Long Put Option Guide

By Brian O'Connell · June 09, 2023 · 5 minute read

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Long Put Option Guide

The simplest options strategies, and safest for beginners, include purchasing calls and/or puts — typically called “going long.” For the bearish investor who believes an asset will see price declines over a well-defined period of time, the simplest strategy is to purchase puts on those assets, i.e., pursue a long put strategy.

What Is a Long Put?

The term “Long Put” describes the strategy of buying put options as well as the options contract itself. The investor who purchases a put has purchased the right to sell an underlying security at a specific price over a specific time period. Being the buyer and holder of any options makes you “long” that option contract.

Because the contract in question is a put, the investor is long the put and bullish on the put option as they expect the put options price to rise. The put option holder is bearish on the underlying asset as they expect its price of the asset to go down.

Since the investor has not sold the underlying asset or its options, the investor does not hold a short position.

💡 Recommended: Options Trading Strategies for Beginners

Maximum Loss

In comparison to other options strategies, long puts are low risk due to their limited and well-defined downside. The maximum amount an investor can lose is the premium paid at the initiation of the transaction.

Maximum Loss = Premium Paid

Because different trading platforms have different commission structures, (some may even provide commission-free trading) commissions are typically omitted from profit and loss calculations.

Maximum Profit

The maximum gain for a long put strategy occurs when the underlying asset drops to zero. While this gain is also limited and defined, it is typically far greater than the potential downside. The maximum gain on a long put strategy is defined as the strike price of the put less the premium paid.

Maximum Profit = Strike Price – Premium Paid

Breakeven Price

The breakeven price on a long put strategy occurs at the strike price less the premium. Note that the formula for the maximum gain and the breakeven price is the same but the two formulas are measuring different things.

The breakeven price is the point at which the investor begins to make a profit. As the price drops past breakeven toward zero, hopefully, the investor can realize the maximum gain possible.

Breakeven Price = Strike Price – Premium Paid

Why Investors Use Long Puts

Investors utilize a long put strategy for three main reasons:

•   Speculation: The investor identifies an asset they believe will decrease in price over a defined time period. Buying a long put allows the investor to profit from this forecasted price decrease if it happens.

•   Hedging: Sometimes an investor already holds an asset like a stock or exchange-traded fund (ETF) and is concerned that the price of the asset may drop in the short term, but still wants to hold the asset for the long term.

By purchasing a long put, the investor can offset any short-term losses through gains on the put and keep control of the underlying asset. For most assets, this hedging strategy provides cheap insurance.

•   Combination strategies: For experienced investors, long puts can be part of complicated multi-leg strategies involving the sale or purchase of other options, both calls and puts, to pursue different investment objectives.

Long Put vs Short Put

In contrast, a short put options strategy occurs when the investor sells a put. Being the seller of a put means the options contract seller is obligated by the options contract to sell shares in an underlying security to the option buyer at the buyer’s discretion.

Everything about short puts is the opposite to long puts:

Long Puts

Short Puts

Investor role Buyer Seller
Investor responsibility Right/Discretion Obligation
Investor outlook — Asset Bearish Neutral to Bullish
Risk Premium (Strike Price – Premium)
Reward (Strike Price – Premium) Premium

Long Put Option Example

An investor has been watching XYZ stock, which is trading at $100 per share. The investor believes the $100 share price for XYZ is excessive and believes the share price will fall over the next 30 days.

The investor purchases a long put with a strike price of $95 per share for a premium of $5 and an expiration date of 60 days from today. Because options contracts are sold based on 100 share lots, the price for this contract will be $5 x 100 = $500.

The options contract gives the investor the right to sell 100 shares of XYZ at $95 for the next 60 days.

The breakeven price on this investment is:

Breakeven Price = Strike Price – Premium Paid

Breakeven Price = $95 – $5 = $90

Should XYZ be trading below $90 at expiration, the option trade will be profitable.

If XYZ stock should fall to $0 at expiration, the investor will realize their maximum possible profit:

Maximum Profit = Strike Price – Premium Paid

Maximum Profit = $95 – $5 = $90 profit per share or $9,000 per put option

However, if XYZ stock should stay above $90 at expiration, the investor will realize their maximum possible loss and the option will expire worthless:

Maximum Loss = Premium Paid

Maximum Loss = $5 per share or $500 per put option

Even if XYZ rose above the $100 price at purchase, the investor’s loss would still be limited to $500.

The Takeaway

Long put options provide an excellent entry point for newly minted options investors to dip their toes into the market. The trading strategy offers significant profit potential if investors make the right call on the underlying security’s future performance while providing limited downside risk.

If you’re ready to try your hand at options trading, You can set up an Active Invest account and trade options online from the SoFi mobile app or through the web platform.

And if you have any questions, SoFi offers educational resources about options to learn more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, and members have access to complimentary financial advice from a professional.

With SoFi, user-friendly options trading is finally here.

Photo credit: iStock/Paul Bradbury

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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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Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.


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