Options are a tool that investors can use within their portfolio in various ways. They can be used to speculate and they can be used to provide a bit of extra income (with the cost of potentially losing big gains). Mainly they are for more sophisticated investors. Form the Curious Cat Investing Glossary – Stock Options:
For example, if you own 100 shares of Cisco you could sell a covered call option giving someone the right to buy your shares at a specific price by a certain date. So, for example, they pay you $200 for the right to buy you 100 shares at $1 more than it is selling at right now anytime in the next 2 months. They might chose to do so, in order to leverage their investment as it only cost them $200 to benefit from the rise of 100 shares of Cisco. Of course, if it doesn’t go up in 2 months you benefit because you get to keep the cash and your stock.
Selling covered call options allows the investor to earn a bit of extra money but they will lose out if the stock shoots up as then the investor that bought the option can buy your shares at the agreed to price even if it now is $5 a share more. Read more on options including naked puts, naked calls…
Employees may receive options to buy company stock at a Company’s stock at a set price for several years in the future. In general, those options cannot be traded on the market (the employee must keep them or exercise them – pay the strike price to purchase the stock). Why are options such a nice perk if you must pay the strike price? Because they are often good for years and the strike price is set at today’s price (though this doesn’t have to be the case). On the whole stocks go up over time so most of the time the stock will increase in value over the years and the options to buy it at the price several years ago is very valuable. For startup companies, there is often a high likelihood of going out of business in which case the options are worthless, but if the company is successful the options can be worth a great deal.