Pro Tips: Trading on the Road

Anyone who has followed me here or on other social media sites knows that I am a part-time trader with a day job. On the upside, my day job allows me to work from home much of the time so monitoring trades is certainly easier than being at an office. On the downside, I travel quite a bit. I’m generally on a plane somewhere about twice a month. Sometimes simple day trips, other times across the ocean. So I’ve had to adapt my trading style to allow me to keep trading while I’m on the road. Of course, you can limit how much you put on if you know you’re going to be away from things but I don’t always get a ton of notice on my trips and even if I don’t put anything new on, I may have existing trades that I’d rather not exit early. So this post is about the things I’ve learned over the past few years to trade on the road. I think it will help not only road warriors, but also people who have a life and don’t want to sit in front of a screen all day. Trading is great, but so is life so we traders should be able to handle life while the market is open.

Tip 1: Trade Longer Durations

Really short term trades (which I would define as expiring in 14 days or less) can be a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn’t like to make money quickly, right? But here’s the catch: as options get closer to expiration, delta and gamma can get really significant which means you need to be ready to respond to price movements very quickly if your underlying moves against your position. In my videos I’ve said many times how I like to avoid “Gamma Week” (i.e. the week of expiration) because the price movement risk generally isn’t worth the theta reward. Now compound this with travelling and being away from the screen and you can get into trouble quickly and your trade can blow up before you get a chance to do anything which can lead to bad losses. That’s why I tend to position my trades no less than about 21 days out and regularly go 45-60 days out for many of them. This helps keep my delta and gamma under control (in exchange for less theta at the start of the trade) and gives me more time to react. Does this protect me against all big, fast moves? No. There are no guarantees in this business, I get paid to take risk after all. But if I can’t do something for an hour or two, I have a much better chance to take action when my price risk is lower.

Tip 2: Set Alerts

When I’, away from my main trading station, I may not be in a position to check the market as much as I would normally. I’m probably away for a reason whether it’s driving, flying, a client meeting, and constantly checking the market isn’t always possible or even the right thing to do. So before I head out (sometimes even the night before), I take some time to examine my positions and find the price levels where I would want to take action. Of course, I will always have a closing order at my broker to take off my position if it hits my target, but I want to be alerted if my underlying hits a point where I would consider an adjustment. Any decent trading platform has a feature where it can send you an alert if certain market conditions are met. At a minimum, I can be alerted if an underlying hits or breaks certain price levels. Some platforms allow clients be alerted if certain options in their positions break certain greek level (e.g. the delta of option X goes higher than 8). So I decide those levels up-front and set alerts on my phone to buzz me we’re getting close to a point where I’d like to adjust. I can’t always act on it immediately, but it’s nice to know if it’s even an issue so I can figure out when to pay more attention to my positions and take some action. Which leads to….

Tip 3: Pre-stage Adjustments

When I’m away from my home office, it’s not always possible to fire up my laptop and make an adjustment. But building spreads on a phone app isn’t the easiest thing to do even with good platforms if, for no other reason, the screen real estate is limited. So along with my alert that a position may need attention, I will pre-stage an adjustment in my platform to make it easier to execute it on my phone. Since I always have a plan for each trade before I put it on, I know what I want to do if my underlying reaches a certain level. The simplest case is to close the position. In that case, since I already have an order at my broker to close, it’s simply a matter of changing my limit order (ALWAYS use limit orders), to a price that can be executed. However, in the case where I want to adjust, I will pre-stage my adjustment at my broker but set an unrealistic price so that it will never be executed. For example, let’s say my adjustment is to buy a spread, and let’s say that spread currently has a mid-price of $9. I will put in an order to buy the spread at $3. There is very little chance that spread price will ever be filled which is exactly what I want. So, as in the first case, I can simply change my limit order to a realistic price that can be filled at that time. That way it is possible to get my desired adjustment on even with the simplified interface of a phone app. And this is something that could be done during a “bathroom break” or some other similar moments that happen throughout the day.

Tip 4: Leveraging the Cloud

There are times when I can’t be near my trading station but it’s not circumstances make it tough to trade on the road. Ever tried to trade with flaky airplane internet? It’s not pretty. Another airplane problem is that you can’t use your laptop during takeoff and landing…but you can use a tablet. But, if you’ve watched my videos in addition to my trading platform I use a modeling software as well and the one I use only runs on Windows: not an ideal platform for my iPad. My solution for this is to leverage the cloud, namely, Amazon Web Services (aws.amazon.com). There are others out there and if you prefer them, that’s fine but the concept is the same. I have found that I can run a Windows machine in Amazon capable of sustaining my trading platform and modeling software for about $.032 an hour (yes, that’s 3.2 US cents an hour). Doing this gives me a couple of advantages.

First, I can run access this Windows machine from just about any platform by using MicroSoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Clients are available for just about everything out there including tablets, as well as non-Windows computers. This gives me a full Windows experience with all of the software tools I have at home (other than screen size) at a really affordable price since I only pay for the time I actually use it and I shut it down when I’m done for the day and I pay nothing while it’s shut down. So a big AWS bill for me for a month would be $6-7. It’s usually less.

But second and, perhaps, more importantly it helps with the low bandwidth/flaky internet problem because all of the connections to my broker are going over Amazon’s network which is pretty stable and fast. And the only traffic coming over the airplane internet is the stream of the screen and the keyboard/mouse inputs from my device which has very low demands in comparison. So by doing this, I’ve been able to not only adjust but to initiate new trades over the Atlantic on airplane internet on my iPad. This is very convenient and the price is quite reasonable. This may not be for everyone, but I think it may help some folks out there with similar issues. If you’re interested in how to set this up, I’ve included a link to a video below which I will also upload to my BitChute channel.

Download the Trading on the Road Video // Stream the video on BitChute

Anyway, I hope some of these tips help traders out there who, for whatever reason, can’t sit in front of a screen all day. If you have any questions/comments about this, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Or if you have other cool ideas, feel free to share them.

— Midway

Comparing Directional Plays

A lot of folks like to use options because of the leverage and lower costs vs buying and selling shares of stock, especially on high-priced stocks and indices. While I usually use options to trade non-directional strategies that rely on time decay rather than price movement, there are times when it’s fun to get a little directional. Sometimes (like right now), it’s tough to be non-directional because the market is moving all over the place and price movement makes it tough and not worth the risk. So, I thought I’d compare a few strategies for directional trading. The first few you’ve probably seen before, and one that you may not have seen but I think is really interesting.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to be bearish on Tesla. No particular reason, this is just an example, not trading advise. I actually have no real opinion on Tesla, but it’s a high-priced stock (around $235/share) so it makes for a good example. Of course shorting the stock is very risky and expensive because while a stock can only got $0, there’s no theoretical limit to how high it goes so shorting is a dangerous and expensive game, IMHO. However, I fully believe that retail traders can use long PUTs to go short on a stock without the undefined risk. Since you are in a long or covered position, your risk is defined and so you know how much you can lose and your broker won’t ask for you first born in margin. It’s one of the cool things about options.

Strategy 1: But Long Puts

This is the simplest strategy and probably one that most folks who know anything about options would understand. So if I’m bearish on TSLA, I could buy a put at-the-money (10 days out) for about $665 (plus commissions, of course). Not bad for a $235 stock. And way less than what your broker would want you to put up to short 100 shares of TSLA. Your total risk is what you paid for the put (so $665/contract) and you can scale your up to whatever level at which your are comfortable. The trade looks like this:

Buying a single $235 put 10 days out

In this trade, my break even is if TSLA hits $223.35 since I need to cover the cost of the put. And because we are only 10 days from expiration, I’ll need it to move soon as I’m losing about $30/day in time decay and this will increase a bit each day. I could always go out further in time to allow it more time to work, but I’ll pay more. For example, at 31 days to expiration that same put would cost $1208 which means TSLA needs to get below $222.83 (similar) but I’m only losing $18/day to start to time decay since I have more time.

Buying a single $235 put 31 days out

You could go further up or down in price and time and the number would change, but you get the idea. This is a very simple strategy that is bearish on TSLA but gives you limited risk. Nothing wrong with it, but what if we could do it cheaper?

Strategy 2: Put Vertical Spread

So one way to reduce our risk and still be bearish on TSLA is instead of just buying a put, also sell a lower cost put against it. This does a couple of things for us. It reduces the risk since we are getting a credit for selling something, and it reduces our time decay (and can even get time to work for us). So to keep it consistent to start, let’s do a 5-point vertical spread buying the same $235 put 10 days out, but also selling a $230 put against it.

Buying a 10-day put vertical ($235/$230)

Look at what happened. First, we have reduced our total risk to $205 plus commissions per spread. That’s a 70% discount to just buying the put. And on top of that at the start of the trade, time is working for us instead of against us as we’ll make $.40/day to start and if TSLA goes down that will increase significantly.

Now, there’s no free lunch so what have we given up by doing this? The big thing we give up is because we sold a put along, we cap our maximum upside to $293. That’s about 140% of the risk where if you look at the long put, it can make a lot more if TSLA goes down hard. With the vertical, even if TSLA went to $0, the most we’ll make is $293. That’t still a really good gain and I’d probably get out before it ever got there, but it is a limit so if you’re shooting for the moon, you may not like this strategy. However, I like the idea of the reduced risk if we’re wrong and the initial positive theta which means we aren’t losing money to time decay (unless TSLA goes up). And, of course, our commissions will be a higher since we are trading more options so keep that in mind.

But what if we could make this even cheaper?

Strategy 3: Directional Butterflies

Here’s a strategy you may not have seen before, and it may not be to your liking, but I really like it for certain situations. It’s a bit more complex but it’s REALLY cheap. It’s called a directional butterfly. What’s a butterfly? Well, if you’ve never seen a butterfly before, check out my Options Fundamental Series, particularly my episode on Butterflies. But, in short, a butterfly is 2 vertical spreads with the same short strike. So a single butterfly will typically follow a 1-2-1 pattern which you’ll see below. In this example, I’m going to keep the same vertical spread I did above, but add a second vertical even lower to reduce the cost even more.

Buying a TSLA directional butterfly. Buying 1 put at $235, selling 2 puts at $230, and buying 1 put at $225

Wow! I put on this trade for $55 plus commissions! That is the most I can lose. And I have even more positive theta so at the start of the trade I’m making $2.67/day. Too good to be true? Again, what am I giving up? In this case, if TSLA goes way down, I can lose money again. I have some risk on the downside as well as the upside. So TSLA has to go down, but not down too far too quickly. And because this trade has 4 contracts, my commissions will be even higher than the vertical. I can scale this up by adding more butterflies, but watch the commissions as it’s 4 contracts per fly. On the plus side if TSLA only moves to around my short strikes ($230), I can make quite a bit more than the vertical. I get that in exchange for having risk on the downside as well. I can tweak this around by moving the fly up or down for more or less money as well as adjusting the width of the “wings” (say 10 points instead of 5). Here’s an example of the same fly starting at $235, but with 10 point wings:

A 10-point directional fly

As you can see, the profitable area of my fly (the “tent”) is wider, but my cost is $182.50 rather than $52. So I get more room and higher starting theta, but I’m paying up for it. But $182.50 is still better than the put and the vertical with respect to risk.

Conclusion

So, what’s the best way to do this? There isn’t a best way. All three strategies have pluses and minuses. Risk vs reward, time decay, and area of profitability are all factors in choosing a strategy. The point of this post isn’t to sell one strategy over another, but rather to show that in the world of options, there are multiple ways to do things and the more tools you have at your disposal, the more you can decide what kind of trade works for you.

Any questions or comments? What kind of directional plays do you like? I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment here or reach out to me on Gab @MidwayGab or on my BitChute channel MidwayTrades. I’d love to talk about what people are doing or even try to explain some concepts if that helps. I’m always learning as well so let’s talk options!