tastytrade logo

What is Theta in Options Trading and How Does it Work?

Overview

Theta is the daily decay of an option’s extrinsic value. This metric is the cloudiest of all, as it assumes implied volatility & price movement are held constant. For this reason, it’s better to think of theta decay from the bigger scheme of things.

Positive Theta

If we have positive theta, we’re on the right side of the coin. To obtain positive theta, we can sell options. All options with time left until expiration will have extrinsic value. As an option seller, this decay is a good thing. Let’s say we sell a put for $1.00. To close the position, I need to buy back that same option. In order to realize profit, I need to buy the option back at a lower price. This is why theta is shown as a positive value for option sellers. The daily decay of an option price will help us realize that profit sooner.

Negative Theta

If we have negative theta, we’re on the wrong side of the coin. To obtain negative theta, we would have to buy options. Having negative theta is not a fun feeling, as we are trading against the clock. The extrinsic value of our options will dissipate over time, which means we have to be directionally right quickly in order to see a profit, or we need implied volatility to expand more than theta will decay the option. This is why we always hedge our long options with a short option. We prefer long vertical spreads, calendar spreads, and diagonal spreads compared to long naked options, because we can eliminate a lot of the decay, if not all of it.

Implied Volatility & Price Movement

The most important aspect of theta to remember is that it assumes implied volatility & price movement are held constant. Markets move every second, so it is unrealistic to expect them to be frozen. We can’t look at our options and expect the value to decrease by theta every single day. While theta will come out of the option, price movement & implied volatility will change the value as well. As long as we’re on the right side of the coin (positive theta), we can rest assured that our option’s extrinsic value will get lower and lower as we reach expiration, which is one of the keys to success for an option seller.

Supplemental Content

Episodes on Theta

No episodes available at this time. Check back later!

tastytrade content is provided solely by tastytrade, Inc. (“tastytrade”) and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, trading or investment advice or a recommendation that any security, futures contract, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any person. Trading securities can involve high risk and the loss of any funds invested. tastytrade, through its content, financial programming or otherwise, does not provide investment or financial advice or make investment recommendations. Investment information provided may not be appropriate for all investors, and is provided without respect to individual investor financial sophistication, financial situation, investing time horizon or risk tolerance. tastytrade is not in the business of transacting securities trades, nor does it direct client commodity accounts or give commodity trading advice tailored to any particular client’s situation or investment objectives. Supporting documentation for any claims (including claims made on behalf of options programs), comparison, statistics, or other technical data, if applicable, will be supplied upon request. tastytrade is not a licensed financial advisor, registered investment advisor, or a registered broker-dealer. Options, futures and futures options are not suitable for all investors. Prior to trading securities products, please read the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options and the Risk Disclosure for Futures and Options found on tastyworks.com. 

tastytrade is a trademark/servicemark owned by tastytrade.

tastyworks, Inc. ("tastyworks") is a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA, NFA and SIPC. tastyworks offers self-directed brokerage accounts to its customers. tastyworks does not give financial or trading advice nor does it make investment recommendations. You alone are responsible for making your investment and trading decisions and for evaluating the merits and risks associated with the use of tastyworks’ systems, services or products. tastyworks is a wholly owned subsidiary of tastytrade, Inc (“tastytrade”).

tastyworks, Inc. (“tastyworks”) has entered into a Marketing Agreement with tastytrade (“Marketing Agent”) whereby tastyworks pays compensation to Marketing Agent to recommend tastyworks’ brokerage services. The existence of this Marketing Agreement should not be deemed as an endorsement or recommendation of Marketing Agent by tastyworks. tastytrade is the parent company of tastyworks. tastyworks and Marketing Agent are separate entities with their own products and services. tastytrade has different privacy policies than tastyworks.

Quiet Foundation, Inc. (“Quiet Foundation”) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of tastytrade The information on quietfoundation.com is intended for U.S. residents only. All investing involves the risk of loss. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Quiet Foundation does not make suitability determinations, nor does it make investment recommendations. You alone are responsible for making your investment and trading decisions and for evaluating the merits and risks associated with the use of Quiet Foundation’s systems, services or products.

© copyright 2013 – 2022 tastytrade. All Rights Reserved. Applicable portions of the Terms of use on tastytrade.com apply. Reproduction, adaptation, distribution, public display, exhibition for profit, or storage in any electronic storage media in whole or in part is prohibited under penalty of law, provided that you may download tastytrade’s podcasts as necessary to view for personal use.