Using Covered Calls as an Income Strategy

In the world of investing, mastering diverse strategies can prove to be a game-changer, particularly when your goal is to generate consistent income.

One such strategy is the selling of covered calls. By definition, a covered call is an options strategy that allows an investor to earn an income from their existing stock positions. It involves selling a call option on a stock you already own, thereby “covering” the option. This strategy works by allowing the investor to collect a premium, which is the price the buyer pays to have the option of buying the stock later at a set price.

Essentially, the covered call strategy is a method of generating extra income from a stock investment beyond any dividends the stock may pay. However, while it can be an attractive strategy, it is crucial to fully understand its mechanics and potential implications. This blog aims to explore the utilization of covered calls as an income strategy, discussing its benefits, risks, and practical application to help you make informed investment decisions. Whether you’re a seasoned investor or a beginner looking to expand your portfolio, understanding the covered call strategy can provide you with another tool to navigate complex financial markets.

The Power of Premiums: Generating Additional Income

The primary advantage of selling covered calls lies in the premiums collected by the investor. When you sell a call option on a stock you own, you receive an upfront payment known as a premium. This can provide a consistent stream of income, above and beyond any dividends that the stock might pay. If the stock price remains stable or declines slightly, you still earn this premium, effectively providing an additional cushion to your investment returns.

Portfolio Protection: Lowering Potential Risks

Covered calls serve as a buffer against minor declines in the stock’s price. The premium you receive when selling a call option can offset a portion of a loss if your stock’s price falls. This protective aspect helps reduce downside risk in your portfolio. However, it’s important to note that this protection is limited to the amount of the premium received and won’t shield you from significant declines.

Predictability: Stable and Moderate Returns

Another benefit of selling covered calls is the potential for stable, predictable income. While other strategies rely on significant stock price increases for profits, covered calls can generate returns in a flat or moderately rising market. They can provide an income even when the market falls, as long as the decline is less than the premium received. This makes covered calls an attractive strategy for investors who are looking for steady, reliable returns, rather than high-risk, high-reward investments.

Remember, while the benefits of covered calls are significant, this strategy isn’t a magic bullet. Like any investment strategy, it has potential risks and downsides that you should understand before implementing it. In the following sections, we will explore these risks, discuss how to select suitable stocks and options for covered calls and provide a step-by-step guide on how to execute this strategy effectively.

Getting Ready: Prerequisites for Selling Covered Calls

Before you can sell covered calls, you’ll need to own at least 100 shares of a stock, as a single options contract typically corresponds to 100 shares. Moreover, you should have an options-approved brokerage account. If you don’t already have options trading enabled on your account, you will need to apply for this with your brokerage.

Step 1: Choosing the Right Stock

Choosing the right stock is crucial. You should pick a stock that you believe will remain relatively stable or slightly increase in price over the term of the option. Remember, if the stock’s price skyrockets, you could lose potential profits due to the obligation to sell the stock at the strike price.

Step 2: Selecting an Option to Sell

Next, decide which call option to sell. Options come with various strike prices and expiration dates. The strike price is the set price at which the option holder can buy the stock if they choose to exercise the option. Generally, selling an option with a higher strike price will yield a lower premium, but it also reduces the likelihood that the stock will be called away. On the other hand, choosing an option with a closer expiration date typically results in a higher annualized return, but it also means you’ll need to sell options more frequently.

Step 3: Selling the Covered Call

Once you’ve selected the appropriate option, you can sell the covered call through your brokerage account. You’ll enter an order to sell to open a call contract. You will immediately receive the premium, which is deposited into your brokerage account.

Step 4: Monitoring Your Position

After selling the covered call, it’s important to monitor your position regularly. If the stock’s price stays below the strike price through the expiration date, you keep the premium and the stock. You can then decide whether to sell another covered call. However, if the stock’s price rises above the strike price, your shares may be called away. In such cases, you will be obligated to sell your stock at the strike price.

Step 5: Managing the Outcome

If your shares are called away, you can use the proceeds to buy new shares and sell another covered call. If your shares are not called away, you can sell another call on the same stock, effectively continuing the income-generating process.

Selling covered calls can be a reliable way to generate income from your stock portfolio. By taking the time to understand and implement the strategy effectively, you can enhance your investment returns while also gaining a measure of protection against minor market downturns.

Optimizing Your Portfolio: Selecting the Ideal Stocks

The first step in executing a covered call strategy effectively is choosing the right stocks. Ideally, you want to select stocks that you believe will remain relatively stable or increase slightly in price over the term of the option. Highly volatile stocks can pose a greater risk as they may swing above the strike price, which would lead to your shares being called away, potentially missing out on significant gains.

It’s generally best to write covered calls on stocks you don’t mind parting with or stocks that you believe have limited upside potential in the near term. Furthermore, stocks that pay dividends can be good candidates, as you can potentially receive income from both the premium and the dividend.

Making the Right Call: Deciding on the Appropriate Options

When it comes to choosing the option to sell, there are two key variables you need to consider: the strike price and the expiration date. The strike price should ideally be higher than the current price of the stock but not so high that the premium received is negligible. This increases the likelihood that you’ll keep the premium and retain your shares.

The expiration date depends on your personal preference and income goals. Shorter-term options allow you to receive premiums more frequently, potentially increasing your annual income. However, they also require more active management. Longer-term options, on the other hand, require less management and can provide larger premiums upfront, but they tie up your shares for a longer period.

Limited Upside Potential: The Double-Edged Sword of Covered Calls

While selling covered calls can be a reliable income strategy, it does limit your upside potential. If the stock price skyrockets, you are obliged to sell your shares at the strike price, missing out on significant potential gains. This aspect of covered calls can be frustrating for investors during bull markets when stocks are climbing rapidly.

Risk of Substantial Losses: Premiums Can’t Protect Against Everything

The premium you receive from a covered call can offset minor declines in the underlying stock’s price, but it won’t protect against substantial losses. If the stock’s price plunges, the losses can far exceed the income generated from the premium. Therefore, covered calls are not a complete solution for risk management, especially in bear markets or during periods of high volatility.

Requirement of Share Ownership: A Barrier to Entry

Another limitation of the covered call strategy is that it requires ownership of the underlying stock. This requirement can be a barrier to entry for some investors, as purchasing enough shares to sell covered calls can be expensive.

More Active Management: Time and Attention Needed

Finally, selling covered calls requires more active management than simply holding stocks. You need to monitor market conditions, choose the appropriate strike price and expiration date, and potentially roll the calls forward if your shares are not called away. This strategy can be time-consuming and may not be suitable for all investors.

Understanding these risks and limitations is essential for using the covered call strategy effectively. In the next section, we will discuss how to mitigate some of these risks and maximize the benefits of covered calls.

Balancing Risk and Reward: Smart Stock Selection

A key aspect of mitigating risk in a covered call strategy is choosing the right stocks. By focusing on stocks you believe have limited short-term upside, you can minimize the risk of losing out on significant gains. Furthermore, consider choosing stable, dividend-paying stocks, as the dividends can provide additional income and offset potential losses.

Playing It Safe: Setting Appropriate Strike Prices

Setting the strike price slightly above the current market price can provide some room for your stocks to appreciate before they are called away. This can help to maximize your income from selling calls and still allow for some capital gains.

Timely Decision-Making: Managing Expiration Dates

When it comes to choosing an expiration date, shorter-term options can provide flexibility. With the rapidly changing market conditions, short-term options allow you to adjust your strategy more frequently. If your stock is appreciating and you want to hold onto it, you can simply wait for the option to expire and not sell a new one.

Rolling Out: Adjusting Your Strategy Over Time

If the stock price moves close to the strike price and you want to avoid having your shares called away, you can “roll” the option. This involves buying back the current option and selling a new one with a higher strike price or a later expiration date.


Selling covered calls can be a powerful strategy for generating additional income from your stock investments, especially in flat, declining, or moderately rising markets. However, it’s not without its risks and limitations. The potential for lost profits during sharp price increases, the risk of significant losses if the stock’s price falls, and the need for active management can pose challenges. With careful stock and option selection, and by implementing risk-mitigation strategies such as adjusting strike prices and rolling options, you can optimize this approach to suit your investment goals. Always consider your individual risk tolerance and investment objectives before employing this or any other investment strategy.

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