Puts and Calls

Options come in two basic types: puts and calls. A call option gives the owner the right to buy an asset at a fixed price during a particular time period. It may help you to remember that a call option gives you the right to "call in" an asset.

A put option is essentially the opposite of a call option. Instead of giving the holder the right to buy some asset, it gives the holder the right to sell that asset for a fixed exercise price. If you buy a put option, you can force the seller of the option to buy the asset from you for a fixed price and thereby "put it to them."

What about an investor who sells a call option? The seller receives money up front and has the obligation to sell the asset at the exercise price if the option holder wants it. Similarly, an investor who sells a put option receives cash up front and is then obligated to buy the asset at the exercise price if the option holder demands it.1

The asset involved in an option can be anything. The options that are most widely bought and sold, however, are stock options. These are options to buy and sell shares of stock. Because these are the best-known types of options, we will study them first. As we discuss stock options, keep in mind that the general principles apply to options involving any asset, not just shares of stock.

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