Stocks Riskier Than Options?

Can options actually be safer than stocks? How can stocks actually be riskier than options?

Yes, option trading can be risky and you can lose all your money in option trading. We have discussed all the reasons why option trading can lead to a catastrophic loss of trading capital in Option Trading Risks. However, option trading can also be safer than stock trading and stock trading can be riskier than option trading!

As we all know by now, "risk" in the stock market sense simply means the probability of a loss of trading capital. Here, we will explore the scenarios in which stock trading can result in a higher probability of loss (higher risk) than option trading.

Why Stocks Riskier Than Options : Leverage
Shouldn't the higher leverage of stock options make it riskier than stocks? Yes, if you abuse leverage and no if you use leverage the way it should. Remember, stock options allows the option trader to control the same amount of stock at only a fraction of the price of the stock. This means that in option trading, you risk a much lesser amount of money for the same quantity of the underlying stock, dramatically reducing option trading risk!

Example : Assuming QQQQ trading at $43.57 and its Jan $43 Call costs $1.63.
You could buy 100 shares of QQQQ for $4357.00 or you could spend only $163 on its Jan $43 Call and also control the profits on 100 shares of QQQQ. While the most you can lose on the QQQQ shares is the whole $4357.00, the most you can lose on the call options is only $163.00.

OppiE's Note Leverage becomes dangerous when you abuse it by putting the whole $4357.00 into the call options! That's the biggest mistakes most make in option trading.

Why Stocks Riskier Than Options : Short Selling
The only way a stock trader can profit from a downwards move is by "Short Selling". Short selling is selling in advanced stocks that you do not own. What this exposes the trader to is an unlimited amount of loss should the stock rally all of a sudden, running the short seller into margin problems. In option trading, you could simply buy put options to profit from the same drop but yet limiting losses to only the price of the put options!

Example : Assuming QQQQ trading at $43.57 and its Jan $43 put costs $0.70.
A stock trader shorts 100 shares of QQQQ and the option trader buys 1 contract of Jan $43 Put for $70.
If QQQQ rallies to $50, the stock trader loses $643 but the option trader loses only $70.

Why Stocks Riskier Than Options : Single Directional
In stock trading, you either make money when the stock goes up or down (when you short sell) but NEVER in both directions at the same time. In option trading, there are option strategies which profits from BOTH up or down moves, up or stagnant moves, down or stagnant moves and even when the stock remains totally stagnant! The more directions you can profit from, the higher the probability of win and therefore the lower the risk.

OppiE's Note The most popular strategy in option trading to profit from both an up and down move is a Long Straddle.

Why Stocks Riskier Than Options : No Hedge
Hedging is the practise of reducing risk by taking one market position to offset the risk in another. In stock trading, the only way to hedge your position against risk is to manage and diversify your portfolio. In option trading, you not only can manage and diversify your portfolio, you can also hedge options with options and even hedge stocks with options! Read about How To Hedge Now.

OppiE's Note The most popular strategy in option trading used to hedge stocks is a Long Put Option.

Why Stocks Riskier Than Options : Conclusion
As you can see, stock options, being a more advanced financial instrument than stocks itself has a lot more safety possbilities in it, making option trading safer than simply trading stocks. However, anything good can be abused and abusing the leverage effects of stock options has led to the popular myth that option trading is extremely risky. Just as crossing streets can be life threatening if one don't obey traffic rules, option trading can be extremely dangerous if one don't obey the rules of leverage. However, when leverage is respected and used properly, option trading can indeed be a lot safer than stocks.

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