SteadyOptions is an options trading forum where you can find solutions from top options traders. TRY IT FREE!

We’ve all been there… researching options strategies and unable to find the answers we’re looking for. SteadyOptions has your solution.

Flaws in Implied Volatility

A technical study of chart patterns, focusing on historical volatility of the underlying, reveals that depending on implied volatility is a flawed idea. Traders should remember that options are derivatives, meaning their premium value is derived from historical volatility.

Implied volatility is an estimate based on current levels of price and  moneyness, but these matters change every day.

Timing of option trades is likely to be improved by relying more on price-related and momentum signals, and not aimed at the effort to estimate future volatility. Today’s volatility tells traders what they need to know to time their decisions profitably. Consideration such as moneyness and proximity matter. When the current price per share is close to the option strike, timing is likely to be improved, whether entering or exiting. Another form of proximity is related to price in comparison to resistance or support. Most reversal signals are most reliable when they occur right at these trading range borders. If price gaps through resistance or support, and reversal signals appear, this is exceptionally strong timing for options trades.

Options traders often prefer implied volatility (IV) to time trades, but this rarely makes sense. IV has value to some extent, but it is an estimate only and is based on what you see today, not on what is likely to happen in coming days or weeks. Traditionally, traders like to enter long trades when IV is low and exit when it increases; or to enter short trades when IV is high and exit when it declines. However, analysis reveals that this is equally effective when applying the analysis to historical volatility, which is more reliable because it is factual and not an estimate.

Support for relying on IV comes largely from academia, where IV is tied directly to the efficient market. However, this also is flawed. The efficient market hypothesis (EMH) states correctly that prices efficiently take news into the price immediately. However, no distinction is made between true news and rumor, so false information has the same effect on price as true information. This efficiency also fails to identify how far a stock price should move. Anyone who has observed market reaction to earnings surprises sees a big price move, often exaggerated. In comes sessions, the price retraces to previous level.

This is not efficient.

That’s the entire point. EMH is poorly named because it implies that markets are efficient, when in fact only discounting of all information (true and false) is efficient. When options traders rely on IV and point to “efficiency” as justification, they are relying on a signal containing no true value.

Proponents of IV claim that (s) the market is efficient, and this is reflected in IV and (b) this fact allows traders to accurately predict the future.

However, the efficiency of price behavior based on information often gives off a false signal, so that IV itself reflects the inefficient interpretation of price. Traders know that short-term price behavior is inefficient and chaotic, so that IV – as a direct factor of this assumption – is not reliable for timing trades.

A related problem is the significant variance in IV based on moneyness of different strikes and time to expiration. Informed short traders know that time is an ally, and time decay is a primary source for profits. However, this is easily based on historical volatility rather than on the less reliable implied volatility. A debate about which form affects option premium is unsettled; but traders will discover that relying on historical volatility provides reliable timing information to exploit volatility.

The problems with IV are evident in the wide variances of levels based on moneyness and time to expiration. This tendency to vary is called the volatility surface, and it relies on current option premium levels as the source for future movement; in truth, those premium levels are not the source, but the result of historical volatility and moneyness. A detailed study of stock and option prices concluded that there is no consistent evidence that IV determines or affects future option value.

IV is not accurate or reliable, despite common belief that it is both. Another study pointed out that IV is not a valuable indicator at all:

In theory, the implied volatility is the market’s well-informed prediction of future volatility. In practice, however, the arbitrage trading that is supposed to force option prices into conformance with the market’s volatility expectations may be very hard to execute. It will also be less profitable and entail more risk than simple market making that maximizes order flow and earns profits from the bid-ask spread. [2]


Although there are five factors going into the Black Scholes pricing model (BSM), only volatility is unknown and must be estimated; and this is where inaccuracy comes into play, making the pricing model deeply flawed.

The intent of IV is to identify current volatility and predict future volatility, but it cannot predict the future. Volatility itself (defined as “risk”) cannot be quantified for the future in any case, so any assumption by traders that IV is a reliable test of future price movement, is simply untrue. This is easily demonstrated by another factor: Volatility reveals the likely movement of an option’s premium, but not the direction. Options traders are naturally interested in figuring out where the price will move, but volatility articulates the range of price movement and not the direction.


A final flaw is that as expiration approaches, volatility will become as uncertain as price of the underlying. This “volatility collapse” makes IV unreliable in the final week before expiration. But this is the week where many traders focus. If a trader is active in the final week of the option’s term, but also relies on IV, there is no certainty whatsoever of profitable outcome. A simple observation of moneyness and proximity to resistance or support makes more sense.

The use of IV can be compared to reliance on forward P/E. This is an estimate of future P/E but contains assumptions, often based on wishful thinking or flawed assumptions. It may also be compared to the accounting reliance on pro forma financial statements, estimates of future revenue, costs and net profit. This may be based on detailed forecasting that sounds scientific but, in fact, cannot be called accurate. If traders know that estimates of future P/E or net profits are unreliable, why depend on IV to estimate future volatility of options?


[1] Bouchard, Jean-Philippe & Marc Potters (2009). Theory of Financial Risk and Derivative Pricing: From Statistical Physics to Risk Management (2nd ed.). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 252


[2] Figlewski, Stephen. (2004). Forecasting Volatility, New York University Stern School of Business, Preface

Michael C. Thomsett is a widely published author with over 80 business and investing books, including the best-selling Getting Started in Options, coming out in its 10th edition later this year. He also wrote the recently released The Mathematics of Options. Thomsett is a frequent speaker at trade shows and blogs on his website at Thomsett Guide as well as on Seeking Alpha, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.    


What Is SteadyOptions?

Full Trading Plan

Complete Portfolio Approach

Diversified Options Strategies

Exclusive Community Forum

Steady And Consistent Gains

High Quality Education

Risk Management, Portfolio Size

Performance based on real fills

Try It Free

Non-directional Options Strategies

10-15 trade Ideas Per Month

Targets 5-7% Monthly Net Return

Visit our Education Center

Recent Articles


  • The problem of Option Math

    Option traders may be divided into two categories. First are those relying on instinct or casual observation. This group tends to speculate on directional movement, future volatility, value, and on potential profitability of trades. The second group is involved deeply with math of trading and depends on what is perceived as certainty or near certainty.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

  • Put/Call Parity: Two Definitions

    Traders hear the term put/call parity a lot, but what does it mean? There are two definitions and they are vastly different from one another. The first definition involves the net credit/debit for any combination trade, with trading costs are considered. The second definition takes assumed interest rates and present value into mind.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

  • Do Options Affect Stock Prices?

    It is widely acknowledged that the price of the underlying directly impacts the premium of the option. Therefore, options are termed derivatives. Their current value is directly derived from movement of the underlying price. Is the opposite also true? Does movement of the option value affect the underlying price?

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

  • Portfolio Withdrawal Strategies

    This article will discuss three ways to take systematic withdrawals from your investment portfolio that would be expected to last 30 years, which is a typical time period a 65-year couple might need to plan for in retirement.

    By Jesse,

  • Pricing Models and Volatility Problems

    Most traders are aware of the volatility-related problem with the best-known option pricing model, Black-Scholes. The assumption under this model is that volatility remains constant over the entire remaining life of the option.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

  • Option Arbitrage Risks

    Options traders dealing in arbitrage might not appreciate the forms of risk they face. The typical arbitrage position is found in synthetic long or short stock. In these positions, the combined options act exactly like the underlying. This creates the arbitrage.  

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

  • Why Haven't You Started Investing Yet?

    You are probably aware that investment opportunities are great for building wealth. Whether you opt for stocks and shares, precious metals, forex trading, or something else besides, you could afford yourself financial freedom. But if you haven't dipped your toes into the world of investing yet, we have to ask ourselves why.

    By Kim,

  • Historical Drawdowns for Global Equity Portfolios

    Globally diversified equity portfolios typically hold thousands of stocks across dozens of countries. This degree of diversification minimizes the risk of a single company, country, or sector. Because of this diversification, investors should be cautious about confusing temporary declines with permanent loss of capital like with single stocks.

    By Jesse,

  • Types of Volatility

    Are most options traders aware of five different types of volatility? Probably not. Most only deal with two types, historical and implied. All five types (historical, implied, future, forecast and seasonal), deserve some explanation and study.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

  • The Performance Gap Between Large Growth and Small Value Stocks

    Academic research suggests there are differences in expected returns among stocks over the long-term.  Small companies with low fundamental valuations (Small Cap Value) have higher expected returns than big companies with high valuations (Large Cap Growth).

    By Jesse,


  Report Article

We want to hear from you!

There are no comments to display.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account. It's easy and free!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Options Trading Blogs Expertido