Options as Hedges

This article outlines the fundamentals of hedging, including its advantages and disadvantages, essential terms such as break-even points, strike prices, and premiums, and provides examples of how hedging can be applied. The aim is to offer insights into hedging as a tool for stabilizing expected returns and managing investment risk.

Here are the key takeaways covered:

  • Risk Management: Hedging offsets potential losses through strategic positions, crucial in volatile markets.
  • Stability: Utilizes options and futures to mitigate risk, vital for portfolio stability.
  • Wide Usage: Reduces uncertainty, stabilizing returns across various market participants.
  • Pros of Hedging: Manages risk, allows market gains, offers flexibility, and cost-efficiency.
  • Cons of Hedging: Complexity, cost, imperfect protection, and capped gains.
  • Pros of Closing: Simple risk reduction, no further costs, and liberates capital.
  • Cons of Closing: Realizes losses, misses recoveries, market timing risk, and possible fees.
  • Break Even: Guides option strategy with the cost-offset point.
  • Strike and Expiry: Essential for effective hedging, balancing protection and cost.
  • Premium: The cost crucial for hedging strategy cost-benefit analysis.
  • Protective Puts: Details hedging a large stock position with put options.
  • Cost vs. Size: Emphasizes cost consideration relative to position size.
  • Strategy Adjustments: Introduces put debit spreads and covered calls for varied protection.
  • Strategy Alignment: Aligns hedging with goals, tolerance, and market conditions.
  • Option Advantages: Unmatched in flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and risk management.
  • Portfolio Hedging: Covers using index options, beta hedging, and ETF puts for comprehensive protection.

Concept of Hedging and Its Importance

Hedging is a risk management strategy employed by investors to protect their investments from adverse price movements. Essentially, it involves taking an investment position intended to offset potential losses that may be incurred by another investment.

The importance of hedging in managing investment risk cannot be overstated; it provides a safety net that can help stabilize an investment portfolio during volatile market conditions. By using instruments like options, futures, or diversifying across uncorrelated assets, investors can mitigate the risk of significant losses, ensuring that their financial goals remain within reach despite the unpredictable nature of the markets.

Hedging is widely used across different financial markets and by a variety of market participants, including individual investors, portfolio managers, and corporations. The ultimate goal is to reduce uncertainty and stabilize the expected returns of investments over time, making it a critical element in risk management strategies.

If you have a position, and you are worried about a move against you – you can only close out of the position or put on a hedge.

To Hedge or Not to Hedge:



  1. Risk Management: Hedging allows investors to remain invested in the market while managing the risk of adverse price movements, helping to protect against potential losses.
  2. Potential for Profits: Investors can still profit from favorable price movements of their original positions while a hedge is in place, unlike closing a position, which eliminates this possibility.
  3. Flexibility: Hedging strategies can be adjusted as market conditions change, offering flexibility to respond to new information or analysis.
  4. Cost Efficiency: In some cases, especially with options, the cost of setting up a hedge can be lower than the potential losses from an adverse move in the market.


  1. Complexity: Effective hedging requires understanding various financial instruments and strategies, which can be complex and time-consuming to manage.
  2. Costs: There are costs associated with setting up hedges, such as premiums for options, which could reduce overall profitability.
  3. Imperfect Protection: Hedges may not perfectly offset losses in the hedged asset due to factors like basis risk or timing mismatches.
  4. Potential for Limited Gains: Depending on the hedging strategy, the upside potential of the original position might be capped or reduced.

Closing the Position


  1. Simplicity: Closing a position is straightforward and eliminates exposure to further losses from that investment.
  2. Immediate Risk Reduction: It offers an immediate end to exposure on the position, effectively limiting losses at the point of sale.
  3. No Additional Costs: Once a position is closed, there are no further costs or premiums to pay, unlike maintaining a hedge.
  4. Liquidity: Closing a position frees up capital that can be reallocated to other investments or kept as cash for liquidity purposes.


  1. Loss Realization: Closing a position, especially at a loss, locks in those losses with no opportunity to recover if the market reverses favorably.
  2. Opportunity Cost: Investors miss out on any potential upside if the market improves after the position is closed.
  3. Market Timing Risks: Successfully managing risk through closing positions relies on accurate market timing, which is notoriously difficult to achieve consistently.
  4. Transaction Costs: While there are no ongoing costs, the act of closing a position may incur transaction fees, which can add up if frequently buying and selling.

In summary, hedging is a sophisticated strategy for managing investment risk without forgoing potential gains, suitable for investors who wish to stay invested and are willing to manage complexity and bear the costs.

Closing a position is a definitive way to eliminate risk from a specific investment but comes with the trade-off of potential opportunity loss and the realization of any existing gains/losses or tax consequences.

Option Hedging Terms to Know

Break Even

In the context of hedging with options, the break-even point is a critical metric that represents the price level the underlying asset must reach for the hedging strategy to start generating a net return, after accounting for the costs associated with the options. Specifically, for a call option, the break-even point is calculated by adding the premium paid for the option to the strike price. For a put option, it’s determined by subtracting the premium from the strike price. This concept is essential for investors to understand because it highlights the threshold at which the protective measures of the hedge effectively neutralize the initial investment cost in the option’s premium. In practical terms, reaching the break-even point means that the hedging strategy has successfully offset the cost of the hedge itself, making any further favorable movement in the asset’s price a buffer against losses or a potential profit zone. It’s a critical assessment tool, guiding investors in their decisions about when and how to implement options for risk management purposes.

Strike Price

In the context of hedging with options, the strike price is a fundamental concept that refers to the predetermined price at which the holder of an option can buy (in the case of a call option) or sell (in the case of a put option) the underlying asset. This price is crucial for determining the effectiveness of a hedging strategy, as it sets the level at which protection against adverse price movements kicks in. When selecting a strike price for a hedging option, investors aim to balance cost with the level of risk protection desired. For example, a strike price close to the current market price may offer more immediate protection but at a higher premium cost, while a strike price further from the market price could be less expensive but also provide less immediate risk coverage.

Expiration Date

The expiration date of an option is the date on which the option contract becomes void and the right to exercise it no longer exists. This date is critical in the planning and execution of hedging strategies, as it defines the time frame over which the investor is protected against price fluctuations in the underlying asset. Hedging strategies often involve the selection of an expiration date that aligns with the anticipated period of risk exposure. For instance, an investor expecting short-term volatility might choose options with nearer expiration dates for hedging, whereas long-term hedges might involve options that expire months or even years in the future, providing prolonged risk management.


The premium in options trading is the price paid by the buyer to the seller (or writer) of the option for the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the underlying asset at the agreed strike price. In the sphere of hedging, the premium represents the cost of insurance against adverse movements in the price of the underlying asset. It’s a critical factor in the cost-benefit analysis of implementing a hedging strategy. The premium amount is influenced by various factors, including the strike price relative to the current market price, the expiration date, and the volatility of the underlying asset. Investors must weigh the cost of the premium against the potential financial impact of unmitigated market risk, considering it an investment in portfolio stability and risk management.

An Example Hedge:

Let’s say an investor owns 10,000 shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL), and they’re concerned about potential downside risk over the next 90 days due to upcoming earnings reports or macroeconomic uncertainties. To hedge against a potential decline in Apple’s stock price, the investor decides to build a put position as a form of insurance. Here’s how this could be structured:

  1. Current Stock Price: Assume Apple’s current stock price is $150 per share.
  2. Position Size: $150*10,000 = $1,500,000
  3. Selecting the Put Options: The investor looks for put options with an expiration date at least 90 days away to provide coverage over the concerned period. They decide on put options with a strike price of $145, offering protection if Apple’s stock drops below this level. The premium for these options is $5 per share.
  4. Purchasing the Puts: To cover all 10,000 shares owned, the investor buys 100 put options contracts (since each contract covers 100 shares). The total cost for these options (the premium) would be: Total Premium Cost=100 contracts×100 shares per contract×$5 per share=$50,000.
  5. Outcome if Apple’s Stock Price Declines: If Apple’s stock price were to drop to $130 by the expiration date, the investor can exercise the put options to sell their shares at the strike price of $145, despite the market price being $130. This effectively limits the investor’s loss to the difference between the stock’s original price ($150), the strike price ($145), and the cost of the put premium ($5), rather than the full market price decline.
  6. Break-Even Point: The break-even point for this hedging strategy, not accounting for any transaction fees or taxes, would be at an Apple stock price of: Break-Even for a Put Contract: Stock Price=Strike Price+Premium Paid=$145-$5=$140.
  7. Conclusions:
    1. Spending $5 per share in premium for a 145 strike put contract, covers the investor from losses below the underlying stock price of $145.
    2. The price of this insurance is about 2.5% of the position value $50,000/$1,500,000
    3. Because premium was paid on the insurance, the “insurance was useful” for any price below $140 (the break even price).
    4. Keep in mind you do not have to hold to expiration – the investor may close the position after a few days or weeks – recapturing a portion of the premium when the option is sold.

Some Variations:

  1. Put Debit Spread: You could buy the 145 strike, and sell the 130 strike. That would protect the position if apple fell to 130, but not beyond it. Instead of $0-$145 prices being protected, you only get $130-$145.
    1. You would pay far les premium for far less protection.
    2. Your breakevens would need to be adjusted depending on the total premium paid.
  • Covered calls: Selling call options on owned stocks to generate income and protect against a potential downturn.
    1. Ownership of the Underlying Asset: The investor must own the asset that the call options are written against, ensuring the calls are “covered.” This mitigates the risk of having to purchase the asset at a potentially higher market price if the call options are exercised.
    2. Selling Call Options: The investor sells call options on the asset they own, usually in lots of 100 shares per contract. The call options give the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to purchase the underlying asset at a specified strike price within a certain period.
    3. Income Generation: The primary goal of writing covered calls is to generate income from the option premiums paid by the buyers of the call options. This income can help offset potential losses in the underlying asset or add to the overall returns of the investment.
    4. Risk and Limitation on Gains: While covered calls can provide income and some downside protection, they also cap the upside potential of the underlying asset. If the asset’s price rises above the strike price of the call options, the seller may be obligated to sell the asset at the strike price, missing out on further gains.
  • Collars: Combining protective puts and covered calls to limit potential losses within a specific range. A standard collar strategy involves:
    1. Owning the underlying asset (e.g., shares of a company).
    2. Buying put options for the asset to protect against a drop in price.
    3. Selling call options on the same asset to offset the cost of the put options and agree to sell the asset if it reaches a certain price level, thereby capping the upside potential.
    The goal of a collar strategy is to reduce the risk of losses in a holding, often at the expense of limiting potential gains. It’s a conservative strategy, used by investors who seek to protect their positions against significant volatility or downturns while being willing to sacrifice some upside potential in exchange for this protection.

How do You Hedge a Short Position with Options?

What if you were short -10,000 share of AAPL? You would buy a call and the same process and math applies – but with everything “reversed” using calls as opposed to puts.

What to Consider Before Putting a Hedge On

Before deciding on the extent of the hedge to implement, several factors should be considered to ensure the hedging strategy aligns with your investment goals and risk tolerance. These considerations include:

  1. Investment Objectives: Understand your primary goal for hedging. Whether it’s to protect capital, manage volatility, or insure against a specific risk, your objective will shape the type and extent of the hedge.
  2. Risk Tolerance: Assess your willingness and ability to bear risk. A more risk-averse investor may opt for a more comprehensive hedge, whereas those with a higher risk tolerance might accept greater exposure for potential higher returns.
  3. Cost of Hedging: The costs associated with implementing a hedge, such as premiums for options, can impact overall investment returns. Evaluating these costs against the potential benefits of hedging is crucial.
  4. Market Conditions: Current and expected market conditions can influence hedging decisions. In volatile markets, a stronger hedge might be desirable, while in stable conditions, a minimal hedge could suffice.
  5. Time Horizon: Your investment time horizon plays a significant role. Short-term investors might focus on immediate risks, whereas long-term investors may employ different hedging strategies that consider longer-term market cycles.
  6. Liquidity Needs: Consider your liquidity requirements. Hedging strategies that tie up capital or involve assets that are difficult to liquidate quickly might not be suitable for investors needing ready access to their funds.
  7. Portfolio Composition: The diversity and composition of your portfolio can impact your hedging needs. A well-diversified portfolio may already have inherent risk management characteristics, reducing the need for extensive hedging.
  8. Correlation and Coverage Ratio: Understanding the correlation between the hedging instrument and the underlying asset is vital. Additionally, deciding on the coverage ratio—how much of your position you wish to hedge—requires careful calculation to avoid over or under-hedging.
  9. Counterparty Risk: When the hedge involves a contract with another party, as in the case of derivatives, consider the counterparty risk—the risk that the other party fails to fulfill their contractual obligations.

By assessing these factors, investors can make informed decisions about the amount of hedging that best suits their investment profile, aiming for an optimal balance between risk mitigation and potential returns.

Advantages of Option Hedges

Using options for hedging offers several advantages over other financial instruments.

  1. Flexibility: Options provide a high degree of flexibility in terms of hedging strategies. Investors can select from a range of strike prices and expiration dates to tailor the hedge to their specific risk tolerance and market outlook. This allows for precise management of exposure to underlying asset price movements.
  2. Cost-Effectiveness: Compared to purchasing or selling the underlying asset directly, options can be more cost-effective as a hedge. The cost of an option (the premium) is usually much lower than the cost of holding the underlying asset. This lower upfront investment can still provide significant protection against adverse price movements.
  3. Leverage: Options allow investors to hedge a large position in the underlying asset with a relatively small amount of capital (the premium). This leverage can enhance the efficiency of capital use in a portfolio, as less money is tied up in the hedge itself, freeing up capital for other investments.
  4. Limited Risk: For buyers of options, the risk is limited to the premium paid for the option, regardless of the underlying asset’s price movement. This provides a known, quantifiable risk level, which is especially advantageous in volatile or uncertain markets.
  5. Opportunity to Profit: Hedging with options not only protects against losses but can also provide an opportunity to profit from favorable price movements. For example, protective puts allow investors to retain upside potential if the asset’s price increases, unlike some hedging strategies that might cap gains.
  6. Customization: Options hedging can be customized to cover a wide range of scenarios, from straightforward downside protection to complex strategies that benefit from sideways or volatile markets. This versatility enables investors to adjust their hedging strategy as their market view or risk tolerance changes.
  7. Downside Protection Without Forgoing Upside Potential: Particularly with strategies such as protective puts, investors can protect themselves against downside risk without necessarily forgoing the potential for upside gains. This is not always possible with other hedging instruments, which may lock in a future price or limit the ability to benefit from positive market movements.
  8. Diversification of Hedging Tools: Options add another layer of diversification to hedging strategies. By incorporating options alongside other financial instruments (like futures or swaps), investors can achieve a more robust and comprehensive risk management framework.

In summary, options stand out as a versatile and efficient tool for hedging, offering tailored risk management solutions that can align closely with an investor’s specific objectives and market outlook.

Implementing a Protective Put:

  • Select the Stock to Protect: To initiate a protective put strategy, start by identifying the stock in your portfolio that you wish to hedge against a downturn. Purchase put options for the same number of shares you own in that stock (one put protects 100 shares). Ensure the expiration date of the put options extends beyond the period you’re concerned about, providing protection for the duration of your anticipated risk exposure.
  • Selecting a Strike Price and Expiration: When selecting a strike price, aim for a balance between cost and protection level; a strike price close to the current stock price offers more protection but at a higher premium. Choose an expiration date that covers the anticipated period of risk; longer durations offer extended protection but at a higher cost. Consider the stock’s volatility and your own risk tolerance to decide on the tightness of the hedge and how much you’re willing to spend for it.
  • Managing and Adjusting Positions: Regularly review your hedging positions to adjust for changes in the market conditions or in your risk tolerance; this may involve rolling over options to a later expiration date or adjusting the strike price. Be prepared to close out the hedge if it no longer aligns with your investment strategy, especially if the underlying stock’s price moves in a favorable direction, reducing the need for protection. Stay informed about upcoming events that could affect the stock’s price (like earnings reports or macroeconomic indicators) to proactively manage and adjust your hedge as needed.

What Events Might You Hedge For?

  1. Earnings Reports: Traders often use options to hedge positions ahead of earnings reports. For instance, if an investor holds a significant number of shares in a company and is concerned about potential volatility following the earnings announcement, they might purchase put options to protect against a potential decline in the stock’s price.
  2. Macro-Economic Events: During periods of anticipated macro-economic decisions, such as interest rate changes by central banks or during geopolitical tensions, investors might use options to hedge their portfolios against expected market swings. This strategy was evident around events like the Brexit vote or the U.S. presidential elections, where uncertainty led to increased use of options for hedging.
  3. Sector-Specific Events: Within specific industries, like technology or pharmaceuticals, where company fortunes can change dramatically based on product approvals or technological breakthroughs, companies and investors alike may use options to hedge against adverse movements. For example, ahead of a major product announcement by a tech company, investors might use options to hedge against the risk of a disappointing reveal.
  4. Portfolio Protection During Market Downturns: During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many investors turned to options as a way to hedge their portfolios against market downturns. By buying puts, they were able to protect against steep declines in their portfolio values when global stock markets fell sharply.

How Implied Volatility Effects Hedges:

  1. Increase in Implied Volatility:
    • When IV increases, the premium (price) of options tends to rise, all else being equal. This is because higher volatility increases the potential range of the underlying asset’s price movements, enhancing the probability that the option will end up in-the-money.
    • For an existing hedge, such as a protective put, an increase in IV can increase the value of the put option, making the hedge more valuable. This can be beneficial for the holder of the put option as it may provide greater protection against downward price movements in the underlying asset.
    • However, if an investor is looking to initiate a new hedge or adjust an existing one, higher IV means higher costs for purchasing options, which can reduce the cost-effectiveness of the hedge.
  2. Decrease in Implied Volatility:
    • Conversely, when IV decreases, the premium of options tends to fall. Lower volatility implies a smaller range of potential price movements for the underlying asset, reducing the probability that the option will be in-the-money.
    • For an existing hedge, such as a protective put, a decrease in IV can decrease the value of the put option, potentially reducing the effectiveness of the hedge. If the underlying asset’s price moves unfavorably, the protection offered by the hedge might not be as significant as expected.
    • On the flip side, if an investor wishes to set up a new hedge or modify an existing one, lower IV can make it cheaper to buy options, improving the cost-effectiveness of implementing hedging strategies.

Hedging a Portfolio:

1. Using Index Options

  • Strategy: Purchase put options on a market index that closely mirrors the composition of your portfolio. For a diversified portfolio resembling the broader market, puts on the S&P 500 Index (SPX) could be effective.
  • Advantage: This method provides broad coverage and is simpler than hedging individual assets.
  • Consideration: The hedge’s effectiveness depends on how closely your portfolio matches the index.

2. Beta Hedging

  • Strategy: Calculate the beta of your portfolio to understand its sensitivity to market movements. You can then use index futures or options to hedge based on the portfolio’s overall market exposure.
  • Advantage: Tailors the hedge to the specific market risk profile of your portfolio.
  • Consideration: Requires periodic adjustment to maintain effectiveness, especially if the portfolio composition or market conditions change.

3. Buying Protective Puts on Portfolio ETFs

  • Strategy: If your portfolio closely aligns with the composition of a particular Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF), purchasing protective puts on that ETF can serve as a hedge.
  • Advantage: Direct and relatively straightforward method if a matching ETF is available.
  • Consideration: The cost of the puts can impact overall portfolio performance, especially in stable or rising markets.

4. Using Derivatives on Volatility Indexes

  • Strategy: For portfolios highly sensitive to market volatility, using derivatives like futures or options on volatility indexes (e.g., VIX) can provide a hedge against market downturns, as volatility typically increases when markets fall.
  • Advantage: Directly targets volatility, which often accompanies market declines.
  • Consideration: Complex and may require sophisticated understanding and management.

Implementation and Management

  • Regular Monitoring: Portfolio hedging strategies require ongoing monitoring and adjustment to remain effective, particularly as market conditions and portfolio values change.
  • Cost Consideration: The costs associated with hedging, such as premiums for options, need to be weighed against the potential benefits. Effective hedging should aim to protect against downside risk without excessively eroding potential upside or profitability.
  • Seek Advice: Given the complexity of some hedging strategies, consulting with a financial advisor or using managed hedging solutions may be beneficial, especially for investors not experienced in derivative markets.

Hedging an entire portfolio is about finding the right balance between protection and cost, as well as between managing risk and maintaining the potential for positive returns.