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cwelsh

Welcome to Anchor Trades

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Welcome to Anchor Trades!

 

I would like to personally welcome all our members, those who have come from SteadyOptions, Seeking Alpha, and those which have come from elsewhere. I would encourage everyone to read the Anchor Frequently Asked Questions and the Anchor Trade Strategy topics. Those two topics should provide answers to the majority of your questions, as well a detailed discussion on what the Anchor Strategy is all about. 

 

You can see the Anchor Trades performance here.

 

So What is an Anchor Trade?

 

To put it simply, an Anchor Trade should be one that forms the keystone of any investment portfolio -- that reliable corner that you know you can depend on, regardless of market conditions. The one that lets you sleep at night, knowing your money is at work, but not subject to large risks.

 

An Anchor trade's goal is to prevent loss of capital while still generating a positive net return in all market conditions. This strategy began with the premise that it must be possible to virtually fully hedge against market losses, without sacrificing all upside potential. Anchor trades are concerned for full year, full portfolio, protection, regardless of market conditions.

 

Many investors try to insure against losses after those losses have already been incurred, or as they are occurring in real time – this is a mistake. It’s easy to be an investor during a prolong bull market, but what happens when a severe, or even mild, market correction occurs? At that point many investors find themselves trapped in falling positions, have stop losses kicking in, and are at a loss as what to do – other than to watch their principle dissipate. In the modern era of flash crashes, swift market volatility changes, and world risk it simply makes no sense to be invested in anything without portfolio protection. It is impossible to routinely predict the next negative major market event, therefore 365 days of protection is a necessity. I have given up trying to predict the day to day movements of the market -- therefore I Anchor my portfolio with this strategy (which can easily then be paired with other strategies).

 

In the current market environment, such precautions are particularly warranted. It is my opinion that much of the recent market gains have been artificially propped up by low interest rates, the Federal Reserve, and the lack of alternative investment choices which can provide income to investors. At some point in the future the market is due, at the very least, for a correction, if not a significant down turn. With increasing turmoil in Syria, North Korea, and elsewhere in the Middle East, who knows what could tip the markets. Will this occur within two weeks, six months, one year, or even longer is something I've given up trying to predict. Rather I seek to protect against such events – whenever they may occur.

 

Some strategies try to partially hedge against market risk through long short strategies, through the straight purchase of puts (typically out of the money at a substantial cost to the portfolio), through default swaps, or through numerous other instruments. However, each of these strategies only offers partial portfolio protection which either comes at a cost or which just assumes a set loss in the portfolio (such as ten or fifteen percent) is acceptable. I refuse to accept that philosophy and have developed a strategy around annual portfolio protection.

 

Performance targets

 

Over the past few months I’ve been exposed to Swan Global Investment’s Defined Risk Strategy, which is remarkably similar to Anchor (except, as shown below, Anchor tends to perform better).  Swan solves the goal defining issue through a “Target Return Band” shown below:

Target-Return-Band-Overview-Swan-Blog-1.png

The theory being that their Defined Risk Strategy should fall within or above the blue range.  The red line represents the theoretical return of the S&P 500, the yellow line is the Swan’s Defined Risk Return target returns when contrasted with the S&P 500 return at the point.

Defining The Anchor Strategy describes the profits targets for the Anchor strategy.

 

The impact of not experiencing losses in down market years, while only slightly lagging (if lagging at all) in positive and neutral years, is astronomical over any extended period of time. Utilizing the Anchor strategy over a number of years, particularly if any of those years are bear markets, should lead to the strategy significantly outperforming the markets as a whole, as back-testing has demonstrated. Even in prolonged bull markets, the returns should still be positive and lag negligibly behind. The peace of mind which comes with being fully hedged more than compensates for the potential of slightly underperforming the market as a whole in prolonged bull scenarios.

 

Special thanks to Reel Ken, Kim Klaiman, and others who helped me evolve this strategy to its current form through their articles and discussions.

 

Anchor Trade objective

 

The Anchor strategy's s primary objective is to have positive returns in all market conditions on an annual basis

 

Anchor Trades will be divided into two separate forums:

 

1. The Anchor Trades forum will post my actual trades from my individual account, including weekly rolls, and any adjustments I make, as well as the price I received when filled. It will also include a thread for "model" trades that will be launched monthly. Model trades will be for those members who join after the initial actual trades are established, so any member can set up their own Anchor Portfolio. This way any member, regardless of when they join, will have a thread to follow applicable from their initial membership date. If you want to get notifications about the trades, you should follow this forum (by clicking "Follow this forum" button). If you follow this forum, you will receive an email when a new topic (trade) is posted.

 

2. The Anchor Trades Discussions forum will discuss each trade that has been made, detail the calculations behind the decision, and provide a Q&A forum for members to ask about any one trade. The thread will also have columns about the theory behind the Anchor strategy, implementation discussions, and be open to members to ask general questions.

The Anchor objective is to produce equity like returns over a full market cycle, with reduced volatility and bear market drawdowns. Investors should expect a trade-off of reduced upside capture during extreme bull market gains. Given our belief that the long term is the only investment time frame that truly matters, we believe the strategy provides attractive mathematical and psychological benefits to investors seeking the long term growth potential of the US stock market.

 

If you have any questions about the threads, where information can be found, or just general questions, please feel free to send a message to either Kim or myself. I look forward to helping all member learn about this strategy and hopefully implement it themselves.


January 2019 update - Leveraged Anchor

In January 2019 we started tracking the leverage version of the Anchor for performance purposes. The leveraged version has been extensively backtested to fine tune the system for optimal results. Here are the highlights of the new implementation:
 

  1. We now use deep in the money calls, as opposed to long stock positions, and we are able to gain leverage without having to utilize margin interest.  Given the rising interest rate environment we are in, and the high cost of margin interest rates generally, this can lead to significant savings;
     
  2. When we enter the trade, we look for a long call that has a delta of around 90.  As the market falls, delta will shrink.  For instance, if SPY were to decline ten percent, our long calls would have declined by less than nine percent.  The closer we get to our long strike, the slower this decline;
     
  3. In the event of very large crashes, we can actually make money.
     
  4. Losses are capped.  In the above example, the maximum loss is 9.5%.  This can increase if we keep rolling the short puts throughout the downturn, but in any one “crash,” losses are limited to the ten percentage point mark (in Traditional Anchor this 9.5% max loss in one period is better, coming in at 8.5%).  If we apply a momentum filter as well, then the risk of continuingly losing on the short puts declines;
     
  5. In larger bull markets, the Leveraged Anchor outperforms both Traditional Anchor and simply being long stock as there is actual leverage being used.  Some of this will depend on just how fast the market is rising and how often the long hedge is rolled, but in large bull markets, it should still regularly outperform.  In fact, in any one period where the market grows more than 3.5% to 4.0%, the Leveraged Anchor will outperform simply being long SPY.  The Leveraged version of Anchor will always outperform Traditional Anchor in any up markets.

 

One question that must be addressed is just how much leverage to use?  Luckily this is very easy to model on a thirty day period:

image.png

Above is a table showing the performance of SPY, then using 25% leverage, 50%, and 75% leverage after certain market moves over a thirty day period.  After reviewing the above, and similar tables over longer periods of time, we made a decision that utilizing 50% leverage was optimal.  You of course can adjust, taking on more leverage, or less, as you see fit.  Note the above table does not include any gains from BIL dividends.  That should add around 10 to 20 basis points more performance per month on the leveraged versions.

Overall, we should expect the leveraged to slightly outperform the market in strong bull markets, significantly outperform in strong bear markets, and slightly underperform in sideways or slightly up/down markets (+-10%).

You can read more about the strategy here.

 

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thanks, I will work on Step 1 and create my portfolio.  Kindly let me know what I have to do for step 2, Just to keep it simple I would hedge it for 100K even if my portfolio is little more then that.

 

Step 2 - Fully hedge

Step 3 - Earn back the cost of the hedge

Also, how can I follow step 3, I joined for a few weeks now but did not get any alert or able to follow the Master roll thread posts like: 

https://steadyoptions.com/forums/forum/topic/4946-master-roll-thread/?do=findComment&comment=133362

https://steadyoptions.com/forums/forum/topic/4946-master-roll-thread/?do=findComment&comment=133373

Please bear with me, I am new to this but follow steadyoptions-trades were quite earlier for me since every tread is a new thread.

 

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2 minutes ago, ramn said:

thanks, I will work on Step 1 and create my portfolio.  Kindly let me know what I have to do for step 2, Just to keep it simple I would hedge it for 100K even if my portfolio is little more then that.

 

Step 2 - Fully hedge

Step 3 - Earn back the cost of the hedge

Also, how can I follow step 3, I joined for a few weeks now but did not get any alert or able to follow the Master roll thread posts like: 

https://steadyoptions.com/forums/forum/topic/4946-master-roll-thread/?do=findComment&comment=133362

https://steadyoptions.com/forums/forum/topic/4946-master-roll-thread/?do=findComment&comment=133373

Please bear with me, I am new to this but follow steadyoptions-trades were quite earlier for me since every tread is a new thread.

 

Last roll was posted on Feb.6

https://steadyoptions.com/forums/forum/topic/4946-master-roll-thread/?do=findComment&comment=134655

You need to follow that topic to get the roll alerts - exactly the same way you follow the SO trades.

More details:

How To Use The Forum

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Thanks, @Kim, I noticed that however, I am trying to find the existing all long and short positions. 

Please correct me if my understanding is wrong: It seems BTC FEB 10 332 P 0.70 means a BTC Jan XX 332 P was closed(long) and FEB 10 332 P was started (short).   Also, are BTC and STO the only two we hedged as part of step 2?

Quote

Today is 2/6/2020 and I'm rolling the short puts:

BTC Feb 10 332 P 0.70

STO Feb 28 334 P 3.58

Net Credit: $2.88

 

Edited by ramn
updated

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Hi @Kim and @cwelsh

I just (re)enrolled in Anchor and find the new system with synthetic stock interesting. I have been looking at all the links provided in the "Welcome" but have a few questions I havent been able to find answers to.

a) When to roll the core synthetics (calls and puts) if ever?

b) The explanation of the strategy states to buy puts ATM - 5%, but other state ATM. Which is it?

c) Am I correct that the puts we short are delta 55, close to ATM? Isnt that "risky" in regard to the current volatility?

d) Why 365 days options and not even longer 730 days? Liquidity?

e) When purchasing the options, where to place our bid: middle of bid/offer or?

f) Several posts warn about opening Anchor now due to high IV, but when I look at current pricing it seems that weekly puts bring in 1/7 of the cost of the 365 day - so high volatility only need to be present for a few more months

g) The system aims at 75% leverage. What risks are the with more leverage (the system makes money in all market situations - except flat)

 

Edited by JacobH

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A couple of follow-up questions:

h) Why do we use SPY and not QQQ

i) I have seen other systems that use VIX as a hedge. VIX tends to move average 16% on a 3% down stock move, which would give even more bang for the buck protection wise. Have VIX calls been considered as a hedge instead of PUT options?

 

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a.  You should roll the calls either (a) after a full year has gone by and you can sell them for a long term gain instead of a short, or (b) after a large market decline to be able to participate in a market rebound.

 

Item B merits discussion.  One of the advantages of using long calls is as the market declines, so does the delta of the long position.  When the position was opened, delta may be around .9 -- which means if the market drops $1, the long calls go down $0.90.  However, as things decline, so does the delta.  So after a crash, the delta might be 0.7.  This means if the market keeps going down, your long position is declining at a decreasing rate, while your long puts have a delta near one.  So in Leveraged Anchor, you're actually better off with a BIGGER crash, as your account can start going up in value.  We saw this actually occur over the last month.  The trade off is as markets rebound your account will go DOWN in value.  This can be combated by, at some point during a decline, rolling the calls down and out to a higher delta.  The disadvantages of such a move include (a) it requires cash, (b) you are realizing a loss on the calls while not realizing a gain on the puts, and (c) if the markets keep going down, you'll be worse off than if you had not rolled down and out.  Of course the long puts are still there, but you will be a bit worse off.

 

a.  As for when to roll the puts, the general answer is only as things go up.  I did post an article discussing when this may not hold true: https://steadyoptions.com/articles/anchor-analysis-and-options-r564/.

 

b.  We normally by the hedge of the long calls 5% out of the money.  They're significantly cheaper than an ATM position.  For instance, the March 31 2021 at the money put (280) is currently trading at $32.  5% in the money (266) is around 26.50.  The first ends up costing the portfolio about 11.5%, the second 9.5%.  So in essence we're "risking" a 3% down turn to get a cheaper hedge.  Given the postive skew of markets over time, and the fact the biggest drag on the portfolio is the hedge, this is a tradeoff most members are happy with.  Though some DO stick to the ATM hedge.   

 

But then we also have to hedge the short puts, which are the most risky portion of the portfolio.  We use ATM puts for that to reduce risk.

 

c.  It depends on if its a new or old portfolio.  For the older ones, for instance the model portfolio, we currently are hedging the short puts at SPY 327, which has a delta of almost one.  So selling a 55 delta put has relatively low risk.  The premium is huge (which is necessary to pay for the more expensive hedge), and the long 327 puts do an awfully good job of hedging it if the market goes down.  If you're opening a new portfolio, yes the risk is higher, but you also need the higher credits to pay for the hedge.  If you're risk adverse, you can always move toward the ATM position, but be more aggressive rolling.

 

d.  Cost, delta, and necessity for adjustments.  On the long call side, your 435 day 200 call (first available after one year), is trading at an .88 delta, the same position 652 days out costs $3 more and has a .82 delta.  Not the largest swing, but one that will make a difference in an up market.  It also cost a bit more to get the same leverage.  On the put side, the same thing applies -- only as we anticipate having to roll the hedge up and out as markets rise, by moving further out in time, you've cut the amount you can roll "up and out."

 

e.  When I purchase the options, I always open the order well off the mid in my favor.  For instance, if I was buying a put and the spread was $1 - $2, I'd probably open the order around $1.25 or so and slowly increase it by a few cents every 30 seconds to a minute.  

 

f.  You are 100% correct -- if vol stays where it is, then the increased volatility will make paying for the more expensive hedge simple. However, if vol drops back to normal levels in a short period, you'll be in trouble.  Another thing to think of, as volatility drops, markets are likely going up -- which means you may have to roll the long hedge frequently (about every 7.5%-10% in market gains).  This increases cost even more, while at the same time the credits you get are declining.  I currently want to see the cost of the portfolio hedge at 8.,5% or lower to feel comfortable.  There's no magic with that number, it's what I'm comfortable with, for those entering a new Anchor, at these levels, they may still be able to pay for the hedge.

 

g.  Target leverage is based on an individual's risk tolerances.  More leverage equals more risk in small market drops.  It also is more volatility, as prices will move more.  It's fairly easy to find the differences different leverage will have using excel.  Just build out the position with various amounts of leverage, and then calculate the value of the portfolio on various stock ending prices.

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h.  SPY is more liquid and more representative of the whole market -- QQQ is tech slanted.  If you have $350k or more, then you could implement a diverse Anchor using IWM, EFA, QQQ, and SPY.

 

i.  We've tried a variety of different hedging techniques and learned that any hedge that does not exactly mirror the underlying instrument results in tracking error at some point.  For instance, at one time we tried a basket of stocks that we liked and hedged with SPY.  Worked great until dividend stocks really under performed SPY and we were heavy in dividend stocks.  We tried using a blend of similar instruments to SPY (SDY, RSP, and VIG), which, over the last 30 years or so, would have outperformed SPY in up markets and down markets.  Until the last three years, in which case SPY outperformed them all and lagged.  Similar on down turns.  If you're not in the SAME instrument, there will be slippage.  You might be ok with that depending on how much and the price.

 

This is called "correlation," and if the two instruments do not have a HIGH degree of correlation, you risk under performance.

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The problem comes in hedging, as the prices do not move in unison.  E.g. if SPY drops $1 a VIX call is not going to go up $1.  

 

I just pulled both charts for today, SPY is up 1.7% and VIX is down 3.2% -- so not only can you not match dollar moves, you can't match percentage moves.

 

I'm not saying there's not a way to do it -- and it might even work better in very large moves down (as VIX can go through the roof quickly), but I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be using as it replacement for SPY puts.

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    • By cwelsh
      One of the largest reasons for this is that different asset classes tend to outperform other classes in any given year:
       

       
      As well as Leveraged Anchor has performed over the past couple of years, a large part of that performance can be attributed to the S&P 500 simply performing well – a trend that may or may not continue.  Given that the developers of the Leveraged Anchor strategy developed it in part on the premise of “we don’t know what the market is going to do over the next year,” diversification of the strategy only makes sense.
       
      In furtherance of this, the strategy was diversified into four different indexes:
      SPY – S&P 500; QQQ – Nasdaq; EFA – Large cap international excluding US and Canada; and IWM – Russell 2000 (small caps).  
      While there is some overlap between the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, the two indexes have had differing performances over the last decade:
       


      Given the popularity of the two indexes, we wanted to gain exposure to both.  A driving factor in selecting the above instruments was volume of their option markets, as our strategy is almost entirely option driven.  All four of the above are top 10 instruments in total daily option volume and number of open contracts.  Liquidity should not be a major concern on any of the above except for the very largest of portfolios (and in which case there are ways to trade the indexes more directly than ETFs). 
       
      Consideration was given to including real estate through a REIT or REIT ETF, but the only possible instrument identified that traded weekly options was IRY and it has fairly low option volume so was excluded.  Consideration was also given to adding in commodities (such as GLD or SLV) or bonds (such as HYG) but such instruments did not perform well in testing of the Leveraged Anchor strategy – at all – in any market conditions, so such instruments were excluded.  This does not mean such instruments do not have a place in a full portfolio – they absolutely do – but they just do not currently have a place in a Diversified Leveraged Anchor portfolio.

      Theory is one thing, but how has it worked in practice since going live?  Too often in stock and option trading theory does not match reality.  Fortunately, several months in, diversification has worked exactly as intended.
      The first EFA Leveraged Anchor position was opened on April 14, 2020.  Through July 1, 2020, the underlying EFA stock position was up 8.91% and the Leveraged Anchor EFA position was up 7.28%. 
       
      The first QQQ Leveraged Anchor position was opened on April 17, 2020.  Through July 1, 2020, the underlying QQQ stock position was up 17.44% and the Leveraged Anchor QQQ position was up 21.64%.
       
      The first IWM Leveraged Anchor position was opened on April 28, 2020.  Through July 1, 2020, the underlying IWM stock position was up 9.27% and the Leveraged Anchor IWM position was up 9.11%.
       
      Over the same general period, SPY stock was up 8.58% and the Leveraged Anchor SPY position was up 5.35%.
       
      In other words, an undiversified Leveraged Anchor position was up 5.35% while the Diversified Leveraged Anchor position was up 10.85% -- more than double the performance.
       
      Overall, each of the new Leveraged Anchor instruments has performed as expected, if not better (QQQ has done much better than expected).  All three of IWM, EFA, and QQQ required the long hedge to be rolled in the first three months, which is normally a large cost item and operates as a drag on performance.  And while such a drag can be seen on EFA and IWM, such drag was minimal and should balance out as the hedge is continually paid for over a full year period.
       
      In short, in the limited window of time we have diversified the Leveraged Anchor strategy, we are very pleased with the results and look to continue success over the coming months.

      Christopher Welsh is a licensed investment advisor in the State of Texas and is the president of an investment firm, Lorintine Capital, LP which is a general partner of three separate private funds. He is also an attorney practicing in Dallas, Texas. Chris has been practicing since 2006 and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Working with a CFP® professional represents the highest standard of financial planning advice. He offers investment advice to his clients, both in the law practice and outside of it. Chris has a Bachelor of Science in Economics, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Texas A&M University, and a law degree from Southern Methodist University. Chris manages the Anchor Trades portfolio, the Steady Options Fund, and oversees Lorintine Capital's distressed real estate debt fund.
       
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      Anchor Trades Portfolio Launched Defining The Anchor Strategy Leveraged Anchor Is Boosting Performance Leveraged Anchor Update Leveraged Anchor Implementation Leveraged Anchor: A Three Month Review Anchor Maximum Drawdown Analysis A More Diversified Anchor Strategy
    • By cwelsh
      The model portfolio also expended a bit of cash to reset the long call position, so the strategy could participate more if and when the market continues to rebound.

      Even with this good performance, we are always looking to improve overall performance.  Improved performance can occur through a reduction in risk, better absolute performance over time, or a combination of the two. 

      I’ve created three different portfolios for demonstrative purposes.  Portfolio 1 is 100% long SPY.  Portfolio 2 is 25% each of SPY, IWM (small caps), QQQ (technology), and EFA (international).  Portfolio 3 roughly curve fit the best blend of them (thanks to portfolio visualizer):
       

       
      As can be seen, virtually any blend of diversified assets has outperformed simply holding one asset class over the last 20 years. If we curve fit, we can greatly increase performance – by almost 2% per year.  Historically, going further back in time, this pattern holds even more true.  A diversified blend of assets typically reduces risk and increases performance, over significant periods of time. 

      Of course, you’ll be able to find a 1-5 year period (or maybe even longer), where a single asset class outperforms a diversified basket – but good luck picking that asset class moving forward.  Is it time for international stocks to rebound more than the U.S. despite lagging for a decade?  Are small caps going to outperform large caps as they traditionally do?  What about technology – will it continue to outperform other large caps?  Maybe you have those answers, but I don’t.  However, as a long term investor, I know that diversification works over time.
       
      How does one decide what the “optimal” split is in allocation?  If you look over the last 20 years, SPY has a CAGR of 5.58%, IWM 6.03%, QQQ 7.08%, and EFA 4.31%.  What if we take out the recent bull run in large caps and look at the first decade of this century (2001-2010)?  Things change drastically.  SPY has a CARG of 3.00%, IWM 6.83%, QQQ 4.24%, and EFA 6.69%.  If you expand further, you can find (thanks to Forbes):


       
      (Note: Technology was not an asset class for much of the above period). 
       
      After reviewing multiple periods of time (from one year to one hundred years), several trends are clear:
       
      Small caps typically outperform large caps; Over the last 10 years, large caps have been the best performing; Technology stocks have outperformed even large caps significantly in the last decade; International stocks have consistently under performed large cap, small cap, and technology, but that trend is “recent” in the last 20 years; but International has the lowest correlation to the listed classes.  
      There is no “magic” blend and each investor can create their own.  Some people will be most comfortable with a straight 25/25/25/25 split, which takes any risk for picking which sector is going to perform the best off the table.  Others will weigh the most recent better performers stronger.  If we look at just the last 10 or 20 years, we would not allocate anything to international stocks.  However, I personally like the low level of correlation and want at least some exposure internationally.  I also expect a reversion to small caps outperforming, particularly in the near future.  In my personal portfolio, I would choose:
       
      SPY                     25% QQQ                    25% IWM                     30% EFA                      20%  
      There is no “correct” blend, as it is impossible to know which class will perform the best moving forward, particularly over long periods of time.  Part of the above also contemplates some of the overlap between QQQ and SPY. 
       
      Once an asset class division is decided on, all that is left to do is to implement the Leveraged Anchor strategy on each asset.  This is the biggest challenge in setting things up, as it is capital intensive.  Assuming 3 contracts is the smallest size one can use (3 long calls, 3 long puts 5% out of the money, 1 long put at the money, and one short put), then current minimum amounts necessary to open a Leveraged Anchor strategy:
       
      SPY:      $35,000 QQQ:     $30,000 IWM:      $20,000 EFA:       $7,500  
      These values are going to somewhat dictate how you divide your money among the different asset classes.  For instance, it is virtually impossible, without very large sums of money, to get the splits I set out above.  I could get close:
       
      SPY:      $35,000  25.6% QQQ:     $40,000  29.2% IWM:      $46,667  34.14% EFA:      $15,000   10.9%  
      But to implement the above, I would need almost $140,000.  The minimum I would need to implement any version of a diversified Anchor is still over $90,000. 
       
      I would advise any client that is interested in Anchor, and who has over $100,000 to invest, that diversifying the strategy, should outperform, over long periods of time.  In any given one- or two-year period, there will be outperformance by one class over the other.  The goal of diversification is to reduce variability and risk, while increasing returns, over long periods.
       
      In the near future, we will begin listing out Leveraged Anchor trades for the different asset classes.  Members are free to stick with SPY or come up with their own diversification blend.  As always, if you would like to open a managed account, and have Lorintine Capital manage a diversified Anchor portfolio for you, we would be happy to discuss the matter. 

       
      Christopher Welsh is a licensed investment advisor and president of LorintineCapital, LP. He provides investment advice to clients all over the United States and around the world. Christopher has been in financial services since 2008 and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Working with a CFP® professional represents the highest standard of financial planning advice. Christopher has a J.D. from the SMU Dedman School of Law, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Christopher is a regular contributor to the Steady Options Anchor Trades and Lorintine CapitalBlog.

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    • By cwelsh
      Prior to answering that question though, we must revisit what exactly Anchor is, and what it is not.  The Anchor Strategy is a hedging strategy that hedges on a year to year basis.  Many investors have been puzzled as to why Anchor has not been going up with the market over the past week (as SPY has gone from around 220 to 260, Anchor accounts have either remained flat or even gone down slightly).  That is to be expected from how the strategy is designed.  No investor should see substantial gains in their portfolio until SPY starts moving above where the trade was opened.
       
      For example, if you opened the Anchor Strategy when SPY was at 300, using the 285 puts, and the market crashes ten percent or more, you should expect your account to stay approximately the same as when the account was opened.  We saw this occur when the markets dropped 30% or more and the Anchor accounts actually went up slightly in value.  However, as the markets start going back up toward the 300 level when your account was opened, Anchor will not go up in value.  That’s simply because the puts are going to be losing value at the same rate (if not faster) than the long positions gain.  In other words, until SPY gets back above 300, you should not expect your account to increase in value.
       
      This frustrates many investors.  Everyone loves the 30% outperformance on the way down, but hates the 20% under performance on the way back up.  But remember, the strategy is a year to year hedging strategy.  It was not designed to profit after a large market decline, but rather was designed to protect capital in down markets and when new highs are reached (new highs based on the point of your initial year hedging), then you should expect gains.
       
      Quite a few investors though are not happy with this result.  They want the protection in down markets, but also to gain as the markets go back up.  The last week in the market, as SPY has gone from 222 to 260, has been a great example of exactly how this occurs.  Take the model portfolio – on March 23, 2020 it was worth $141,684.  Over the next seven days, an incredible bull market occurred, as SPY rose 17%.  After the roll of the short puts on March 30, the model portfolio has dropped in value to $124,847,  a drop of 11.88% in a week.  This places Anchor down 8.3% on the year (down 5.4% in the first quarter) and the market down 18.75% (320 to 260).  Given that Anchor’s hedge doesn’t even kick in until a 5% drop in the market, this result is exactly in line with what is expected.  However, no investor in Anchor is happy at the 11.88% loss in a week as investors mistakenly believe Anchor provides protection against that.  It does not.  Anchor is a  year to year strategy not a week to week.  The strategy is beating the markets by 7% and protecting against large declines.  If the markets reverse back down, the strategy will greatly excel again.
       
      So how is an investor to profit as markets rebound? The only way to do this is to adjust/reset the Anchor Strategy.  However, as noted numerous times, “resetting” or opening a new Anchor account after a large decline is quite expensive and sets investors up for underperformance.  So what are investors to do?  Below is a brief analysis of the four different options available:
       
      Option 1 – Do Nothing
      I am not an advocate of changing strategy mid-flight.  The Anchor Strategy is a capital preservation strategy and it is doing that spectacularly.    If an investor were to take either of the below options, and the market declines further, they would be in a significantly worse position than if they did nothing, thereby losing some capital. 
       
      If you reset the position, to a lower hedge (a) the cost of the hedge is much higher, which will act as a drag on the portfolio as paying for the hedge is more difficult and (b) if the market drops further, the account will drop more than if no changes had been made.  The reason for this is two-fold.  First, we open the hedge 5% out of the money.  This means if the market drops 5%, the account will essentially have little to no protection.  The investor will just “lose” that five percent again (having lost that five percent on the initial decline).
       
      Secondly, the SPY long call position currently has a delta of around 0.7.  This means if the market drops $1, the investor’s account will only drop $0.70.  If the position is reset to a call of close to one, then if the market drops $1, the investor’s account will also drop $1. 
       
      If the investor is in a capital preservation mode, and does not want to increase risk, the best option is to simply continue to manage the strategy as designed.
       
      Option 2 – Reset the Position
      Many investors though want (or expect) gains to come from investments when the market is going up, even if they have greatly outperformed over the past 30-60 days.  The thought process normally goes like this:
       
      A.      I beat the market by 25% last month;
      B.      I will be very frustrated if next month the market goes up 20% and I go up 0%;
      C.      I am ok if the market goes down 10% and my account goes down 10% because I am still outperforming the market on the year by 25%;
      D.      I don’t need my investments right now for expenses; and
      E.       I would rather take on additional risk to try to grow my account as the market goes back up (if it goes back up).
       
      If this fits your profile, closing out the existing Anchor position and “resetting” it to a new position would not be a bad decision.  (I am strongly leaning toward this in my personal account.  But I do not need the money to live on, I have decades left before retirement, and I would rather take the chance to gain even more and take on the risk of losing 10% -- but that is not the case for everyone – each investor needs to take their own situation into account).
       
      How would this be accomplished?  Simple…liquidate the current Anchor Strategy and simply re-enter.  As noted above, the current model portfolio is valued at a few dollars under $125,000.  If an investor were to launch a new Levered Anchor Position on $125,000, it would look like:
       
      1.       Buy to open 8 contracts June 18, 2021 170 Calls for $94.85 (about 66% leverage, 7 contracts would give 45% leverage, 9 contracts 87% leverage) – Total cost: $75,880
      2.       Sell to open 8 contracts March 19, 2021 Puts for $25.81 (Use the June 2021 calls to ensure long term capital gains while using the March 2021 puts as its closest to 365 days and if the markets move up quickly and the hedge has to be adjusted, it is cheaper and investors have the ability to roll up and out as well) – Total cost: $20,648;
      3.       Buy to open 4 contracts of the March 19, 2021 260 puts for $31.04 (to hedge the short puts) – Total cost: $12,416;
      4.       Sell to open 4 contracts of the April 22, 2020 262 puts for $14.36 – Total credit: $5,744;
      5.       Buy 230 shares of BIL for $91.62 – Total cost: $21,072.60; and
      6.       Hold $727.40 in cash.
       
      If an investor were to use 9 long calls, to increase the leverage, then that investor should also increase the short hedge and short contracts to 5.  All investors should remember, over time, Anchor tries to target needing a short credit of $0.80/contract/week when initializing the position.  The above requires double that to pay for the hedge.  This means the hedge is basically twice as expensive to pay for.  As long as volatility remains high, that’s easily doable.  However, as markets rebound, short put credits greatly decline in value. 
       
      I would not expect to be able to pay for the above hedge over the next year, particularly if it has to be rolled up as markets go up.  However, while this means investors will lag the performance of the market as the markets go up, their total performance over the year, including the market downturn, should be better.  E.g. Anchor is currently outperforming by 7%.  If it lags the market by 5% on the uptick, the adjustment still leads to market outperformance, and investors do not have to watch their account stay the same (or go down) as the markets rise.
       
      Option 3 - Sell Puts that are Deeper in the Money
      Traditionally Anchor sells puts that are around a .55 delta (1-2 strikes in the money), 24 days out, and rolls such puts once the strategy has captured most of the time value of the short puts.  Investors could profit some more by selling puts that are further in the money.  For instance, instead of selling the 262 puts, an investor may sell the 280 put.  If the markets rise swiftly, having sold further in the money will be more profitable than aggressively rolling the short puts.
       
      The risks to such strategy include:
       
      1.       With a higher delta, if the market declines, the short puts will decline in value faster than a position closer to at the money;
      2.       Selling puts further in the money requires higher margin and cash requirements, particularly in IRAs; and
      3.       If the markets are slowly increasing, it may be more profitable to roll short puts at the money.
       
      Option 4 (Most Risky) – Temporarily go Long
      The biggest drag on option II above is the cost of the hedge.  Several investors have expressed a desire to take on more risk and not hedge.  The logic of this strategy goes:
       
      A.      I beat the market by 25% last month;
      B.      I will be very frustrated if next month the market goes up 20% and I go up 0%, or worse;
      C.      I am ok if the market goes down 10% and my account goes down 10% because I am still outperforming the market on the year by 25%;
      D.      I am ok if the market goes down 25% and my account goes down 25% because I’m still beating the market on the year;
      E.       I don’t need my investments right now for expenses; and
      F.       I would rather take on additional risk to try to grow my account as the market goes back up (if it goes back up).
       
      How would this decision be accomplished?  Similar to above, liquidate the current Anchor Strategy and simply re-enter the long positions without purchasing the hedge.  As noted above, the current model portfolio is valued at a few dollars under $125,000.  If an investor were to launch a new Levered Anchor Position on $125,000, it would look like:
       
      1.       Buy to open 8 contracts June 18, 2021 170 Calls for $94.85 (about 66% leverage, 7 contracts would give 45% leverage, 9 contracts 87% leverage) – Total cost: $75,880
      2.       Buy 530 shares of BIL for $91.62 – Total cost: $48,558.60; and
      3.       Hold $561.40 in cash.
      There is substantial riskto the above.  If the markets drop from 260 to 220, investors should expect their long calls to decline to $60.50 (approximately), a drop in their portfolio of over 21% -- more than the market drops.  If this strategy were to be implemented, I would highly suggest taking on less leverage.  By reducing the leverage to 45%, the 21% loss would be reduced to 19%.  By reducing to six contracts, the loss would be reduced to 16%. 
       
      Another risk to keep in mind is that in the event of a large market drop (below SPY 170), the investor’s account could be looking at 50% total losses. 
       
      To combat such risks, an investor could temporarily eliminate leverage and buy SPY shares.  Or the investor could implement a partial hedge.  Even a 50% hedge would help alleviate some of the risk.  Further, when volatility drops, and the long hedge becomes more affordable, long puts should be purchased.
       
      If an investor was in the Anchor Strategy to preserve capital, switching to a long only position to try to “gain” when the markets gains is not a smart decision.
       
      Another common question is “when should I make the decision to re-structure Anchor?  The proper answer is “at the bottom tick of the market.”  Of course, if an investor knows when the bottom is going to hit, there are much better ways to take advantage of the situation. 
       
      The next best time to enter is at the same time as an investor would enter the Anchor Strategy normally – namely after one or more up days in a row, when volatility has declined.  In the model account, we are taking the following steps:
       
      1.       Stay particularly aggressive in rolling the short puts up as the market moves up;
      2.       Not change the positions until more economic news comes out – there is significant uncertainty on unemployment numbers, production, the length of time the economy will be shut down, how lenders and financing will be impacted, etc., which means sacrificing downside protection right now doesn’t make much sense;
      3.       If there’s another major downtick (back down to below SPY 230) then look to perhaps implement item II above, or a blend of II and III.
       
      Remember the purpose of Anchor – capital preservation and positive returns as the market goes above each investor’s entry point. 

       
      Christopher Welsh is a licensed investment advisor and president of LorintineCapital, LP. He provides investment advice to clients all over the United States and around the world. Christopher has been in financial services since 2008 and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Working with a CFP® professional represents the highest standard of financial planning advice. Christopher has a J.D. from the SMU Dedman School of Law, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Christopher is a regular contributor to the Steady Options Anchor Trades and Lorintine CapitalBlog.

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    • By cwelsh
      The new tracking account was opened on January 2, 2019 when SPY was right at $249.00 with a balance of $100,000.  In the tracking account, trading commissions were ignored.  The initial portfolio looked like:


       
      Six contracts of the 175 calls gave us control over $105,000 of SPY, and we held $36,000 of BIL. This gave us about 140% leverage on the account, a moderate amount, but enough that we should not lag when the market increased.
       
      I have a couple of comments on our initial portfolio.  First, our initial hedge was only 1.6% out of the money.  During the year we changed that to 5%, allowing for a loss in the event of a small market decline but trading it off for a higher upside.  Second, during the year we also “split” the hedge of the short puts and the long portfolio.  The short put hedge stayed at the money, as one of the bigger risks to the portfolio is a large spread between the short put that is sold during the week and the actual put hedging it.

      For instance, in the above portfolio there is more than $6.00 of downside risk between the short put and its hedge.  (It is more than six dollars due to the delta of the hedge compared to the delta of the short position – in other words, the short position is more sensitive to down movements than the long hedge).  To offset this risk, we kept the portion of the hedge against the short puts higher.

      Almost immediately after opening the position and continuing throughout the year, the market took off upwards, moving over 2.5% up in the first week alone.  In fact, the market moved up so quickly, we ended up having to roll the long hedge after the first month, rolling to the January 20 258 Puts when SPY hit 270.  It was at this roll that we adopted the five percent out of the money hedge. 

      The market kept moving up, resulting in us having to roll the long hedge again on April 2, 2019 when SPY hit 285.  At this point we “split” the hedge and our portfolio looked like:


       
      With SPY trading at 285, the six contracts at five percent out of the money, hedging the actual long portion of the portfolio were purchased at a strike of 270.  The four contracts hedging the short puts that are sold to generate income were purchased at a strike of 285 – the then current value of SPY.

      The market did not stop its rise, leading to another roll of the hedge on November 1, 2019.  That makes three rolls up of the long hedge during one calendar year – a record number for Anchor and one that we would expect to act as a drag on the account.  However, due to the leverage employed, any drag was minimal. 

      December 30, 2019 came around, necessitating a roll of the long call position. Due to portfolio gains, the strategy also had to purchase some additional long puts to continue to hedge the entire position.  After this roll, with SPY at $320.74, the portfolio looked like:


                 
      Over the full year, SPY went from $249.00 to $320.74, a gain of 28.8% (31.2% including dividends).  Over that same period, Leveraged Anchor increased from $100,000 to $136,094.88 – a gain of 36.1%. The final number for 2019 is 38.4% gain. In other words, the strategy outperformed the S&P 500 by 7.2%.  Individual accounts will be less, as there are trading costs and commissions, but even if an individual trader’s commissions ran two percent (an extremely high number), performance is still superb. 
       
      In reviewing the strategy, several points emerge:
      Adding forty percent of leverage resulted in outperforming the market by twenty five percent.  This means the three rolls of the hedge during the year bled the account by about fifteen percent, which is to be expected.  Another way of looking at this is, had we not been hedged, the performance would be higher, but if a trader did that, the trader would be significantly increasing risk;
        Given the outperformance, it may be worth rolling the hedge more frequently to reduce risks from downturns;
        Given the outperformance, it may be worth rolling the hedge of the short puts more frequently to reduce the risk from small short term pull backs and whipsawing; and
        For large accounts, diversifying into other instruments on other market indexes (small caps and international) should be explored. Thoughts and opinions on rolling the hedge more frequently, or on any other concerns or ideas for the strategy are always appreciated, as we are always looking to improve the strategy further. 
       
      Thanks everyone for a great year, and let’s hope next year performs just as well. 

      Christopher Welsh is a licensed investment advisor and president of LorintineCapital, LP. He provides investment advice to clients all over the United States and around the world. Christopher has been in financial services since 2008 and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Working with a CFP® professional represents the highest standard of financial planning advice. Christopher has a J.D. from the SMU Dedman School of Law, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Christopher is a regular contributor to the Steady Options Anchor Trades and Lorintine CapitalBlog.
       
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    • By cwelsh
      I love the software, and it has saved me literally months of keying in data, so I have no issue telling others about it. Hopefully, this will also provide some more insight into the Anchor Strategy and how it was developed.

      In 2011 when Anchor was first being developed, testing the strategy was a Herculean task.  I did not have access to any files of old option data, backtesting software or any of the programs that are available today to assist in the process of backtesting.  When we had a proposed strategy, we had to painstakingly go through ThinkOrSwim’s “ThinkBack” feature that has day end option pricing.  An excel spreadsheet would be created, several years of data would be typed in by hand, and then the data would be tested.  If a result was not what we wanted, and, for example, we wanted to move the subject option from a 50 delta position to a 33 delta position, then it would take two more days of work just to key in the new option prices.  Every minor change to the test was an effort of days.
       
      Then we were introduced to ORATS, which has made testing simpler, and helped create the current version of Leveraged Anchor that we are currently trading.  It also makes answering member questions about the adaptability of the Anchor strategy much simpler.
       
      For instance, in the past few months, three different readers have asked “Can I use the Anchor Strategy or the Leveraged Anchor Strategy to trade gold through the GLD ETF?”  My initial thought was “Well, it should be possible,” but thoughts and feelings aren’t exactly evidence.  So, I dove into ORATS to actually test the theory. 
       
      The first thing to do is to determine the cost of the long hedge, which can be done without ORATS by simply pulling up today’s options prices and looking – if the cost of the hedge is more than the average yearly gain in GLD, then there is no chance Anchor will work.  For example, if GLD’s average gain over the last two years was 5% per year, but the average cost of an annual hedge was 8%, then there would be no point in checking further as hedging would be cost prohibitive. 
       
      On the day of writing this article, the GLD option we would use to hedge would be the September 30, 2020 option.  With GLD currently trading at 138.72, the five percent out of the money put is the 132 put, which is trading for $2.24, or less than two percent of the price of the underlying.  This makes it “seem” like GLD might be a good candidate for Anchor or Leveraged Anchor because it appears to have a cheap long-term hedge compared to the performance of GLD over the past two or three years.Passing the first quick test, we need to build out a model and see if the strategy works over a longer time frame.
       
      The next thing to determine is if it is possible to pay for that hedge in a given year by selling short puts against the cost of the long hedge.  If selling short puts does not have a positive annual return on average, the strategy will not work.  This is where ORATS comes in handy.  We start with the software by going into “Wheel” and clicking on the orange button in the top right corner that says “Create New.”
       

       
      This takes us to the following screen:
       

       
      We enter the test parameters on this page.  For the initial test, we used the same parameters as for the Leveraged Anchor Strategy short puts:
      Symbol:                       GLD Strategy:                      Short Put Days to Expiration:      Target:  24       Min: 21            Max:  30 Strike Selection:          Target .55        Min .49            Max .59 Exit Profit Loss %:       Min:  blank      Max 1.66 Exit DTE                      1  Then click “submit.”  Processing can take several minutes, so be patient with the system.  When done, it spits out the results:
       

        
      The good news is that there is a positive annual average return.  It’s even better that the positive return is in excess of the annual cost of the hedge. 
       
      However, for our testing purposes, the real value comes in the monthly returns the software provides:
       

       
      We can now use those monthly returns to start modeling a Leveraged Anchor Strategy in excel.  I simply cut and paste the data into my spreadsheet, where I can then manipulate it.
       
      Our next step is to find out the returns of the deep in the money long calls (the leveraged portion of Levered Anchor).  Here, we simply go back to “Create New” in Orats and change our strategy inputs to:
      Symbol:                        GLD Strategy:                      LongCall Days to Expiration:       Target 366       Min 365           Max 430 Strike Selection            Target  .95       Min 0.94          Max 1            
      Remember, we use a minimum of 365 to ensure long term capital gains treatment on the long holdings.  Since we’ll always be holding this to expiration, the rest of the fields are left blank
       
                  Click “Submit”
       
      And we get the following results:
       

       
      However, this doesn’t look right.  It says we’re only in the market 85.39% of the days, and we should be in the market close to 100% of the time.  This most likely means our “days to expiration” field wasn’t big enough and there might not have been an option available.  So we re-run the test, changing the max days from 430 to 460.  After doing this, similar results come out and we still are not in the market enough.  At this point, I go to the individual month returns to determine what is wrong.  After digging into the data that was returned, we realize that the software doesn’t support GLD options prior to October 2009, so we had a long period of just being in “cash.”
       
      This issue  can be fixed by editing our test in the “Date Range” category and changing the start date to 2009-10-01, which gives us:
       

       
      These results are not near as good, showing an annual return of just under two percent.
       
      In fact, this seems quite low, so we need to do a data check.  Since this is a deep in the money call position, returns should be near what stock performance has been over the same period.  GLD’s performance is easily found on yahoo finance or any other stock data site.  Since November 2009, the current prices of GLD has increased from 115 to 138 or 20% (2% per year).  We’re trading a 95 delta position, so we would expect our returns to be 1.9% per year and got 1.82%.  In other words, these returns are likely correct (and I note that gold has not performed well over the last decade, at all). 
       
      We then copy the same monthly data into our excel spreadsheet. 
       
      For our last piece, we need to run the returns for the long puts (the hedge):
      Symbol:                       GLD Strategy:                      Long Put Days to Expiration:      Target 365       Min 320           Max 430 Strike Selection (stockOTMPercentage)           Target .95   Min:  .93  Max .98 Date Range:                2009-10-01      to         Current Exit DTE                      21 Exit Profit Loss %        Min  .33  
      The last category (Exit Profit Loss %) is the only one I don’t like.  Since we roll the long hedge when the underlying has gone up around 7.5%, it’s really difficult to determine what the loss on the long put would be at that point, as its variable depending on how many days are left in the long hedge, current market volatility, and other factors.  For instance, if the market in GLD moves up 8% in the first week after opening the position, the long put may only lose 50% of its value.  We would typically roll the position then, but the software would not.  Whereas if the market goes up 10% in a week with a month to expiration, it may lose 90% of its value, but the hedge would have rolled a bit too early in the software.  However, we are not using the software to do a to the penny backtest at this point, rather testing the theory.
       
      So the 33% is really more a “guess” for purposes of this initial test.  If it passes, when conducting a “full” Anchor Test, I leave the Exit Profit Loss category blank, go back through manually from the long call data and flag exactly when the rolls will occur.  This is a slight increase in labor but not much.  (Though if ORATS were to build in a feature that had entries/exits based on moves of the underlying, that would be a great feature addon). 
       
      And with all of the above information, we now have the return information for the short puts, the long calls, and the long puts, and can manipulate it as necessary to determine an “optimum” level of leveraged, hedging, and whatever else would like to include in implementing Anchor on GLD.
       
      Once that process is done, you can see how the strategy performs, which unfortunately, is “not that well.”  Changing leveraged ratios around really doesn’t help much.  Digging into the data demonstrates why – when there’s a big downturn in the price of GLD, the hedge does not move accordingly unless expiration is near.  For instance, in September 2011, when the price dropped around 15%, the long puts only went up about 3.5%.  (Differences in long term vs short term volatility). 
       
      Anchor always performs the worst on instruments that remain “mostly flat.”  Over the last decade, GLD has moved less than two percent per year on average.  There are periods where Anchor would have worked quite well on GLD, for instance 2009-2012 and even into 2013.  However, since mid-2013, the price of GLD has remained in a tight range, which isn’t good for Anchor.  As this is not a historically unusual trading patter for GLD, it basically rules out using the Anchor strategy on it.
       
      Logically this makes sense, as historically gold has been a good inflation hedge.  With annual inflation over the last 5 years or so being under control, one would not expect the price of GLD to move much – and it hasn’t.  ORATS simply helped verify these conclusions. 
       
       Christopher Welsh is a licensed investment advisor and president of LorintineCapital, LP. He provides investment advice to clients all over the United States and around the world. Christopher has been in financial services since 2008 and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Working with a CFP® professional represents the highest standard of financial planning advice. Christopher has a J.D. from the SMU Dedman School of Law, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Christopher is a regular contributor to the Steady Options Anchor Trades and Lorintine CapitalBlog.

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    • By cwelsh
      When Anchor originally started in 2012, it consisted of a basket of stocks that we selected using a variety of methods (a blend of CAPSLIM, momentum, PEG and dividend growth).  The strategy created a basket of stocks we felt would outperform the S&P500 over the coming year, then we hedged using SPY options.  The premises was that using our knowledge we could choose stocks that would either perform with or outperform the market index, and they would be hedged with and against a broad market decline using SPY put options allowing us to gain excess returns.  In 2012 and 2013, it worked like a charm.
       
      Then came 2014, when our portfolio underperformed the market.  Anchor was heavily concentrated in dividend stocks that underperformed the market.  This led to an unacceptable condition – our hedge losing value faster than our stocks were gaining.  In other words, we were not properly hedged – which was the entire point of the strategy.  After a full year and a half of sub-par performance, Anchor abandoned the stock picking portion of the strategy and went to straight index investing.  After adding the leveraged version (see other articles on this topic), Anchor fixed the lag problem in up markets, leading to the current iteration of the strategy, which to date has quite pleased us.
       
      However, as many Anchor followers have noted – why not be more diversified? A blend of investments typically performs better, has lower risk and has a much smoother growth curve over time. In the perfect world, Anchor would use a blend of indexes.  Most Anchor users though do not have the capital to implement such a strategy.  To use Anchor, an investor needs at least $50,000 in starting capital.  This means the amount necessary to start goes up for a blended version.  In the ideal world, Anchor would consist of:
       

       
      The cost of the hedge listed above is the cost for a full year, at the money, hedge, using a range of volatilities over the past few years as a percentage of the long position.  The spread is wider than listed above (e.g. there are times when it was possible to pay more than the above prices), but I would never recommend entering the strategy at those points.  Testing on the short put returns was done through ORATS, going back to 2012 (before that point, data becomes less reliable).  As can be seen from 2012 to the present on both SPY and IWM, the hedge would have been mostly paid off in any given year, while there would have been some lag in paying for the hedge on EEM and EFA – but this is to be expected given the degree of underperformance in international stocks when compared to US based indexes over that same time period.  The listed indexes were selected in a large part based on their option volume and liquidity should not be an issue for any of them.
       
      How much money would it take to implement a blended Leveraged Anchor portfolio?  Given that you would need at least 5 contracts of each position to work the strategy with the short position, a 5% decline in the hedge point (as is done currently in Leveraged Anchor), the cheapest you could arrange would look like (using prices as of 9/23/2019):
       

                 
      The above is not “ideal” either since the 1/3 ratio in SPY and IWM will make paying for the hedge over the course of the year difficult.  That ratio works much better at the 2/5 level.  However, at that level, the cost of implementing the portfolio increases to about $310,000.
       
      If I had over $300,000 that I wished to invest into the Leveraged Anchor strategy, I would diversify into other indexes and run the strategy for an extended period (over a decade).  Most of our followers don’t have that amount to commit to the strategy, in which case, simply using SPY works perfectly fine. 
       
      Because we expect the strategy to perform better over extended time periods using a diversified basket of ETFs, we are looking into what it would take to launch a Leveraged Anchor, across indexes as a mutual fund, private fund or ETF.  If anyone has experience in that area and wishes to discuss it, please feel free to reach out.
                        
      Christopher Welsh is a licensed investment advisor and president of LorintineCapital, LP. He provides investment advice to clients all over the United States and around the world. Christopher has been in financial services since 2008 and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Working with a CFP® professional represents the highest standard of financial planning advice. Christopher has a J.D. from the SMU Dedman School of Law, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Christopher is a regular contributor to the Steady Options Anchor Trades and Lorintine CapitalBlog.

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    • By cwelsh
      First, from a tax standpoint, there are significant advantages to holding the long calls over a year.  These advantages are in the difference between long term and short-term capital gains rates.  In 2018 and 2019, long term capital gains rates are:
       
                  Long Term Capital Gains Rate                   Your Income
       
                                          0%                                           $0                    -           $39,375
                                          15%                                         $39,376           -           $434,550
                                          20%                                         $434,551         -           N/A
       
      In other words, if you are a low-income retiree, using Anchor to protect your assets with a total income under $39,375, you would not pay any taxes on your gains.  Take the situation where a retiree’s sole source of income is from a stock portfolio of $500,000 with half in Anchor and half in long-term muni-bonds yielding 2.31%.  During the year, Anchor appreciates 10%.
       
      The investor would receive $5,775 in interest on the muni-bonds and $25,000 from Anchor, as well as a few thousand dollars in BIL dividends.  This investor is below the $39,375 income threshold, so would owe no taxes on the investments that year.  Whereas if the investor had sold the calls in less than a year, they would owe short-term taxes (12% rate covers $9,701 to $39,475).  The investor, living on the low-income from his portfolio, saved almost $3,000 by simply holding the gains in the long calls for over a year.
       
      The difference is no less startling for investors with huge portfolios.  Let’s take Investor #2, who has invested $10,000,000 into Leveraged Anchor (NOTE:  If you have $10m, don’t invest every penny into any single strategy, ever).  The investment made $1m on Anchor and the tax bracket for Investor #2 is 37% -- instead of 20% from long term gains.  They would save over $170,000 in taxes, merely by holding over a year. 
       
      (Note: Yes, I am aware of how blended tax rates work, the above numbers are going to be slightly off, as the $10m investor’s blended tax rate is probably closer to 35%).
       
      For tax purposes alone, selling to roll makes little sense.
       
      However, even if taxes don’t weight into your considerations, the delta of the position should.  When Leveraged Anchor opens its long call position, it does so around a 90 delta (95 is better, but that’s difficult to find right now).  The further in the money and the closer to expiration the position gets, the higher that delta goes. 
       
      For those who do not remember what delta represents, delta is the amount an option price moves for a $1 move in the underlying.  So, if our delta is 95 and the price of SPY moves $1, we would expect the price of our option to go up or down by only $0.95 (ninety-five cents).  In other words, we will lag by the delta spread in a bull market (if delta is 95, the delta spread is 5%).  Part of the reason Leveraged Anchor changed to its present format was to try to eliminate the lag in bull markets.  This means a higher delta closer to 1 is better for our strategy. 
       
      There is no reason to sell a 98 delta position to switch to a 90 delta position if the position is not near expiration.  Doing so would hurt future performance in bull markets.
       
      Is there ever a time to sell the long calls prior to expiration other than the investor needing capital returned?
       
      Yes – in the event investors decide to change their risk and leverage profiles.
       
      For instance, investors could take on more leverage and increase their risk profiles.  Currently, Leveraged Anchor is in the December 2019 175 Calls, which are trading around $118 and a 91 delta.  These could be sold and reinvested in a strike such as the June 30, 2020 199 calls, currently trading at $94 and also a 91 delta.  This could increase the leverage in the portfolios by just over 20%.  In a bull market, their returns would significantly increase.
       
      Similarly, investors could move to the June 30, 2020 calls and invest less money and move some of the gains to BIL.  Doing so would reduce leverage in their portfolios. 
       
      Such decisions should be made by investors on a “what can I stand to lose” pain test.  This number shouldn’t change that often and should only change due to life events such as retiring, losing jobs, getting older, paying for a kids college, etc.  Risk should not change because you “feel” differently about the market – that is irrational investing.  Leveraged Anchor is a long-term strategy, it should not be changed dependent on your thoughts, the media’s thoughts, or the like.  It is structured to protect against catastrophic market failure.  Restructuring comes with costs and should only been done for reasons contemplated ahead of time.
       
      We will discuss calculating “max loss” on Anchor in a coming post.               
       
      Christopher Welsh is a licensed investment advisor and president of LorintineCapital, LP. He provides investment advice to clients all over the United States and around the world. Christopher has been in financial services since 2008 and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Working with a CFP® professional represents the highest standard of financial planning advice. Christopher has a J.D. from the SMU Dedman School of Law, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Christopher is a regular contributor to the Steady Options Anchor Trades and Lorintine CapitalBlog.
       
      Related articles:
      Leveraged Anchor Implementation Leveraged Anchor Is Boosting Performance Leveraged Anchor: A Three Month Review Anchor Maximum Drawdown Analysis  
    • By cwelsh
      Below is a presentation of both calculations. Note this is a discussion on the current portfolio.  Actual losses in new or differently structured portfolios may vary dramatically. 

      The current Leveraged Anchor portfolio looks like (as of July 15, 2019):
       

           
      Before we continue, lets take a look at the model we posted in our Leveraged Anchor Implementation article when we just started the Leveraged Anchor implementation:

                 
      The current implementation is using 50% leverage. 

      SPY was up around 20% YTD on July 15, 2019. Based on the table, the Anchor was expected to slightly lag (1-2%). In reality, it produced 23.8% return, actually outperforming the markets.

      Now, lets look at the maximum loss. It is going to occur at some point after the long call is worth zero.  Hypothetically, that would occur Dec 31 when there is zero time value left in the long calls. Let’s say there’s a catastrophic September 11 type event, and the markets open on December 31 at SPY 175.  We picked 175 because that’s the “worst case” ending price of SPY.  If it continues to go down after that point, our long puts become more profitable.  In this hypothetical on December 31, the Leveraged Anchor Portfolio would look like:
       

                     
      Our starting investment of the year was $100,000.  In the event that the market declines 41% from its current position (30% from the start of the year price), the Leveraged Anchor portfolio would be down 7.5% on the year -- and that’s ignoring any additional cash we’d get between now and the end of the year from BIL dividends and put rolls.  At that same time, the market as a whole would be down just over 30%.  In other words, a good result.
       
      For those who want to see what a bigger crash would look (as opposed to just trusting that bigger crashes are better), below assumes a price of SPY 100 on December 31:
       

       
      As noted earlier, the farther the market drops below 175, the better the Leveraged Anchor will perform. If the market dropped 60% YTD, Anchor would be up 37.7%. As currently constructed if we make no more trades, the worst case scenario of the year is down 7.5%. This is significantly better than being simply long in the market.
       
      However, all of the above assumes a “static” investment – ignoring the rolls of the short puts, the return of BIL, and other dynamic events.  It is entirely possible to end with a result worse than above if the market enters a prolonged “slow” decline, as you would lose some on the short puts each time they were rolled.
       
      Take the following example which assumes that on July 29, the market is at SPY 295.5 – only slightly below our present price of around 298.5 (prices were derived using CBOE’s option calculator):
       

                     
      Due to the small decline in SPY, a loss on the short puts would be realized, but the benefit of the long puts has not really kicked in.  This can easily continue until SPY gets to the 270 range.  If the market follows a down trending pattern which looks like:
       

       
      then we end up with the true worst case scenario, as not only have the long calls lost value, but we have lost value rolling the short puts every three weeks.  Note to reach this worst case scenario, there is a price decline over 3 weeks, so we fully realize the loss on the sort puts, but then there’s a market rebound leading to a sale of a put at a higher level (that is not quite as high as the original price), followed by another 3 week decline.  Both Leveraged Anchor and Anchor suffer the most when there is a 3 week market decline, followed by a rebound back up, followed by a three week decline, and this pattern continues for an extended time.  This can lead to the bleeding of a few thousand dollars each roll period. 
       
      If you assume that style of decline over the entire year leading up to the long call expiration  (7 more three week periods), it would be possible to lose another $20,000 or so, just depending on the angle of descent of the market decline – the shallower the decline, the worse off Anchor would be.  This is part of the reason why Leveraged Anchor has the short puts hedged at the money, while the long calls are hedged five percent out of the money.  By hedging the short puts at the money, we reduce the potential drawdowns from a slow decline pattern.
       
      Of course, in the history of the stock market, the above charted pattern has never declined in that orderly of a fashion for a six month period, much less an entire year.  It’s much more frequent to have sharper declines, rebounds back above the original price, flat periods, etc..  The chance of going down then back up almost to the starting point, then back down – all on exact 3 week cycles, isn’t likely, but it could happen.  Once the stair step down pattern hits the long hedge, small bleeding really starts to be limited, as that hedge goes up in value. 
       
      In this worst case, performance of the Anchor strategy will be the worst in a market with an extended pattern as graphed above until the hedge kicks in.  This result would be worse than the 7.5% “one day” catastrophic worst case loss scenario.
       
      In our opinion, the “worst” loss someone should expect in the current portfolio is somewhere around a 15% decline from the starting $100,000 investment.   That would require significant “stair stepping” down, in three-week cycles, and the price of SPY ending up right at 175 in December.  That is an awfully specific set of conditions that has to be met to reach that point, but it certainly could happen.  (Note: this is not the maximum theoretical loss, rather our maximum expected loss.  The maximum possible loss should everything go wrong is higher). 
       
      Remember, the above is a “worst case” analysis – which Anchor is certainly designed to combat and provide better alternatives than simply being in the market.  The above analysis shows Anchor will still significantly out-perform the market in major declines, but it is not “lossless” as some people believe. 
       
      Personally, I greatly appreciate the tradeoff in a catastrophic event or even in sharp downturns.  But I also understand the risks, worst case scenarios, and the market conditions which damage the trade the most.  Anyone trading the strategy should have such an understanding. 

      If you would like to give it a try, you can sign up here.
       
      Christopher Welsh is a licensed investment advisor and president of LorintineCapital, LP. He provides investment advice to clients all over the United States and around the world. Christopher has been in financial services since 2008 and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Working with a CFP® professional represents the highest standard of financial planning advice. Christopher has a J.D. from the SMU Dedman School of Law, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Christopher is a regular contributor to the Steady Options Anchor Trades and Lorintine CapitalBlog.
       
      Related articles:
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    • By Kim
      Steady Momentum
      In the first 5 months of 2019, Steady Momentum 6.7% return. This compares to 3.2% return for our PUTW benchmark. Not only our strategy outperformed the benchmark, but it did it with less volatility.

      May was a good example how the strategy can reduce the volatility of your portfolio. While S&P 500 was down 6.6%, Steady Momentum was down only 1.8%. The term risk premium (IEI-BIL) was positive this month, with IEI outperforming BIL by 160 bps (1.81% vs. 0.21%). Overall, it was a strong month for our strategy on a relative return basis, and the strategy is performing very well so far.

      Over the long term, the put write strategy is expected (based on historical data) to produce stocks like (or slightly better) returns with about 30% less volatility.
       
      Anchor Trades 
      On May 4 (when we last received the BIL dividend), SPY hit 294.75, which was the high transaction point for Anchor. Over the past several weeks, we've finally experienced a "significant" market decline, from our transaction peak and from the last time I rolled the long hedge.  Specifically, the market is down 6.50% over that period and 2.3% since our last roll of the long hedge.

      How is the strategy performing during this down move on the market?

      Since our last roll of the short hedge (5/19), in Leveraged Anchor, SPY has declined 2.3% and we've declined 2.45%  -- that's actually a GREAT result.  Our long position is levered, we have a short option position that is hurt in declines, and we're declining at close to the same rate as the market. 
       
      Remember, the strategy was "adjusted" to accept some of these draw-downs in exchange for a cheaper hedge.  The hedge won't really start kicking into gear until it's hit.  It's at 270 -- so until SPY is below 270, if we can track market losses, in a leveraged account, above our hedged price, that's a stellar result.  
       
      In January, our account started with $100k in the Leveraged Anchor and SPY was at $249.  SPY is currently at $278.59 and our account is at $113,225.  That means our Leveraged Account is up 13.22% while SPY is up 11.88%. In other words, we're still beating the market in a hedged strategy.
       
      To say that result exceeds our expectations is an understatement.  We had an amazing bull run to the start of the year, where we had to roll our long hedge (rolling the long hedge during the year is always a significant cost and, historically), one of the biggest drags on Anchor performance.  We then have had a swift drop from that point, resulting in losses on the short puts -- but the losses aren't exceeding what is expected and having them hedged at a higher point than the entire portfolio has been helpful.
       
      Summary
      We are very pleased with the performance of both strategies. Remember: those strategies are designed to reduce the volatility of your portfolio, and provide you protection in case of a big market decline. When the next bear market finally comes, you will be protected and able to stay in the game.

      Related articles:
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    • By cwelsh
      For those who may not be familiar, the original Anchor strategy invested approximately ninety percent of its holding in broad market S&P 500 ETFs and hedged 100% of that value using long dated put options (typically a year out) with the other ten percent of the funds (depending on market conditions, a full year at the money hedge can range from 5% to 12% of the value of the portfolio).  Over time, we would attempt to pay for this hedge using a short put selling strategy. 

      Over the years, a few shortcomings in Anchor were identified.  First and foremost was the certainty that it would always lag the S&P 500.  Since only 90% of the investment is in S&P 500 ETFs, at the very best, Anchor would lag 10% behind.  Also, in bull markets where the long hedge had to be frequently rolled, the cost of hedging could become prohibitive.

      To combat these issues, Leveraged Anchor was developed.  Instead of owning actual ETFs, deep in the money calls are purchased.  Depending on their risk tolerances, this allows investors to end up owning the equivalent of 125%-200% of just long, without using all of their investment capital.  (Options allow for leverage).  Extra funds can be invested in secure assets, such as BIL, which currently yield around 2.25%.  The second change implemented was no longer buying an at-the-money hedge, instead buying approximately five percent down.  This means the portfolio can suffer a five percent loss that the older Anchor would not have, but given that it makes the cost of the hedge significantly less, we felt as if the slight increase in loss was more than increased by the savings in the hedge.  This has largely eliminated the drag on the portfolio from the cost of hedging.

      Prior to implementing the changes to Leveraged Anchor, a decade long back-test was conducted followed by six months of paper trading.  Three months in, having gone to live trading, these changes have been performing exactly as anticipated. Since January 1, 2019 when we started officially tracking the leveraged version of the Anchor, the Anchor model portfolio produced a 14.9% gain, compared to 13.1% gain of S&P 500. In that three month period, despite having to roll the long hedge up once (and thereby incurring a new cost very quickly into the year), Leveraged Anchor has outperformed the S&P 500, while maintaining its hedge.  We would have been content, given the fast roll, to be lagging slightly at this point, but that has not occurred.  So far (and it’s a very short so far period), actual performance has exceeded expectations.

      However, we are always striving to improve the strategy.  When analyzing the current trade setup, the biggest potential risk comes from the short positions.  Short positions, when rolled, are typically rolled one to two strikes (around a 55 delta) in the money.  This means, if the market falls, these short puts will lose value quickly, thereby harming the portfolio.  The risk of loss on the short puts is limited, because they also are hedged. 
       
      In traditional Anchor, the short puts were hedged at the money, just as the underlying ETFs were.  When switching to Leveraged Anchor, we also moved the hedge on the short puts to 5% out of the money.
       
      Practicality, this means as the market goes up, our risk from the short puts increases.  Here’s a simple example:
      Assume SPY is trading at $100;
        Assume we need 5 puts to hedge our portfolio.  We buy 5% out of the money and buy our long puts at $95;
        Assume we need to buy an additional 2 long puts to hedge the short selling we’ll be doing.  We buy those at $95;
        The market increases to $105. We are now selling puts at $107 (two strikes in the money);
        If the market falls back to $95, those short puts lose $17 each – a significant loss; and
        Our long puts actually would have LOST value over this time due to time decay. In other words, we are at the exact same starting price of the S&P 500, but we’ve lost money (not $17, because we would have made some money selling puts as the market rose, but we still would have lost).  Whereas, any investor that had just owned SPY would be flat.
       
      If possible, we’d like to avoid this situation as much as possible. 

      In initial testing, it’s beginning to look like having a 5% out of the money hedge for the long portion (which is the most expensive part) and an at the money hedge for the short puts, may be more advantageous.  Similarly, we roll the long hedge after the market has moved up around 7.5% and always by 10%.  It may be prudent to roll up the hedge on the short puts more frequently – at closer to the 5% mark.  This would reduce losses on short term, and smaller amount, downward market fluctuations, without significantly increasing the cost of the portfolio.

      The disadvantages to such a move are (a) it does increase cost, which will hurt performance, and (b) it increases the trades complexity through the number of moving parts and adjustments which occur.  However, if we can reduce risk further while still tracking the S&P 500 in up markets, we still meet our overall objectives.

      I would like to invite our members to comment and question on these possible small changes.  Many of our improvements to the strategy have come through investor critiques and suggestions.  Feel free to ask questions and to share your thoughts. 

      If you are not a member yet, we invite you to give it a chance.

      Christopher B. Welsh is a SteadyOptions contributor. He is a licensed investment advisor in the State of Texas and is the president of a small investment firm, Lorintine Capital, LP which is a general partner of two separate private funds. He offers investment advice to his clients, both in the law practice and outside of it. Chris is an active litigator and assists his clients with all aspects of their business, from start-up through closing. Chris is managing the Anchor Trades portfolio. 

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