What Is A Good Implied Volatility For Options: A Concept That Can Make You Riches

Jeremy BiberdorfBy: Jeremy Biberdorf

July 4, 2024July 4, 2024

When discussing options trading, a common question is: what is a good implied volatility for options? Implied volatility (IV) is a pivotal factor in the pricing of options, impacting the premium and playing a crucial role in a trader’s success. Understanding and capitalizing on IV changes can significantly enhance the profitability of options trades.

For both seasoned and new traders, volatility is not just a measure of risk but also an opportunity. Effective options trading leverages these volatility changes. Since options are inherently driven by volatility, recognizing when IV is poised to reverse can provide strategic advantages.

Whether you’re looking to hedge a portfolio, generate income, or capitalize on stock price movements, grasping the nuances of implied volatility is essential. A “good” implied volatility varies depending on the market conditions and the specific trading strategy, but fundamentally, it’s about aligning with the anticipated shifts in market sentiment and positioning accordingly.

Are you still confused? Don’t worry, I will clarify these topics and build on them in the coming sections. If you prefer to learn through video, here is an explanation of Implied Volatility and how to assess whether the current premium is good:

Key Takeaways

  • IV plays a crucial role in the pricing of options, reflecting the market’s prediction of a stock’s potential price fluctuations.
  • High implied volatility suggests larger expected price swings, leading to more expensive options, while low IV indicates less movement and cheaper options.
  • Traders can use high IV to sell options for higher premiums or buy options during low IV phases to capitalize on cheaper premiums and potential increases in volatility.
  • Successful options trading involves adjusting strategies based on IV fluctuations to optimize trading outcomes and manage risks effectively.

What is Implied Volatility (IV)?

Implied volatility is a crucial concept in options trading, providing a forecast of a stock’s potential movement within a year. Essentially, implied volatility estimates the expected magnitude of price changes, or one standard deviation from the stock’s current price, over the course of twelve months.

This metric isn’t guaranteed, but it offers traders valuable insights into potential price ranges, helping with risk management and decision-making.

Low implied volatility suggests that the market doesn’t anticipate significant changes in the stock price soon. Conversely, high implied volatility indicates expectations of substantial price movements within the next year. This annualized expectation is adjusted based on the duration until the options’ expiration, making it a dynamic tool for traders.

Understanding what constitutes a good implied volatility for options is pivotal for developing a successful trading strategy. Implied volatility is calculated using models like the Black-Scholes Model, which factors in the stock price, strike price, time until expiration, and risk-free interest rates.

There’s no universal “good” level of implied volatility; it varies depending on market conditions and the specific trading strategy. Identifying what is considered high implied volatility for a particular option and determining a good implied volatility success rate are essential steps.

Traders often use option screeners to evaluate these metrics, allowing them to assess the potential risks and rewards associated with different trading scenarios effectively. If you don’t already have a good option screener at your disposal, I suggest OptionStrat. You can read more about what they offer in my OptionStrat review.

In my experience, effectively leveraging implied volatility in trading strategies entails a deep understanding of how it reflects market expectations and influences option premiums. By analyzing implied volatility levels, traders can better position themselves to capitalize on predicted market movements.

How Implied Volatility Works And Effects Options

Implied volatility (IV) is a critical concept in options trading, reflecting the market’s expectation of the extent to which a stock’s price might fluctuate within a certain period. This measure doesn’t predict the direction of the price movement, whether it will rise, fall, or oscillate within a certain range, only the magnitude of possible change.

At the core of implied volatility is the mathematical modeling used to estimate potential movements of a stock’s price over the options’ life, usually expressed as a one or two standard deviation range from the current stock price.

For example, if an option’s implied volatility is 20% for a stock currently priced at $10, the expected movement might suggest a future price ranging from $8 to $12, embodying a 1SD (one standard deviation) move.

The Black-Scholes model, among others like the Binomial Model, is frequently used to determine the implied volatility based on various factors, including the current stock price, the option’s strike price, time until expiration, and risk-free interest rates.

Market conditions significantly influence implied volatility. In a bullish market where stock prices are rising, implied volatility tends to decrease, reflecting less uncertainty and risk. Conversely, in a bearish market with falling stock prices, implied volatility usually increases, signaling higher risk and uncertainty, which could be crucial for long-term bullish investors.

The sensitivity of an option’s price to changes in implied volatility is measured by Vega. Vega indicates how much the price of an option is expected to move per a 1% change in implied volatility. This sensitivity varies with the option’s time to expiration and the distance between the stock’s current price and the option’s strike price.

Near-the-money options are generally more sensitive to changes in implied volatility than those that are deeply in or out of the money. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, I suggest you read my option trading basics article and come back once you have a basic understanding.

In practice, monitoring implied volatility helps option traders make informed investment decisions, aligning their risk tolerance and market outlook with the current options market conditions. This dynamic interplay between market expectations, implied volatility, and options pricing is central to the development of effective option strategies.

What is A Good Implied Volatility Range For Options?

Implied Volatility is a dynamic measure, crucial for options traders in determining the potential range of an underlying asset’s price movement. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to “what is a good implied volatility for options,” as it varies with market conditions and the asset’s historical volatility levels.

Typically, the strategy involves buying options when the implied volatility is considered low, suggesting that the option is cheaper, and selling when the implied volatility is high, as the options become more expensive.

However, defining what “low” and “high” mean in terms of implied volatility is based on relative, not absolute, terms. It’s about the historical implied volatility context of the specific asset you’re trading.

Events like earnings reports can trigger a steep decrease in implied volatility, commonly referred to as an implied volatility Crush, reflecting the market’s adjustment post-event revelation. Thus, a 30% implied volatility might be high for one asset but not necessarily for another; it’s all about context.

To put numbers on this concept, options traders often use implied volatility rank (IVR). To calculate IVR:

IVR = (Current IV – IV Min) / (IV Max – IV Min) * 100

This formula helps to position the current implied volatility against a standard range of what’s been observed.

Similarly, the Implied Volatility Percentile (IVP) offers insights by revealing the percentage of days when the implied volatility was lower than the current level. It considers how many days the past implied volatility was below the current implied volatility against the total trading days of the year.

The IVP is calculated as:

IVP = (Number of days below current IV / Total trading days) * 100

By grasping these metrics, options traders can better navigate market timing, making informed decisions about when to enter or exit positions. So, while pinpointing a universally good implied volatility is impossible, understanding the nuances of implied volatility rank and Implied Volatility Percentile provides a strategic edge traders are seeking.

How to Use Implied Volatility To Your Advantage: The Strategies

So now that you know about implied volatility and how to assess it against historical implied volatility of the underlying stock, I want to discuss some ways to potentially profit from that knowledge.

Short Straddle: When IV is High and You Expect It To Decrease

Short Straddle

The short straddle option strategy is a savvy move for traders looking to make the most of periods when the market isn’t moving much. It involves selling an at-the-money call and put on the same asset, with the same expiration date.

As a seller, you do this when implied volatility is high because that’s when options are priciest. You collect more upfront from the premiums, and if IV drops as you expect, those options you sold will decrease in value, and you profit from the decline.

If you’re buying a short straddle, it’s a bit more of a gamble. You’re hoping for big swings in the market, big enough to cover the high premiums you paid, which are costlier when IV is high. As a buyer, you need the market to move significantly in either direction to make a profit.

So, in a nutshell, sellers of a short straddle benefit from high IV and stable markets, while buyers are betting on big moves to come out ahead.

Long Strangle:

Long Strangle

The long strangle strategy stands out as a particularly strategic approach during times of anticipated market volatility. This method involves buying an out-of-the-money (OTM) call and an OTM put on the same underlying asset, each with different strike prices but the same expiration date.

It’s a tactic that works best when implied volatility (IV) is low, as it allows you to capitalize on potential large movements in the asset’s price at a lower cost compared to other strategies like the long straddle.

The lower initial premiums are a significant advantage of the long strangle, making it a less expensive entry into options trading. The real opportunity for profit emerges if the market makes a drastic move, pushing the price of the underlying asset well past the strike prices of either the call or the put option.

This is why it’s essential to choose periods when a significant event, such as the US Fed’s rate announcement or earnings announcements, might trigger such volatility. If IV increases sharply following such events, the value of both options can rise substantially, allowing you to sell them at a premium well above what you initially paid.

Short Iron Condor

Iron Cordor

The short iron condor option strategy is a sophisticated approach used by traders to profit from relatively stable markets. This strategy consists of a combination of four different options: selling an out-of-the-money (OTM) put, buying a further OTM put, selling an OTM call, and buying a further OTM call.

All options are based on the same underlying asset and share the same expiration date. The primary aim is to capture the premium from the sold options while limiting potential losses through the purchased options.

For sellers, the short iron condor is particularly advantageous when implied volatility (IV) is high. High IV increases the premiums received from the options they sell, making the strategy more lucrative.

The ideal scenario for a seller is when the price of the underlying asset remains within the range set by the strike prices of the sold call and put. If the asset’s price stays within this range until expiration, the options expire worthless, allowing the seller to keep the entire premium.

Implied Volatility For Options: My Final Thoughts

Mastering the dynamics implied volatility is a key factor in crafting a winning options trading strategy. Whether you’re contemplating future volatility, pondering option pricing models, assessing options premiums, or making trading decisions, implied volatility stands as an essential metric.

High implied volatility may favor option sellers, offering them inflated premiums, whereas low implied volatility can signal a buying opportunity for those who believe future movements will increase volatility.

Strategies like the short straddle, long strangle, and short iron condor showcase how trading options can be optimized by aligning with expected changes in market sentiment and implied volatility levels. Each strategy has its place, whether capitalizing on stability with the short iron condor or leveraging predicted volatility spikes with the long strangle.

The probability of success in these investment strategies hinges on external factors, market volatility, and the trader’s ability in navigating the stock market’s ebbs and flows.

Jeremy Biberdorf
Jeremy Biberdorf

About the Author:

Jeremy Biberdorf is the founder of Modest Money. He's a father of 2 beautiful girls, a dog owner, a long-time online entrepreneur and an investing enthusiast.

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