Covered Calls: The Income Illusion | Summary and Q&A

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June 20, 2023
by
Ben Felix
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Covered Calls: The Income Illusion

TL;DR

Covered call funds may seem attractive due to high income yields and risk-adjusted returns, but these are the result of clever financial product design rather than actual improvements. Covered call strategies tend to perform poorly in the long run, are less tax efficient, and more expensive to own than a portfolio of stocks and bonds.

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Key Insights

  • ✋ The appearance of high income and high risk-adjusted returns in covered call funds is a result of clever financial product design rather than actual improvements to returns.
  • ↩️ Risk-adjusted returns metrics like the Sharpe Ratio are inadequate for assessing covered call strategies due to their impact on the shape of the return distribution.
  • ↩️ Covered call strategies tend to underperform their underlying assets when evaluated with appropriate consideration for total return and skewness in return distributions.
  • ⌛ Covered call funds may be useful for behaviorally biased investors who rely on the mental separation of capital and income, but rational investors would find them sub-optimal most of the time.

Transcript

some investors are attracted to covered call funds because of their High income yields and seemingly High risk-adjusted returns however the appearance of high income and high risk adjusted return is the result of clever Financial product design not of actual improvements to returns or risk adjusted returns covered call income is not really a net in... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is a covered call strategy?

A covered call strategy involves selling call options on a stock that you own, receiving an option premium in return. This strategy aims to generate income but sacrifices potential upside potential on the underlying shares.

Q: Are covered call strategies riskier than investing in stocks and bonds directly?

Covered call strategies introduce additional risks, such as the liability of selling underlying shares below market value if the option is exercised. Moreover, the risk-adjusted returns of covered calls are only attractive when risk is measured inadequately.

Q: How do covered call funds appeal to investors' biases and cognitive errors?

Covered call funds appeal to income-oriented investors who tend to mentally separate capital and income. They perceive the high income yields of covered call funds as attractive, overlooking the potential negative impact on total returns and risk adjustments.

Q: Are covered call strategies tax efficient and cost-effective?

Covered call funds are generally less tax efficient for taxable investors compared to the underlying stock index. Additionally, they tend to have higher fees and implementation costs than simple index funds investing in the same underlying assets.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Covered call funds generate high income yields through the distribution of option premiums, but this income is not a true investment return.

  • The risk-adjusted returns of covered call strategies are only attractive when risk is inadequately measured, and they are likely to perform poorly in the long run.

  • Covered call strategies are less tax efficient and more expensive to own than simply investing in a portfolio of stocks and bonds.

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