Understanding Options – Protective Puts

Last update - 11 January 2024 By James Woods

A protective put serves as an insurance policy for stock investors, providing a safety net against potential losses. This approach allows investors to hold onto their shares while simultaneously mitigating the risk of a substantial drop in stock price.

This strategy involves purchasing a put option for stocks that are already owned. A put option grants the investor the right, but not the obligation, to sell a specific amount of shares at a predetermined price, known as the strike price, within a set period. If the stock price falls below the strike price, the investor can either sell the stocks at the strike price or sell the put option itself to recoup some losses.


Pros of Protective Put Strategy:

Downside Protection: It caps the potential loss at the strike price of the put, less the premium paid, effectively setting a floor on the equity’s value.

Maintains Upside Potential: Investors can still benefit from any upside gains in the stock, as owning the put does not limit the appreciation of the stock’s price.

Flexibility: The strategy offers the ability to tailor protection levels by choosing different strike prices and expiration dates to match the investor’s risk tolerance and market outlook.


Cons of Protective Put Strategy:

Cost: The premium paid for the put options can be considered a recurring insurance cost, which can erode profits over time, especially in stable or rising markets.

Timing: For a protective put to be effective, it is vital that the put is purchased in a timely manner. If the purchase is left to when the market has crashed, the required puts are often expensive.

Opportunity Cost: Funds used to purchase puts could be allocated to other investments. In a scenario where the stock price remains stable or increases, the premium paid for protection might be seen as a missed opportunity to invest elsewhere.



Imagine an investor who owns 100 shares of Company X, currently valued at $50 per share. Concerned about potential short-term losses but optimistic about the long-term, the investor buys a three-month put option with a strike price of $45 for a premium of $2 per share. If Company X’s stock plummets to $40, the investor can exercise the put, selling the shares at $45 each. Despite the stock’s decline, the investor limits their loss to the cost of the put premium plus the difference between the purchase price of the stock and the strike price i.e. $50 – $45 -$2 (option premium) = $7 loss per share instead of $10 per share. Conversely, if Company X’s stock soars to $60, the investor can simply let the put option expire and enjoy the appreciation of their shares, minus the premium paid.

Protective Put Diagram

The protective put strategy is a prudent choice for investors seeking to balance the potential for growth with the assurance of a defined safety net. It exemplifies the adage of hoping for the best while preparing for the worst, enabling investors to navigate the undulations of the stock market with greater confidence.


Be the first to know. Get the Morning Market Wrap each morning.