Intrinsic Value and Time Value of Options, Explained

By Colin Dodds · April 15, 2024 · 8 minute read

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Intrinsic Value and Time Value of Options, Explained

Editor's Note: Options are not suitable for all investors. Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Please see the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options.

Intrinsic value and time value are two major determining factors of the value of an options contract. An option’s intrinsic value is the payoff the buyer would receive if they exercised the option right away. In other words, the intrinsic value is how profitable the option would be, based on the difference between the contract’s strike price and the market value of the underlying security.

An option’s time value is not quite as straightforward. Time value is based on a formula that includes the expected volatility of the underlying asset, as well as the amount of time until the option contract expires.

What Is the Intrinsic Value of an Option?

An investor who purchases an options contract may be buying the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the option’s underlying asset at an agreed-upon price, known as the strike price. Options are considered derivatives, because they are tied to the value of the underlying security. The contract may allow the investor to purchase or sell a security at that strike price at any point up until the contract expires.

There are two main kinds of options: calls and puts. The purchaser of a call option buys the right (but not the obligation) to purchase the underlying asset at a given price until a particular date.

The buyer of a put option purchases the right (but not the obligation) to sell the underlying asset at a given price until a particular date.

Important terms: In the Money, At the Money, Out of the Money

There are a few more key terms to know as it relates to options: in the money, at the money, and out of the money.

In the Money

An option is considered to be “in the money” if the investor could sell it at that moment for a profit. For a call option, that means that the price of the underlying asset is higher than the strike price specified in the options contract. For a put option to be in the money, the price of the underlying asset would have to be lower than the strike price in the contract.

At the Money

If an option is “at the money,” the price of the underlying security is equal to the strike price in the contract, and it’s not considered profitable. If an option is “out of the money,” e.g. above the market price for a call option or below the market price for a put option, the contract is also not profitable.

Out of the Money

If an option is not profitable when it expires, then it expires with no value, except for the premium. In those instances, the buyer takes a loss on the premium they paid to enter into the options contract, while the seller, or writer, of the contract collects the premium.

Recommended: Popular Options Trading Terminology to Know

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Formula for the Intrinsic Value of an Options Contract

Time to get down to the math! Here are the formulas for calculating intrinsic values of call and put options.

Intrinsic value formula for a call option:

Call Option Intrinsic Value = Underlying Stock’s Current Price – Call Strike Price

Intrinsic value formula for a put option:

Put Option Intrinsic Value = Put Strike Price – Underlying Stock’s Current Price

Example of Intrinsic Value Calculation

Imagine that hypothetical XYZ stock is selling at $48.00. A call option for XYZ with a strike price of $40 would have an intrinsic value of $8.00 ($48 – $40 = $8). So in theory, the option holder could exercise the option to buy XYZ shares at $40, then immediately sell them for a $8.00 profit in the market. Another way to phrase it: The contract would be in the money at $8.

But what if the strike price is higher than the $48.00 market price of XYZ stock? Let’s say the call option strike is $50 ($48 – $50 = –$2.00. The option would be considered out of the money and worth zero, because the intrinsic value of an option can never be negative.

What if it’s a put option? In this scenario, with an underlying price of $48.00 for XYZ stock, a put option with a strike price of $44.00 would have an intrinsic value of zero ($44 – $48 = –$4.00), again because the value of an option cannot fall below zero.

But a put option with a strike price of $50 would be considered in the money, and have an intrinsic value of $2 ($50 – $48 = $2).

While intrinsic value as a term sounds all encompassing, it isn’t. Investors should remember when calculating options strategies that an option’s intrinsic value does not include the premium the investor has to pay in order to buy the options contract in the first place. To get a better sense of the profit of an options trade, it’s important to include that initial premium, along with any other trading commissions and fees charged by the broker.

💡 Quick Tip: When you’re actively investing in stocks, it’s important to ask what types of fees you might have to pay. For example, brokers may charge a flat fee for trading stocks, or require some commission for every trade. Taking the time to manage investment costs can be beneficial over the long term.

What Is the Time Value of an Option?

When an investor buys an option, they pay in the form of a premium, or fee. When they do, that premium is typically based on the option’s intrinsic value, plus its extrinsic value. While higher volatility can result in higher premiums, time value plays a large role as well.The opportunity for an option to be profitable over time is, in essence, its time value.

The more time an investor in an options contract has, the better their chances of being able to exercise that option in the money, simply because the underlying security has a greater chance of moving in the desired direction. Longer time periods come with greater possibility for profit.

Conversely, as an options contract gets closer to expiring, its value goes down. The reason is that there is less time for the security underlying the options contract to make profitable moves.

One rule of thumb is that an option loses a third of its value during the first half of its life, and two-thirds during the second half. This phenomenon is known as the time decay of options. It’s a critical concept for options investors because the closer the option gets to expiration, the more the underlying security must move to impact the price of the option.

The intrinsic value of the option plays a role in how fast the time value of an option decays. An in-the-money option faces less dramatic time decay, because the elimination of time value takes the overall value of the option to the level of its intrinsic value. But for an out-of-the-money option, time decay is more dramatic, since the option will be entirely worthless if it expires out of the money.

Formula for the Time Value of an Options Contract

The formula for the time value of an options contract is as such:

Time Value = Option Price − Intrinsic Value

How Does Volatility Impact Time Value?

Another important factor that can impact time value is the volatility of the underlying asset.

Stocks with higher volatility typically have the potential for greater price movements — and thus related options may have a higher probability of expiring in the money. That’s one reason why time value, as reflected by the option’s premium, is typically higher when the underlying asset is more volatile.

With stocks and other assets that have lower volatility and therefore are not expected to show big price fluctuations, the time value and the option premium is likely to be lower.

Volatility, as every investor knows, cuts both ways. It can help generate gains or lead to losses.

Recommended: Implied Volatility: What It Is & What It’s Used for

How Can Intrinsic and Time Value Help Traders?

When calculating the value of the options contracts that they’re buying and selling, intrinsic value and time value can be vital to help traders gauge the potential risks and rewards of the options trade. While the intrinsic value is easy to assess, it only tells part of the story. Traders need to understand the extrinsic or time value of options as well in order to gauge how profitable the option is likely to be.Investors use this deeper understanding to inform which options trading strategies they use.

When it comes to the profitability of an options trade, investors also need to take into account the premiums they pay to buy an option, along with related commissions and fees. There are also other factors that play a role in the pricing of an options contract, such as the option’s implied volatility. This is the aspect of options pricing that takes into account the market sentiment as to the future volatility of an option’s underlying security, and can have a major influence on the price of an option as well.

💡 Quick Tip: In order to profit from purchasing a stock, the price has to rise. But an options account offers more flexibility, and an options trader might gain if the price rises or falls. This is a high-risk strategy, and investors can lose money if the trade moves in the wrong direction.

The Takeaway

Understanding how options are priced is a complicated business, and knowing the two main components — intrinsic value and time value — is essential. While intrinsic value is simply the tangible face value of the contract — because it’s the amount the buyer would receive if they exercised the option right now — time value is a more complex calculation.

The time value of an option, expressed as its premium, is part of an option’s extrinsic value and it includes the volatility of the underlying asset and the time to expiration. The more volatility and the more time to the option’s expiry date, the higher the premium or value of the option.

Qualified investors who are ready to try their hand at options trading, despite the risks involved, might consider checking out SoFi’s options trading platform. The platform’s user-friendly design allows investors to trade through the mobile app or web platform, and get important metrics like breakeven percentage, maximum profit/loss, and more with the click of a button.

Plus, SoFi offers educational resources — including a step-by-step in-app guide — to help you learn more about options trading. Trading options involves high-risk strategies, and should be undertaken by experienced investors.

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.

Photo credit: iStock/Moyo Studio

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Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
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