Option trading levels risk management


Buying the calls means you stand to gain if the underlying stock goes up in value, but you would lose some or all of the money spent to buy them if the price of the stock failed to go up. By writing calls on the same stock you would be able to control some of the initial costs and therefore reduce the maximum amount of money you could lose. All options trading strategies involve the use of spreads, and these spreads represent a very useful way to manage risk.

You can use them to reduce the upfront costs of entering a position and to minimize how much money you stand to lose, as with the bull call spread example given above. This means that you potentially reduce the profits you would make, but it reduces the overall risk.

Spreads can also be used to reduce the risks involved when entering a short position. For example, if you wrote in the money puts on a stock then you would receive an upfront payment for writing those options, but you would be exposed to potential losses if the stock declined in value.

If you also bought cheaper out of money puts, then you would have to spend some of your upfront payment, but you would cap any potential losses that a decline in the stock would cause. This particular type of spread is known as a bull put spread. As you can see from both these examples, it's possible to enter positions where you still stand to gain if the price moves the right way for you, but you can strictly limit any losses you might incur if the price moves against you.

This is why spreads are so widely used by options traders; they are excellent devices for risk management. There is a large range of spreads that can be used to take advantage of pretty much any market condition.

In our section on Options Trading Strategies , we have provided a list of all options spreads and details on how and when they can be used.

You may want to refer to this section when you are planning your options trades. Diversification is a risk management technique that is typically used by investors that are building a portfolio of stocks by using a buy and hold strategy. The basic principle of diversification for such investors is that spreading investments over different companies and sectors creates a balanced portfolio rather than having too much money tied up in one particular company or sector.

A diversified portfolio is generally considered to be less exposed to risk than a portfolio that is made up largely of one specific type of investment. When it comes to options, diversification isn't important in quite the same way; however it does still have its uses and you can actually diversify in a number of different ways. You can diversify by using a selection of different strategies, by trading options that are based on a range of underlying securities, and by trading different types of options.

Essentially, the idea of using diversification is that you stand to make profits in a number of ways and you aren't entirely reliant on one particular outcome for all your trades to be successful.

A relatively simple way to manage risk is to utilize the range of different orders that you can place. In addition to the four main order types that you use to open and close positions, there are a number of additional orders that you can place, and many of these can help you with risk management.

For example, a typical market order will be filled at the best available price at the time of execution. This is a perfectly normal way to buy and sell options, but in a volatile market your order may end up getting filled at a price that is higher or lower than you need it to be. By using limit orders, where you can set minimum and maximum prices at which your order can be filled, you can avoid buying or selling at less favorable prices. There are also orders that you can use to automate exiting a position: By using orders such as the limit stop order, the market stop order, or the trailing stop order, you can easily control at what point you exit a position.

This will help you avoid scenarios where you miss out on profits through holding on to a position for too long, or incur big losses by not closing out on a bad position quickly enough. By using options orders appropriately, you can limit the risk you are exposed to on each and every trade you make. Managing your money is inextricably linked to managing risk and both are equally important.

The single best way to manage your money is to use a fairly simple concept known as position sizing. Position sizing is basically deciding how much of your capital you want to use to enter any particular position. In order to effectively use position sizing, you need to consider how much to invest in each individual trade in terms of a percentage of your overall investment capital. Signing up with a broker is a necessary step you must take before you can actually begin trading options, and doing so isn't always particularly straightforward.

For one thing, deciding which one is right for you can be tough because of the huge range of them that exist. Once you have selected an appropriate options broker for your requirements, you then will typically have to go through a fairly lengthy approval process before your account will be opened and ready to use.

You have to go through this process so that your broker can carry out a risk assessment and decide what trading level, or approval level, you should be assigned.

Trading options isn't as simple as just signing up with a broker and then making whatever trades you want; the risks involved in certain trades and strategies means that brokers have to be responsible and only allow individuals to make trades that are suitable for them. For example, a complete beginner with a small amount of starting capital wouldn't be allowed to start using complex strategies with unlimited risk exposure.

Trading levels are essentially how brokers control the level of risk that their customers, and themselves, are exposed to. On this page we explain these levels in more detail, covering the following:.

The purpose of trading levels, also known as approval levels, is essentially to provide a form of protection to both the broker and the customer. Options brokers are regulated and have a duty to look out for the best interests of their customers, which gives them a form of obligation to ensure that their customers only take risks in which they have sufficient experience and funds for.

It isn't entirely uncommon for investors and traders to employ high risk strategies when they don't really know what they are doing and don't have the necessary capital. If things go horribly wrong the broker is potentially liable, so they assess their customers and assign them trading levels so that they can only ever carry out transactions which are commensurate with their experience and their funding. By doing this, both the customer and the broker are protected from excessive exposure to risk.

When you sign up with an options broker, you will usually have to provide detailed information about your finances and previous investments that you have made. You will typically be asked a series of questions that will help the broker understand your level of knowledge and risk tolerance. Your application will then be reviewed by the compliance department and they will determine what trading level you should be assigned based on the information you have provided.

In some cases, you may be required to provide verification of certain aspects of your application. Essentially, brokers concern themselves with two main factors when assigning you your initial trading level: Experienced investors that can demonstrate they have a solid knowledge of options trading will usually be assigned a higher level because there is an assumption that they know what they are doing.

Those with a high net worth or a large amount of starting capital will also tend to be given a high trading level too. Most options brokers assign trading levels from 1 to 5; with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. A trader with a low trading level will be fairly limited in the strategies they can use, while one with the highest will be able to make pretty much whatever trade they want.

In the same way that brokers all have their own methods for assigning trading levels, they also usually have slightly different ways of classifying trading strategies. Because of this, there isn't a definitive list of what strategies each trading level allows at every broker; this is something that you must find out directly from your options broker. We can, however, provide a rough idea of what you can usually do at each level. With a trading level of 1, you'll probably only be able to buy and write options where you have a corresponding position in the underlying security.

For example, if you owned stock in Company X then you would be able to place a buy to open order for put options on Company X stock.