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Investing for Income – Part One

Sometimes we need a little cash.

We usually talk about long-term investing from a growth standpoint but, in dealing with my Mom's account down in Florida and hearing what her friends had to say, it seems to me that there is a great need for people to draw incomes from their investments.  This is, of course, very dangerous – because the assumption is that people are retired and, therefore, would very much like to not lose their principal.  From talking to various investment advisers it seems to me that one can expect about 6% from a conservative account so the question is what can we find that does better than 6% but is still fairly conservative

My intention is to test-drive a virtual portfolio of $500,000 and see how it performs over time, our goal is going to be collecting $4,000 a month, nearly 10% without touching the principal and we'll see how it performs over time.  Of course we will be favoring dividend stocks but a little option selling also allows us to make our own dividends.  We'll do our best to account for margin requirements as well.  

I don't want this to be a high-touch virtual portfolio, that would not fit in well with the kind of investing we're looking at.  However, unlike building a long-term virtual portfolio early on in life, we won't be scaling in as much because – if someone just collected a $500,000 life insurance policy but needs $4,000 a month to live on, then if they wait two years to build up a virtual portfolio properly they will likely have eaten into 10% of the principal.  Of course – over-investing can cause just as much damage and I REALLY wish the market wasn't so toppy but my Dad just died and my Mom has to deal with this now and her friends have issues now – they don't all have the luxury of waiting for better market conditions.  

Back in October, we had thought the market may be toppy but we also wanted to add some bullish positions so I put up a Virtual Portfolio Titled "Defending Your Virtual Portfolio With Dividends."  I won't spend time here trying to re-sell the idea of going with dividend stocks – you can read the logic in that post and the chart on the right says it all.  Things are tricky now as we have to worry about both keeping an income flowing AND keeping up with inflation, which remains a concern.  

Also, I want to be clear about this – in no way, shape or form is it a good idea to use your savings for income unless you absolutely have to.  Over the long haul, it is STUNNING how much damage you do to your future with every dollar you pull out of even a modest growth fund.  If you have $500,000 saved up and you still have the ability to work to support yourself – it is very foolish not to do so.  After just 10 years, $500,000 invested at 6% becomes $895,000 at 10% it's $1.3M – so choosing NOT to work and earn $50,000 for 10 years costs you $800,000 at the end of those 10 years – is that smart?    

If you are 55 or even 65 – always consider the great benefit you would have by not tapping into your retirement savings early.  In case one, you are 55 with $500,000 and you draw $50,000 a year (best case, by the way) in income and any time the market dips you get less or, in a crash like 2008, you can lose half your savings and income.  When you are using your principal for income, you have nothing to reinvest in a crash.  On the other hand, if you work those 10 years to support yourself and your reinvested money makes 10% a year compounding – then you have $1.3M (best case) and, even if it's cut in half $650,000 – quite a bit better off than the early retirement would have left you.  

Of course this is general advice, I'm not a financial adviser and you need to consult one who takes your whole financial position into account – including the tax ramifications of various investments.  What we're trying to do here is explore an investment strategy that may be a good fit for people who do need to tap their nest egg.  

We are, of course, going to be revisiting some of our favorite dividend payers so consider this a continuation, somewhat, of the prior virtual portfolio but, as I said, here our primary goal is to generate an income with as little fuss as possible.  We will be looking for quarterly money, not monthly as dividends pay, usually in quarters.  Feel free to add ideas in comments under this post, after reading the trade ideas below, I'm sure you'll have some of your own…

NLY is a REIT that pays out their profits as dividends.  REITs are very scary in that they move up and down with the economy and they typically carry huge amounts of debt so you need to be very careful with them but this one pays a .62 quarterly dividend on a $17.23 stock price works out to 14% a year.  Before you sell your house and mortgage your kids to buy NLY though, keep in mind that they paid .68 in 2002, .60 in 2003, .50 in 2004 and .11 in 2005.  The dividends are PROFITS and, sometimes – there just aren't any.  

3,000 shares of NLY are $51,690 and we can risk getting called away by selling 30 2013 $12.50 calls for $4.95 ($14,850) and risk buying 1,500 more shares of the stock again by selling the 2013 $15 puts for $2.05 ($3,075).  The put selling is good in an ordinary account.  Think or swim says the net margin on the sale is $1,585 so that's a great return on margin and $3,075 is 27% of the $11,250 margin that buying 1,500 more shares would cost (at 50% pm) so this is simply a long-form method of scaling in – taking our cash in advance.  

Initial proceeds generated: $17,925.  Cash used $33,765.  Margin tied up: $30,505.  Dividends expected $13,020  Cash returned: $37,500.  Caller's premium (risk of being called away): .27.  Cash removed – None.       

See that wasn't hard, was it?  We've already got $17,925, which is more than we need for our first three months.  Now you know why I threw all those idiot financial advisers out of my Mom's house!  Now, let's talk about what can go wrong and what is misleading.   First of all, we are buying the stock for $17.23 and selling it for $12.50.  That's not very smart is it?  But we're not really buying it for $17.23, we are buying it for $17.23 LESS the $4.95 we're selling the calls for and less the $1.02 per long we are selling the puts for.  That's net $11.26.  While getting called away at $12.50 is not sexy, what we have is very good downside protection.  We're also not touching the money for now, we'll get that elsewhere.  

Unfortunately, when a company pays a big dividend, like NLY, it's very possible that you will get called away on deep calls just ahead of the dividend.  From the caller's perspective, they are paying $4.95 to keep a tab on the stock, tying up very little capital between dividends.  On dividend day, they exercise the option, hold the stock for 24 hours to collect the dividend (.62 is 12.5% if $4.95!), then sell the stock and buy more long calls to do it again.  If you have a hedge fund and you are very organized, this is a great way to play but too annoying to track here.  No, our "danger" in this set-up is that we will get called away in June ahead of dividends with "just" a .27 profit but that is still $1.08 a year on our net $12.28 entry, which is 9% so I'd rather have very good coverage to start and risk only getting 9% instead of 14%.  As the position matures, we can lighten up on the coverage but, for early entries, safer is better.  

So, aside from the danger that the stock will go down or they will not pay their dividend (or both) or that tax regulations will change to make dividend income less attractive (very possible) we have the additional "danger" of being called away with a smaller gain than expected.  That is why it is CRITICAL that you sell calls for as much as possible and the BEST thing that can happen to you is the stock goes down after you sell the calls because that will make the caller less likely to execute and take the loss.  

Getting the stock called away is not a big deal at all, you keep the $4.95 plus the caller has to give you $12.50 of cash for the stock – but then you have to rebuy the stock (if it seems worthwhile).  The nice thing about selling the puts along with the trade is that, if the stock goes up so much that it does not seem worth buying back, then logically the puts should be going well in your favor and you will make money there.  Also, typically stocks drop on dividends and, if you are lucky, you can get back in cheaper than the $17.45 cash you have to spend.  If not, the trade needs to be re-evaluated each quarter as if it's a new one.  

We also, of course, have the risk of assignment if the stock goes very low.  That we treat just like any other short put play and we either take our loss, wait it out or roll but keep in mind that the margin requirement on the short put goes up as the stock drops so we never want to over-commit on those.  These issues are a concern on every position – hopefully this gives you an idea of what I'm summarizing above.  The bottom line on this one is we lay out net $33,765 and we expect to resell the stock for $37,500 (at $12.50 or better, which is 27.5% below the current price) – a profit of 11% in 19 months.  We HOPE to collect a quarterly dividend of .62 ($1,860) although we may get called away with just a .27 profit ($810), which is still 9.5% (annualized) of $33,765.  

This stuff is not supposed to be sexy – we are going for conservative plays that hopefully outperform "regular" conservative investment strategies and leave ourselves with potential bonus upside when we can.  We do far more aggressive plays all the time in Member Chat – these are not them!  

AGNC is another REIT I like.  They don't really own buildings though.  AGNC nvests in agency pass-through securities and collateralized mortgage obligations for which the principal and interest payments are guaranteed by a U.S. Government agency or a U.S. Government sponsored entities.  I think they sold off on fears of a Government shutdown (now averted) and I'm inclined to play this one a little more aggressively.  Their quarterly dividend is $1.40 but was .30 in June of 2008 – as with everything, it works until it doesn't.    

2,000 shares of AGNC at $28.31 ($57,020), selling June $28 calls for $1.10 ($2,200) is over the current net price, of course.  Still a danger of being called away as the dividend is more than the option but perhaps we roll the caller ahead of June if the ex-dividend date comes sooner than options expiration (ah, and you thought there would not be homework!).

Initial proceeds generated: $2,200. Cash used $54,820. Margin tied up: $28,510. Dividends expected $2,800 Cash returned (if called away): $56,000. Caller's premium (risk of being called away): .79. Cash removed – $2,200.   

Now we have $100,000 worth of real estate investments.  Maybe it's time for a hedge.  There are several ways to hedge but we'll concentrate on hedging for income here.  IYR is the Dow Jones Real Estate Index and it's filled with REITs.  In fact, NLY is 3.5% of the holdings.  A way to hedge a major crash in the IYR (it fell from $60 to $20 between September and November of 2008) AND draw an income is to buy 200 Jan $50 puts for $2.20 ($44,000) and sell 100 May $57 puts for $1 ($10,000).  The plan is, of course, to sell $10,000 worth of puts 4 times to get free (almost) long puts by January.  The danger is IYT goes much higher so, at $60, we would have to sell 150 $60 puts to cover.  

These do have to be actively managed but they are delta neutral with the short puts at .35 and the long puts at .23 x 2 (.46), which means we lose net .11 per $1 per option on a move up so a rise in IYT from $58.45 to $60 will cost us approximately .17 on 200 contracts ($3,400) while a fall of $1.50 would only net us $3,400 of profits.  So not great coverage on a big move that comes soon but it gets much better over time (hopefully!).  If IYR really collapses, we have a $7 disadvantage through $50 but then we make 2x below that so break-even in a collapse is $47.50 and, below that, we pick up $2,000 per $1 drop in the index so a ride all the way back to $20 would net us about $50,000 on the hedge (and, of course, we don't expect our longs to go to zero). 

Initial proceeds generated: $10,000. Cash used $34,000. Margin tied up: $7,000 (spread on the 100 short puts). Dividends expected: N/A Cash returned (if called away): N/A. Putter's premium (risk of being called away): $2.45. Cash removed – None.

Now that we have that settled, we can look at some more basic trades aimed at generating income:

FTR is a long-time favorite of ours and a 9% dividend payer at .18 per quarter.  There's a nice buy-out possibility here so we can call it 3,000 shares at $7.99 ($23,970), selling 2013 $7.50 calls for $1 ($3,000) and the 2013 $7.50 puts for $1.30 ($3,900, margin $7,200).

Initial proceeds generated: $6,900. Cash used $17,070. Margin tied up: $19,185. Dividends expected $3,870:  Cash returned (if called away): $22,500 Caller's premium (risk of being called away): 0.50. Cash removed – $1,800.        

Why $1,800?  Because we took $2,200 from AGNC so that makes $4,000, which is our goal for one month.  In THEORY, this trade will generate a $5,430 profit when called away in Jan 2013 plus another $3,870 in dividends.  When we take the money is arbitrary, of course and our goal each quarter is to simply make sure we have plenty to work with.  I'm being a little aggressive with FTR because they MIGHT get bought out and then we collect early (although we'd miss out on the dividends).  

GLW had a nice sell-off but does face real, possible supply issues from Japan that will not affect them directly but affect the companies they, in turn supply.  So, here's a slightly complicated trade but the money is worth it so let's give it a quarter.  

  • Buy 20 2013 $25 calls for $1.65 ($3,300)
  • Sell 20 2013 $17.50 puts for $2.40 ($4,800, margin $8,500)
  • Sell 20 Aug $20 calls for $1.30 ($2,600, margin $10,000)

The trick with this play is you must BUY the stock if GLW goes over $20 (now $19.58) so $40K needs to be kept on the side.  If the stock goes down – it's a non-issue, we would net in for $15.10 off the 2013 puts less whatever profit on the call spread.  The net entry is a $4,100 credit and we can extract 1/2 of the August sale for this quarter.  

Initial proceeds generated: $4,100. Cash used $3,300. Margin tied up: $18,500. Dividends expected None: Cash returned (if called away): -$5,200 Caller's premium (risk of being called away): $1.72. Cash removed – $2,050.

That's going to be plenty for now as we've collected $6,050 after putting $142,955 of cash to work with a total margin requirement of $103,700.  With any virtual portfolio, it's good to take it out for a test drive and see how it balances before hitting the highway so we'll follow up in a couple of weeks and add some more trades and adjust these if we have to.  Meanwhile, we're sitting on $357,045 of virtual cash and about $900K of margin and that's just wasteful so let's sell a couple of puts while we wait in things we might want to buy if they go on sale.  

  • Sell 10 KO May $65 puts for .65 ($650) – net margin $11,189
  • Sell 20 INTC May $20 puts for .75 ($1,500) – net margin $3,975
  • Sell 20 PFE May $20 puts for .47 ($940) – net margin $3,632
  • Sell 10 T May $30 puts at .45 ($450) – net margin $5,422
  • Sell 10 KFT Jan $30 puts at $1.60 ($1,600) – net margin $4,654
  • Sell 10 EXC Jan 437.50 puts at $2.20 ($2,200) – net margin $5,156

That's another $7,340 collected but we won't need to use that money until they clear.  Those are just some stocks we are very happy to buy on a dip so we may as well get paid to wait.  Here's another tip for nervous put sellers.  If I sell 20 INTC $20 puts for $1,500, I'm netting into INTC at $19.25.  Yes, the obligation is to buy 20,000 shares for $38,500 but what if Intel does drop to $15 all of a sudden?  

Well they just dropped from $23.63 in April of 2010 to $17.32 in August so it is possible but lets' keep in mind that A) We REALLY want to own INTC long-term and B) We can adjust.  If we had, for example, sold the April $25 puts and the stock is now $20.02, then we owe our putter $4.98 x 2000 ($9,960) less the $1,500 we collected for $8,460.  I don't have to get assigned 2,000 shares, we can buy 1,000 shares of INTC for $20.02 ($20,200) and sell the 2013 $20 puts and calls for $5.90 ($5,900) which would be a net loss of $2,560 and, if called away at $20 in 2013, an additional loss of .02 per share ($400).  

Those are the "damages" we would have to withstand if INTC dropped 25% so fast that we could not roll the puts and got stuck with the stock.  If they do not cancel their .72 dividend, in 2 years we would recoup another $1,440.  The real loss would be having $20,020 out of circulation for two years and not working for us but, if you stick to blue chip companies you REALLY want to own when selling puts – we are not talking about outsized risks here. 

Expect part 2 in 2 weeks, I'll link them together.   As I said, we'll be going back to the old dividend list and looking for things we can still buy like JAG, for example.  Also, let's discuss new ideas down below in comments.  



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  1.  Phil:
    I seem to have talked myself into the view that there’s no additional leverage on ultra ETF spreads. For instance, a SDS Sept 20%/40% bull call spread corresponds in possible outcomes to a SPX Sept -10%/-20% bear put spread. For instance, finishing up half way through the SDS spread (30%) corresponds to finishing up half way through the SPX spread(-15%), etc.
    So you "go twice as far" in % terms with the ultra. The issue is the cost of ultra spread is 2x on a % basis, hence no additional leverage. I talked to you about this on March 31. My last entry on this was unanswered by you, probably because you were heading to FL.

  2. Phil,   I’m looking at STX, after they raised guidance and their dividend to a 5% annual rate.    The stock is 15.80, with May 17 Calls selliing for .35 (26% annualized for front-month sales).   2013 15 Puts can be sold for 3.00, providing a fair amount of downside protection.   Typically when companies initiate (or reinitiate in this case) a dividend strategy the board has considered its cash flows for at least a year or two out, so the likelihood of a dividend cut may be low.  The industry is finally reaching its final consolidation, which may support margins down the road, if not growth for the remaining players.  The only great risk I see is the trend towards SST storage, however that is still a few years away from greatly impacting the disk industry, imho.   Your thoughts?     Also, how do you analyze the trade-off between the downside coverage of selling a ITM LEAP Call vs. collecting income on front-month call sales?   Is it as simple as dividing the LEAP premium by the front-month premium to determine how many months of front-month sales to break-even on the downside coverage (with the added benefit of lower risk of being called away)?

  3. Phil: I love this idea, particularly looking at it as a long term portfolio. For me, this is of much higher value than the $25k portfolio, partly because I am running a similar income portfolio myself, but also because I think this is the true means for getting rich for most of the subscribers on your site. I know your intention is to be very safe in this portfolio (10% target, leaving principal untouched), but my experience is that using options, 20%+ should be safely achievable. My target is actually 30% annually, but I spend some upside to buy insurance when the market gives various indicators which scare me (like the overbought conditions of the last few weeks when VIX plummets).  Two of my most successful buy-writes of the last 6 months have been MRK, SVU, and CIM, all names I continue to reduce my cost basis in.

  4. neverworkagain, 
    I had posted a question to you a couple of days when you commented about your portfolio and what you are able to accomplish with low risk but I guess I missed you.
    I am trying to get away from the day trading (which I was doing as an attempt to make a 20% return on my money, to be able to live off of it). I was figuring making $5K a month following the 25K portfolio, $3-4K on Income Traders monthly cycle and $3-$4K on long term b/w’s…. But the short term trading has gone very wrong in the last 3 months (Following the 25K has proved much more of a challenge than I thought (I have missed most of the protitable trades and missed rolls or premium sales that have inflicted much pain on my positions), plus the portfolio is in itself underwater currently) and so I am looking to find a more suitable style of trading. 
    I would love to learn more about your strategy. 
    Thank you in advance!

  5. Phil, 
    Actually last year when I joined PSW I had several dividend players like some of the names you mention, (as my goal again is not trading for "gambling" of it as you seem to think, but as a way to generate income) and you actually dissuaded me from holding on to them. They were CHY ( I had bought it at 11.20 2 years ago and after you made some comments doubting how solid they were (now 13.64) I sold them for what I bought them for. I also had ALY (had bought for 16, sold for a small loss) how 17.23 which pays an astronomical 15%. Finally NZT bought at 7 and sold for .20 loss after they had gone down and later recovered, and you mentioned they were in a country with no population growth, etc… 
    All of these seem to have done extremely well during this past 2 years (and I am kicking myself for having sold them in exchange for some B/Ws that made at the most 15% on average (as some did not work and others made 20-25%) and in fact CHY would have made me over 50%! 
    What do you think about these now? You said NZT you didn’t like either because they didn’t have options to hedge. Now they do. Perhaps a good addition to the group?

  6. Phil--Love this idea—want to take out the money invested with a money manager who is only  keeping up with the market--
    would the following be good candidates

  7.   I manage my parents retirement account of around 440000.  Our target goal is 15% a year, 5000 a mounth for inome.  Initally we started off with Wells Fargo Advisors because my Dad knew the guy that opened the ofice.  It’s a terrible company.  The guy didn’t really understand covered calls, they don’t allow covered put sales and they don’t allow any of the ultra etfs.  The way we where able to be seccessful last year and a half was by going long leaps on covered calls we were selling front mounth to quarterly premium against, with an eye out for dividends (adjusting the long calls if needed).  They kicked us out of Wells Fargo Advisors last january because they didn’t like our positions (or the way they where put together). 
       I switched over to TD Ameritrade because I figured all the brokers are the same to a degree.  We can sell puts now and use the ultras to hedge. A big reason I joined PSW is  because we kept getting creamed by erratic movements with out proper balance.  The balance thing is what I am still trying to understand.   We still cant’ do complete spreads with out some kind of coverage,  but I don’t know if not being covered when you really count on that money for income is too dangerous.
      It seems that if you sell premium in quarterly to semi-annual terms with a smaller allocation to  front month you can collect income  while keeing in synce with the range of the stocks you hold.  I"m trying to match that with selling puts aginst the tza.  f the stock pays an ok dividend or it seems like it is a value play then  I buy 2/3 a position match it with an amount of deep in money options that can be ajusted and sell as much as I can aginst the position.  If someone calls you befor the dividend gets paid or the stock makes a good move, just exercise the options and rewrite or just sell the calls and move on. 
      Sorry if this is long winded and I know that I am a new member and have so much to learn, but this particular subject is what is on my mind 85% of the time.  I am glad that Phil is refocusing on this and will be watching with great intrest.  I know that I have a lot of room for improvement.

  8. Phil, 
    On the strategy to buy calls and exercise at dividend day, aren’t you bearing the cost of premium decay by holding the naked calls for 3 months, no actually worse,  aren’t you losing the entire premium you paid when you excercise (in NLY case, it would be probably .10-.15-- as the bid/ask is 4.50/5.00 and with no liquidity you are not likely to get the midpoint when you buy the option? 

  9. Phil: Excellent idea.I like the buy & forget it approach

  10. Phil, I posted this idea at the end of Friday’s chat (together with some other important stuff), but here it is again – on Friday there was an IPO of a spinoff from CVR Energy (CVI) going by ticker UAN, paying a 12 or 13% dividend.  (Was supposed to be almost 15% but the issue did better than expected and instead of $13 it’s going for $17.50.  Could be interesting, would love to know your take on it…maybe good for this portfolio?

  11. Amatta/20 % return:
    I have seen your multiple posts every day and ,if you are trying to make 20 % return ,your’e working way too hard and doing a lot of trading. I’ve learned from Phil,and keep learning every day, that you need patience to make your money grow. Phil has suggested many buy /writes that produce 20 % and I found a bunch on my own.
    For example, BMO,the 2nd largest bank in Canada  that is rock solid  and pays a 4.8 % dividend: Stock now at $66.00,sell Sept. $65 C for $3.55 and $60P for $1.75 for net $60.70= 7% return for 6 months ,14.% annualized, plus 4.8 dividend  for total return of 19.3 %. This was my initial entry and I would be very comfortable if the stock dropped to $60 and it was "put " to me at $60 for my second entry.
    If you want to open an artificial,you can do even better:
    BMY ,a solid company thats pays a 4.8 % dividend ,currently priced at $27.52,and a potential takeover candidate. I originally opened this position last Nov. at net $3.38 on a $6 spread with 2 rolls of the June $26  Puts to go,but if you opened  the position today, you would have:
    Buy BMY Jan $20 C,sell Jan. $ $26 C,Sell June $26 P for net $4.92 on the $6 spread which provides a 22 % return if stock is greater than $26. However,you have  two rolls ( I’m using 3 months each) of the June $26 C  to go for another $2.50 (estimated) which will get your net down to$2.42 for an overall return of  $3.58 on the $2.42 net which is 148 % return. If the stock dropped to $22.50 ,I would buy it by the truckload.
    By no streach of an imagination, am I an expert. Phil,and many of the other subscribers have been doing  this for a long time and they have many,many more ideas than you can handle. I just take one of their ideas,do my own research to see if I like it, and if so,open the position. Many of the recommendations I don’t use because they may not fit my needs for a variety of reasons ,but it doesn’t take long before you have a full portfolio.My biggest problem now is to just sit and wait for time to pass to collect my premiums. It’s so dam boring and I get tempted to want to close the position early and roll to higher calls ,but fortunately I run my ideas by  Phil and he keeps reminding me to not increase my risk, but to just sit an hold on to the profitable position and let the calls get close to expiration before I consider rolling them forward.  
    I’m retired and will be very happy to make 15 to 20 % on buy /writes on high quality stocks with  low risk in my portfolio.(ABT,GE,BMY,C,EPD, GE.INTC,HPQ,MRK,PNC, etc). When I want to take on more risk, I go to an artificial such as BMY above. Hope this helps. 

  12. Ultras/Chaps – The only advantage to ultras is that when they move, they move big and also the spreads over the mark tend to be tighter than similar spreads on regular ETFs (again due to the log-scaling volatility on big moves).  On SDS, for example, we can take the Jan $20/30 bull call spread for $2.15 with SDS currently at $20.83 so $5,375 gives us $25,000 worth of protection against a drop in the S&P severe enough to harm our buy/writes.  If you can do better on SPX – have at it!  If you have $100,000 worth of buy/writes and you sold $20,000 worth of puts and calls against them and you have 20% downside protection already, then you can only lose your insurance if the S&P goes up so the cost of insurance (assuming you choose not to offset it) is about 1/4 of your gains.  If the S&P is lower, especially if it’s lower enough to bother your buy/writes (10%) then we can reasonably expect SDS to be up at least 15% (assuming 30% decay) to $24 and a 20% drop would certainly give us at least $26 but likely the whole $30 because the more the S&P keeps going down the more it would pop the ultra ETF.  Anyway, you can what if this thing until the cows come home but I would suggest you do an actual experiment with side-by-side hedges and see how they perform over time. 

    Gotta go – I’ll catch up on others in the morning…

  13. One thing I do have to say though is to Amatta because I’m really getting tired of this BS from you.  How dare you say I made you sell NZT.  I went to look it up and what I actually said was in a comment where you, as usual, decided I should be your personal assistant and threw a list up for me on July 27th – to which I was kind enough to go over all your holdings with a full page response and ONE OF THEM was NZT where I said:

    • NZT – 1,500 shares at $7.15, now 7.19.  Nice 9% dividend on this one, I like that but they don’t have options so did you remember to deduct the cost of your insurance from your returns?  Don’t get me wrong, I think they are a good buy but now much of a growth story in New Zealand is there?  I assume you did your homework and they are not going to get crowed out by cell services and that they are not under margin pressure from the cable companies.  Well, of course you did because it’s one of your largest holdings. 

    Me, I haven’t got a clue what these guys are doing because they don’t have options and T does have options so I would take my $11,000 and buy 500 shares of T at $26.15 ($13,075) and sell 2012 $22.50 puts and calls for $6.50 ($3,250), which is about $10K plus $2K in margin and the dividend there over 18 months is about $3 ($1,500) and you get called away at $22.50 ($11,250) so that’s $12,750 back for a profit of $2,925 in 18 months (30%) if T can hold $22.50.  Isn’t that better than holding NZT naked and hoping to make 15% if all goes well? 

    Now for all my hard work and effort (and it turns out that was only half your list, there was a whole other page going over the other half of your holdings), you characterize that as my "making" you sell NZT for a .20 loss at $7.19, where it is now $7.74 (and on March 14th it was $6.99 anyway but you purposely ignore the fact that my actual statement was that I would prefer T at $26.15 ion a spread that is so on track for it’s 30% gain that it can already be cashed out early with T at $30.71.  Even if you had just switched from NZT to T it would have been a huge winner but you have the nerve to bitch about missing out on a .55 gain.  Do me a favor – do not take my advice.   Do not follow my trades, do not ask me for help.  You have gotten to the point where you flat out insult me and I’m sick of it.  

    Neither ALY or CHY do I have any idea what you are talking about – they are both common strings so I can’t look them up as easily as NZT.  If you want to play "woulda, coulda, shoulda" how about the September Dozen, the Dividend Plays, the Breakout Defense Plays and the Secret Santa Inflation Hedges – all official portfolios full of winners you chose to ignore so you can chase what I told you on July 27th was:

    This is not in the remotest way a conservative selection of stocks.  You are going to have wild swings on this every day and if this isn’t a pure gambling portfolio then you are going to have a lot of stress. 

    How dare you try to blame me for this.  I am very, pissed off at the moment and feeling very stupid for busting my ass to help you as it’s becoming more and more clear that you are never really going to listen and you are simply looking for someone to enable your gambling habit.  Please count me out – I will no longer play this game with you.  

  14.  Phil,
    Thanks for the excellent income strategy. Many of your observations and analysis are "spot on" so keep up the good work!
    I was recently "kicked to the curb" after 30 1/2 years working for CVX.  At 53, I am fortunate to have built up a seven figure retirement but unable to draw from it without tax ramifications until age 55.
    While already implementing some of your positions,I plan on using more of your buy/ write/ put selling strategies for income and portfolio growth and Income Traders Iron Condor strategy for month to month income while diligently managing to prevent the potential "breach" .
    I welcome any suggestions you have for a low maintenance diversified portfolio with high growth potential and defined risk.

  15. Phil
    great idea, thanx, plan to retire in couple of years, it is good to start mastering income generating strategy now

  16. Phil, great post.  These were they types of posts that got me to join PSW in the first place.  Looking forward to more of these.
    Question, How would you describe the weighting of this portfolio as far as invested vs cash.  I’m struggling to understand how the put sales act in your weighting? Thanks.

  17. Phil
    I’ve been thinking about concentrating the majority of my portfolio in dividend paying stocks that have options.  I think you pointed out once before that the options premiums are smaller for the dividend paying stocks, but it seems like a fair risk/reward trade off.  Is that a valid assumption?  I guess their not always the highest probability payoffs either since you focus on many other trades (or maybe their just too boring or you don’t have time).  They seem like the best investments for many of us here for the bulk of the portfolio.

  18.  Phil
    you don’t plan to sell any puts for AGNC?
    if we sell deep ITM calls for NLY do we realy need so big hedge? just afraid to loose our stocks to caller and be stucked with big hedge position

  19.  PHIL…
    I love this portfolio idea… GREAT concept for many that can’t always follow daily.
    What about the Oil Sands Trusts PGH, PWE, HTE, etc. ~10% annual dividend. Energy play on oil, nat gas.

  20.  Phil – Great post! Tons of great ideas! Some weekend questions, when you have time!! :-)

    VLO – i know you mention this one a ton, and i had a buy-write last year started at 16.5, which was called away! (Thanks!). You still like them at 28? Think they can ever revisit their old highs? Decent entry here, or wait?

    MGM – You like MGM? I have been thinking about highly leveraged companies in this environment. If we inflate, they will be some of the largest beneficiaries. MGM is crazy levered. And, Vegas seems to be coming back as a convention center city, and revenues have been improving. When the economy pops, i think they will too. Some LEAPS (2013) are cheap, and potentially mispriced for potential gains. I have been looking at the MGM 20 2013 calls ($1.5) or the 15 ($2.8). I would be buying a rather large position, so wanted your advice. Then, as it moves, i could sell some OTM calls to re-capture some premium. 


  21. Phil, I apologize if you took what I said in a bad way. All I was saying is that some of the issues I had before are now things you are looking at to achieve income, which has been my intention all along. I did go with T and cashed out profitably on it as it was just a play until 2011 (I asked if I should cash out early as I had achieved a large % of the max gain in little time so I did). I do follow your advise and I think it is excellent and have thanked you for it many times. 
    I am deeply frustrated but I assure you it is not towards you (I have shared with you why it is so important for me to generate the income and protect the principal). My intention here was just to point out that there were these names which might be a good addition now for the benefit of the group. 
     As I mentioned I am trying to wean out of the short term trading (just want to be able to close the 25K positions I am badly hurting on currently--USO, FAS) and focus on the longer-term and consistent income returns. 
    Again, I apologize profusely as I can understand how you could have taken my comments--it was not my intention. 

  22. Phil, for clarification, I replaced or converted into Buy-Writes and Synthetics ALL those positions I had in that list back in July with the ones you suggested (as was the example with NZT for T), and as I said I did well on on most of those, so thank you for the work you put into that-- It did not go to waste….
    My point was simply that I wished I would have known how to keep the income generating positions but hedged the way you are proposing on this new portfolio so now I know that there is a way to do so, and I continue learning. 

  23. Phil: I am enjoying this! Some real meat and potatoes here (as opposed to "frothy" desserts).  The fact that I even understand what is being written up in this post is a testament to your abilities to educate and enlighten.  A year ago my eyes would have glazed over reading this.

  24. Phil/NLY:
    Another outstanding write up . Reminds me again why I signed up with you. There is  a typo in the NLY writeup as follows:
    First of all, we are buying the stock for $17.23 and selling it for $12.50.  That’s not very smart is it?  But we’re not really buying it for $17.23, we are buying it for $17.23 LESS the $4.95 we’re selling the put for.
     I’m sure you meant to say "selling the $12.50 call" instead of "selling the put"

  25. Phil
    Great job  thanks
    Is KMP or AMLP a good choice for part 2

  26.  Phil:  Gambling habits —  I have one, actually.  I have a very low measured MAO level.  Hence the extreme sports and other high risk behavior.  I was once asked on an employment questionnaire my "strengths and weaknesses."  Taking the question seriously, I decided I had neither — that there are characteristics and contexts, nothing more.
    Hence "know thyself" is critical. An appetite for risk has served me very well — in areas in which I knew what I knew, or quite thoroughly knew what I didn’t know.  Unfortunately, I understand the basics of high risk securities trading so it doesn’t scare me enough, because I don’t equate losing money with becoming crippled or dying.  So — Amatta — I hand my investment funds off to professionals, who have very serious orders to ignore any recommendations with which they don’t thoroughly agree.
    And I keep a small gambling fund.  I get to commit any stupidities I like with it.  Historically, it has lost money. But the process of running it keeps me super informed and I have been responsible for most of the successful changes in my "real" portfolio over a long time — but only when filtered by professionals that can distinguish the signal from the noise emanating from my keyboard.   Mile Davis once criticized John Coltrane for the extravagant length of his solos.  Coltrane replied, "but Miles, I just can’t stop!!", to which Miles just growled, "take the horn out of your mouth."

  27. Phil / Anyone / MGM trade fleshed out a bit more : 
    1. Buy 2013 MGM 20 Calls for 1.50 (Current price) [200 contracts]
    2. Sell 2012 MGM 22.50 Calls for 0.25 to 0.30 (Current price is 0.25) [200 contracts]
    3. Sell 2012 MGM 12.50 Put for 1.90 to 2.0 (Current price is 1.85) [50 contracts]

    Net cost is 0.70 cents cash, and if the stock ends the year flat, the trade will be neutral to negative as my 22.50 short calls and puts would be worthless, but my long 2013 long calls would probably drop to 0.50 to 0.60 – assuming no sig change in IV. If this was the case, my thesis was wrong, and I would exit the long calls and lose about 10-20 cents per contract. Lets call this a 4k loss.

    If i get assigned, I will sell ATM calls 2013 against my stock and close the long call spread most likely. This is the worst case scenerio, if MGM drops and i get assigned, and my calls get killed and it doesnt recover. Lets call this a 10k loss (assuming i can sell some calls, and get out eventually)

    If the stock is over 22.50 this year, its a 300% gain (50k position value), and i can roll the 2012 22.50 calls out. I actually expect the stock to finish the year near $15-18 or so. This would make the 22.50 calls and 12.50 2012 puts worthless. I would the be in the 2013 20 calls for 0.70 and could sell 2013 calls against my leaps for more money, hopefully making it a free trade with significant upside. 

    Of course, if Vegas ends up recovering, and we inflate significantly over the next 2 years, then my initial 14k investment (assuming no second year sales – which i plan on) could easily surpass 100k if MGM is 25 or higher by Fall 2012. What am i missing?

  28.  MGM – one last post on this one, then i promise, i’m done! OK, so i read through most SEC filings, and their financial paperwork, and the available Quarterly trasncripts/calls. Several things stick out. 

    1. Situation in Vegas is improving. Bookings tracking well. Some competition between Aria/Bellagio hurts. Room rates stabalized and tracking flat/up. Small movements up in RevPAR will help a ton. 
    2. Insiders are accumulating and not selling significant portions. Some buying.
    3. John Paulson has been accumulating a ton (40 million) shares in the recent 12 months (9-11 dollars/share)
    4. Debt costs (12 billion) are tremendous for them, against 18 billion or so in assets. But, rates on these notes are high (9-12%). If these come down, that would help a TON. This should happen with increased stabalization of Vegas, so it could be a snowball effect on profitability. 
    5. They seemed to be VERY aggressive in marking down their assets in Vegas, and particularly CityCenter. So, small upticks in the realestate market, or Vegas, again would be magnified in earnings and the balance sheet. Example : They marked the Harmon (an unfinished hotel in the middle of CityCenter) almost down in its entirety. So, if this building ever becomes functioning space for anything, it will be a big asset thats super "cheap" as the company now treats it as a complete loss. 

    OK, i know i’m talking myself into investing in this company! Help!! :-)

  29. STX/LV –  Drive makers are interesting as the old business (PC’s, Laptops) is dying out but now they put tiny little hard drives in all sorts of things.  They haven’t paid a dividend since Feb 2009 so it’s hard to look at them as a consistent payer and their cash flow has been iffy.  Those are the reasons I wouldn’t buy them for my Mom’s portfolio but is not a reason they can’t be part of a well-diversified, more aggressive portfolio.  Your spread is good but, as you say, what will the company’s prospects be in 2013.  I say 10 years because, implicit in any stock you are selling puts in, is the possibility we go back to 2009 lows ($2.96 for STX) and are forced to ride out the position for a year or two.  From a risk perspective – it’s about how harmed you will be by a 9/11-type event or waking up tomorrow to a Euro collapse that pops the Dollar 5% and sends the market down 10% before the bell.  Shorter-term sales give you less protection – that’s the bottom line, they also have higher deltas and, of course, less time to recover.  

    If STX drops 33% to $10 and I sold the 2013 $15 puts and calls for $6.25, I can expect (given the price of the $20s) to have the calls drop to about $1.30 and the puts rise to $6.30 so my initial $9.59/12.30 entry really wouldn’t change other than I am more likely to be assigned.  If the dividend is intact, I have no pressure to do anything and no need for new capital.  If, however, I had been "clever" and sold the 2013 $15 puts for $3 and the May $17 calls for .35, I’d be in for net $12.49/13.75 and I would be faced with having to cover with a new call at a strike that is quite a bit lower than I’m willing to be called away.  That risk is not really acceptable for a retirement account where no new money is coming in.  Of course you have risk with any stock – even blue chips – but when a stock is as volatile as STX, it’s a bit much for people who need to live off this income.  

    10%/Never – Thanks.  I hope people don’t get hung up on the 10%.  Obviously, we hope to do much better but when we’re planning on an income to support ourselves, we’ve BETTER be VERY CONSERVATIVE!  Also, there WILL be losses – it would be insane to set up a portfolio with a bunch of 20% targeted trades and assume that, over the next 5 years, they will all just keep winning.   If you set up an account with unrealistic expectations, you are very likely to be disappointed and, since we’re talking retirement income and disappointment can be crippling – I will error VERY FAR on the side of caution.  This portfolio is the polar opposite of the $25KP, which is meant to be gambling money as a small part of a much larger portfolio that is conservatively invested.  You are right about the insurance too – I EXPECT to lose money buying insurance over time and that’s going to lower the percentage too.  Right now, at this early stage, our cash is our insurance but that will change over time and we’ll have to tighten up our balance to keep things steady over time.  Thanks for reminding me SVU is still cheap and, as we expected, beginning to recover.  

    List/Savi – All will be considered in next round.  PFE, SO and RDS.B all very nice.  CIG I think had their run and NRGY is a great suggestion once we see if their model is impacted by the sharply rising costs so let’s check out earnings.  

    Wells Fargo/Joel – Actually, not allowing ultra ETFs isn’t a bad idea for most traders!  One issue I had with the financial guys I talked to is everything was "tax-free" this or "tax-effecient" that and I said to them "what taxes are we trying to avoid here?"  My Dad is dead, my mom is over 70 and gets her $1,700 SS check and is paying a $300K mortgage – her tax bill is really not my top worry!   I think these guys only know one song and that’s fine for people PLANNING to retire with long-term tax issues but people who ARE retired have a very different financial picture.  It makes NO sense not to be able to enter long-term positions with short put sales.  What is the damage?  My Mom can buy PFE now for $20.46 and cover it with a 2013 $20 call for $20.35 and be in for net $18.11 or she can sell the Sept $19 put for .80 and be in for $18.20 except the margin is only net $2.60 per share to make .80 vs tying up $18.11 ($9 margin) for 2 years to make .80 per year in dividend.  The stock makes another $1.89 if called away at $20 but at $18 makes zero and ties up all the cash anyway.   The current state of financial advice given to seniors is, in my humble opinion – MADNESS!  

    Balance is a very tricky thing to learn and we’ll be going through that in this portfolio as we have to test our portfolio over time.  As we get more full of positions, then we will likely use ultra-spreads for balance.  That’s pretty simple though – if you have $100K invested and sold $20,000 worth of puts and calls (net $80,000) that will make you $20,000 if the S&P stays flat (assuming your stocks are in-line with the index) then you make your 10% on a 10% drop and it’s really just a matter of protecting a 10-30% drop so $5,000 that can go up 5x on a 20% or more drop that times out with your buy/writes means that if the S&P is flat or up you make $20K and lose $5K and if the S&P is down 10% you maybe make $10K on the longs and break even on the cover and if the S&P is down more than 10%, you begin to gain serious ground on the short side and you’ll still manage 5-10% – even on a 30% drop.  

    Past 30% – these are not magic beans – you lose money if the market goes down historically.  That’s why cash on the side is always critical and another reason I say we aim to earn 10% on the full amount – because we may make 20% on the amount in play but no way would I put $500,000 of $500,000 in play in this market environment (and I have felt that way since 9/11 as it was the 2nd time in 2 years that portfolios had taken 30% hits – any long-term "safety" in the markets we thought we had was just an illusion from a prolonged lucky streak in the 80s and 90s).

    Also, another thing I’ve noticed with my Mom is that her biggest expense is the mortgage but if I take $150,000 to pay off half the $300K mortgage, she can then do a reverse mortgage and kill her payments of  $1,700 a month so that’s $20,400 back of $150,000 (13.6%) without having to mess around with stocks at all.  There are, of course, tax ramifications and then it depends on if she is really going to stay in the house that long, etc. but it’s something I’m considering and another thing these linear-thinking financial guys didn’t even consider.  Generally they say, oh you don’t have the equity for a reverse mortgage and then tell you you should give them $500,000 and they can get you about $3K a month and $1,700 of it will pay the mortgage so MORE THAN $250K of the money goes to the mortgage anyway.  Madness….

    Dividend/Amatta – Yes you are but why are you even thinking about the part that I said "this is what hedge fund managers do"?  They have relatively infinite money and portfolio margin and they have other hedges at work and they are, very much unlike you, THRILLED to make 5% on a quick trade.  So the answer is they lost the premium but the premium is less than the dividend and they only do it on stocks and at times when they anticipate they will come out ahead on the overall exchange.  When you have $1Bn liquid in an account like many funds do, you have whole rooms full of guys who spend all day looking for ways to roll that money through a transaction quickly to make half a percent in a day if you can – it adds up!  

    CVI/Jercon – Spin offs are very dangerous animals because you don’t know who got the better end of the deal.  SPWRA was spun off of CY in 2008 and that went well and CMG was spun out from MCD but you really need to study the deal very closely and the structure of the new company to see who got the good people, the good leases, the good customers, the good contracts, the cash, the debt, etc….  With no track record, there is not a chance in hell I would touch them.  If UAN goes back to $15, let me know as they may be worth a look but if you missed a 34% pop already – that’s really not value buying for a retirement account, is it?  

    Good trades and a good list Chaps, thanks.  

    Good challenge/L4 – As I said above, at your age, getting another job and letting that retirement portfolio grow for 10 more years may not change the rest of your life but it may change your children and grandchildren’s lives down the road – worth considering in an uncertain economy.  My Dad was very good at getting consulting gigs to pay the bills, even in his 70s and it kept him engaged in his industry (polymers, which he loved) and gave him excuses to travel the world.  Retirement doesn’t have to be an all or nothing game…  Income Trader’s stuff is great and we have long-term buy/write ideas that are a bit more aggressive all the time in Member Chat – the trick is to be patient because every year there’s a BP or an MEE or PFE or BA that falls out of favor for a time (see INTC and CSCO recently, in fact) that give you fantastic entry opportunities on positions that will serve you well for the next 20 years or until the next irresistible sale comes along.  

    Thanks Tcha!

    Weighting/JMM – Thanks, I think you want to be, over time, mostly invested with things that have very low basis and pay nice dividends.  That means, early on, we try to look for opportunities to buy things on sale.  So, to begin, I want to collect my $4,000 a month tying up as little cash as possible while I wait PATIENTLY for a good opportunity.  Selling puts in stocks you REALLY would want to buy IF they get cheaper is a FANTASTIC way to make money while you wait, right?  I’m not all excited to commit $40,920 to 2,000 shares of PFE but if they want to sell it to me for $19.53 each, I’ll take it.  So we sell the May $20 puts for .47 and get paid $940 (2.4% of our potential $39,060 commitment) while we wait.  

    This approach to entering trades is great over time but it is possible that we get burned and the market crashes and everything we short is put to us at once and we begin our positions underwater.  That’s a big risk to selling short puts but, once we get away clean for 6 months, we’ve cushioned our portfolio by 10% and in 12 months it’s 20% so yes, you have to be lucky (or not unlucky) but, over the course of 10 years, in theory, you will have sold enough puts to pay for ALL of your short plays being put to you.  As long as that black swan doesn’t pop up more than once in 10 years – you’ll be fine!  

    Never take these risks lightly – we all just went through a black swan event that devastated retirement portfolios but it hit the "conservative" portfolios almost as badly as the slightly riskier ones and had you been making 10% a year for the past 20 years instead of 8%, then the dip in the market would not have been as big of a deal (relative to the lower position).  I got suggestions from a dozen different financial professionals and they all have bond funds, ETFs, Stocks, munis and REITs.  

    There are great reasons if you have plenty of money to just play it safe with these funds with the majority of your capital but, as I said above – $500K in 10 years is $1.3M so if you have $2M and that’s good for $150K a year conservatively, then maybe you do want to go with $1.5K conservatively and learn to live on "just" $115K a year while using the other $500K to hopefully add 50% for the next 10 years.  

  30.  Henry Kaufman on the renaissance of too big to fail; quite good.

  31. Phil — thanks for the excellent article.  I always appreciate your "what to do with margin sitting around" ideas.
    Speaking of excess cash…hundreds of safes are washing up on the shores of Japan, filled with hoarded cash.

  32. Phil—would it make sense to do these income trades in an IRA even if the sold puts have to backed by 100% cash? I am assuming it is not for the IRA.
    And just a comment--I have been with PSW for about 10 months and have been on the receiving end of all the great trades, teachings and comments from you and all the other members and really have not given back much at all— you saying that NRGY was a good suggestion made me smile and think maybe I will get there at some point.
    Just some musings— Tx for listening -(:

  33. Phil,
    Thanks for the ideas on the retirement portfolio; exactly what I was looking for in setting up my account for monthly income.
    On another issue, the Pimco  group going short on Treasuries; from this I gather they are expecting interest rates to rise dramatically and bond prices to fall. Then I presume that stocks will take a big hit too. What am I missing in my understanding of the ZH article?   

  34.  Phil
    Thanks for the great list. I found the 25KP hard to follow and much prefer this type of positions. One question in term of timing – the market looks like it could be close to a top and with QE3 now in question, is it a good time to initiate a long term portfolio? Thanks!

  35. Japan  - Fukushima updates:   It looks like the fuel pool next to nuclear reactor  Unit #3, is gone — blown into the atmosphere in the explosion, fuel probably landing with 1 mile radius.. Unit #2 has had a meltdown and is going in and out of criticality. Unit #4′s nuclear fuel was offloaded for refueling when the earthquake/tsunami hit, none of it was in containment, so it heated up very quickly. There is still a lack of power to circulate the quantities of water needed.
    Bottom line risk is fuel melting into the ground until it contacts groundwater, causing an explosion that will mobilize the fissile material into a wider radius.  Tokyo, with 40M people, is 250 km / 150 miles from the reactors.  

  36.  Japan:  As of Jan 2011, Japan owned $885 Billion of U.S. Treasury Bonds.

  37. Good morning!  

    Silver hit $42 overnight, a great short off that line in futures!  

    Dollar was plopping along the 75 line but this is ridiculous.  The assumption is, of course, that things are so great in Europe and Japan that the the Buck is a bad bet?  

    Concentration/Seer – Yes, as you can see from the above chart (and there’s a bigger discussion in the original Dividend post) dividend-paying stocks historically outperform non-dividend stocks by a wide margin.  If you can afford the risk, you cover at the money long-term and assume growth.  

    Look to enter stocks when they are at a good strike like BMY (4.8% dividend) at $27.50 is a sweet spot for selling.  The 2013 $27.50 puts and calls are $6.50 for net $21/24.25.  That’s a fairly aggressive entry as you can easily get forced to buy another round.  You can decrease your risk by dropping your coverage to the $25 calls at $3.70, still $1.20 in Premium but drops your net to $19.75/23.63 but still the stock is put to you at $27.50 and we can skip right ahead to the least aggressive combo and sell the $22.50 calls for $5.50 and the $22.50 puts for $1.75 for net $20.25/21.38.  

    With the lower sale, you are relying on the dividend but there’s still a $2.25 profit (10%) if called away at $22.50, which is 18% BELOW the current price.  So the stock can drop 18% and you get your full 10% payout PLUS the $1.32 annual dividend over what would now be 7 0.33 periods for $2.31, or ANOTHER 10% of your low net.  So the stock drops 18% and you STILL make 10% a year – BRILLIANT!  

    When the $20,250 cash you put into this trade is some percentage of your life savings that you have to live off for the rest of you life – you’d BETTER choose the more conservative play.  The more invested you are (less % cash) the more conservative your selections should be because you can’t afford to double down if the stocks are put to you in bulk.  In a growth-oriented portfolio, however, if you are early in your scale or if you are still earning money to add to your account, you can afford to take the risk of the $21/24.25 sale with the $27.50 call away.  You risk getting assigned at $2.87 more than the $22.50 combo so figure you are taking on 10% more risk but, if BMY is over $27.50 (flat) in Jan 2013, you net the same $2.31 dividend plus another $6.50 for a 42% return.  That’s double and again, the issue here is you are risking a 10% loss for a 20% gain – that’s smart if you can REALLY afford the risk!

    When you are still working, you have plenty of time to recover from a loss and move on and you’re not relying on that 10% a year to pay your bills so it’s fine to potentially take a hit and recover over time.  If, however, you NEED that 10% a year to live on – then a hit to your portfolio (which can STILL happen, don’t forget – we’re only making it LESS likely with more conservative entries) can be devastating because not only do you NOT make your 10% a year but you lose whatever too.

    Say you lose 10% and don’t make 10% a year – what happens to the position?  Effectively you lose 30% because you needed the 10% per year to live so you end up cannibalizing your losing position and now you only have 70% of the money left and you still can’t afford to be aggressive in the next cycle so, effectively, you have reduced your income potential by 30%.  This is the VERY REAL downside to using stocks vs. bonds but, of course, these days it’s hard to trust the bonds too!  THAT’S why, in this type of portfolio, we usually stick to the most conservative entries… 

    Also, Seer, when we talk about option premiums sucking, that’s more so for REITs and trusts that pay out very high premiums.  As you can see above, BMY premiums are not too bad.

    AGNC/Tcha – No, we don’t REALLY want to own $100,000 worth of it do we?  That’s a quarterly trade as they are, unlike BMY, not in a good spot for call selling.  Should they get into a better spot to sell a long call ($25 or $30) where we can pick up more than $1.40 of premium, then we might want to risk something but, for now, we wait and see how it performs in the next quarter.  10 years ago, I would have thought nothing was safer than having 20% of the portfolio in REITs but, these days, it’s hard to get that comfortable.  As to NLY – if you get called away and you don’t plan on getting back in then no, you don’t need the hedge and you can sell it but unless the laws change or commercial real estate falls completely out of favor, I think 10% dividend-paying REITs will remain a good bit of the portfolio.  

    Oil sands/Itrade – Normally I love them but oil is so high and may crash back so a poor time to enter.  When oil was $50 in the crash, the trusts were my favorites but now they are up 3x so I’d rather wait for them to crash again.  

    VLO/Hannah – Same as the oil sands, too high.  Everything is expensive right now so we PATIENTLY wait for things to go on sale.  If you are aggressively investing, you can buy VLO but also plan on buying more at $17.50  because, over time, they will be as volatile as oil prices.  MGM is way too scary for a retirement account as well.  Las Vegas is a total disaster and MGM doesn’t have Macau to fall back on like LVS and WYNN – they put all their chips in their City Center project, and the company is carrying $14.5Bn in debt on a $6.5Bn market cap with negative profits and negative cash flow.  If you are a big believer in Las Vegas making a comeback then maybe something like the 2013 $10/15 bull call spread at $2.30, selling the May $14 calls for .45 – 5 of those sales and you have a free spread.  Instead of starting off with a large position, you can start off with a half position and keep selling the short-term calls.  Once you make 3 successful sales you can add more longs if you want and – if they suddenly take off on you, you can always DD on the long calls and roll the callers up to 2x whatever so lots of room to adjust and this way, instead of buying in at nets over $20 and paying a ton of premium, you are buying in at net $12.30 and selling premium and you have $2.70 of upside at just $15 – BRILLIANT!  

    OK Amatta, let’s try it again.  Hopefully you are reading the above and understand why ALY is NOT a good addition for people to follow with a retirement portfolio, nor is a stock that cannot be hedged with options.  

    Meat/Kinki – I’m very glad you feel you are learning!  As I do say to people, this is a profession – as much so as being a lawyer, a CEO or a doctor and you don’t walk in on day one and chair a murder trial or a board meeting, nor do you attempt open heart surgery on your first day.  Yet the same people who worked their whole lives to learn another profession and would be insulted that someone thought they could just march in and do it on day one think nothing of opening a trading account and then trying to trade like a veteran on their first day.  On the whole, I fault the education system for teaching people virtually nothing about investing, although it’s something, theoretically, that most Americans will do in their lives.  

  38. Thanks Dflam, clarified now.  

    KMP/QC – That’s a long-time favorite of ours.  Sage and I had that as a top dividend pick back in early 2007.  I don’t know about AMLP (not enough track record) but if KMP goes on sale, I’m always interested.  

    MAO/ZZ – I think you can take estrogen for that.  8)  Good points and a good strategy, gambling is not investing and keeping the accounts (and the mentality) separate is a very good idea.  

    MGM/Hanna – It’s a fun, aggressive trade but I like my boring one better.  A lot of your premise is based on projected improving conditions bumping the stock more than 50% so why not wait for the stock to hit $15 on ACTUAL improving conditions before getting all foamy at the mouth aggressive?  As to Paulson – you never know what motivates these guys.  Remember when Kerkorian buying into GM "proved" it was a bargain?  That was before they took down tens of Billions of Dollar worth of value from suckers who followed him (he got out with a gain by being first and selling to all the suckers who followed).  What’s 40M shares to John Paulson? $520M?  He’s up about 25% if he dumps now – what’s your cushion?  

    Safes/Esco – That’s interesting as Japan is certainly the biggest mattress-stuffing population on Earth.  I wonder how long it will be before their money is radioactive?  

    IRA/Savi – If you are not using the margin for anything else, what’s the difference?  As I noted above, it’s 2.4% PER MONTH on the money – that sure beats letting it sit around gathering dust as long as you REALLY intend to purchase the stock if it goes on sale.  Thanks, I am glad you are learning and getting confident enough to contribute trade ideas.  We all have great life experiences to bring to the table and, of course, we all read many different things – this community works best when more people contribute and I always appreciate hearing other ideas.  

    Treasuries/Jasu – Thanks.  While falling treasuries are almost a given, that doesn’t mean stocks will fall.  Money goes out of TBills and has to go somewhere and the stock market is 1/3 the size of the bond market.  Also, rising rates leads to inflation and stocks are a dollar-based asset that rise with inflation.  There are negatives like corporate borrowing costs (which is why stocks like MGM with debt to value ratios of 200% should make you very nervous) but inflation is the proverbial rising tide that can lift all ships. 

    Timing/Yshen – It may be a terrible time to enter – that’s why we’re just 20% invested above.  If the market drops 25% and we get a little burned, it’s still an opportunity to go heavy in the positions we really like (given the new situation).  If the market doesn’t drop 25% – at least we’re covering our nut with a base we can build off.  

    Japan/ZZ – They just widened the school closings to 30Km (50% more) but still way under the US-recommended 50Km zone.  WSJ has a good status report on the reactors that is updated regularly:  
    See Reactor Status:



  39. I guess #2 could be worse and thank goodness for #s 5 & 6 or this thing would be a total disaster, right?  

  40. Phil,
    I am new to this, own NLY and would like to make the additional income. Why not sell the Jan 2012 options as they are priced about the same as the 2013 options. Will this make you twice the money over the same time frame? I know I am missing something.

  41. Phil, i think you mention both IYR and IYT, but I am assuming IYT is a typo.   Please confirm.

  42.  -check out the US Dividend Champions spreadsheet