a risk graph to analyze your potential gain or loss from the earnings gap.

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One Reply to “How to Pick a Good Covered Call”

  1. KEITHGIUNTA says:

    Great tutorial..thanks Tim.

Comments are closed.

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