Return on Capital vs. Return of Capital

return on capital

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When most traders get started they come into the market with one thing on their mind; make money fast!

Return on capital becomes more important than the return of capital. Wait did you catch the subtle difference there?

You see risk management and protecting your portfolio becomes an afterthought to making money and earning a high rate of return. How poor and ignorant this thinking has become - yet I see it all over the place.

The wording is subtle yet there is a powerful difference between return on capital and return of capital. The first is the return on the money you invest. For example, if you made $8 on $100 of invested money you would have an 8% return on capital.

The later is the ability to get at least your $100 back at the end of the day and not lose any money. And I'm here to tell you that if you trade smaller positions (as we'll discuss in the podcast below) you have a better chance of making money!

Success Is Measured By How Much You Keep

I firmly believe we are entering another very tough and potentially devastating year for stocks. It feels oddly similar to the same market sentiment just before the crash in 2008 - just a new catalyst to trigger the fall (i.e. sovereign/national debt).

Back at the start of 2009 the best money manager and investors weren't those who earned the highest return in 2008 but rather those who lost less than everyone else. Being a "smart" investor then meant having money left after the shit hits the fan, and the same is going to be true of those investors in the coming years.

Looking back at my trading journal (and this blog's archives) I know that what was so successful for me trading during 2008 was that I had small positions and a lot of put protection.

Moreover, I stayed mostly in cash and waited for the best opportunities to come out before I put money at risk. Living through that time and surviving taught me to focus my attention on the return of capital.

And as we mentioned in the podcast show it's actually the trader that invests less and keeps more in cash that can generate more income long term vs. the guy who blindly allocates 50% of his account to each trade.

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From $20/share to Bankrupt In Just 5 Days

Above my computer in my office is a picture of the October 1929 crash newspaper front page. It's there to remind me constantly of what can happen seemingly overnight. The systematic risk factor that is prevalent in all markets.

Lehman Brothers Stock Chart

Lehman Brothers is also a classic example and still recent enough to remember the pain of a market crash.

Keep in mind that it took just five days for Lehman to go from a $5 stock and still worth millions of dollars to bankruptcy. And even nine months before the crash Lehman was a $60 stock. Always remember how quickly things can turn!

What's Your Big Takeaway?

Add your comments below and let me know what your big takeaway is when we talk about the difference between return on capital vs. return of capital? Did the podcast episode help answer some questions you have about trading with a small account?

Hopefully, you got the point I was trying to make; that to generate income trading options you don't need lots of money in the bank. You just need to be consistent and persistent with your small trades over a long time.

About The Author

Kirk Du Plessis

Kirk founded Option Alpha in early 2007 and currently serves as the Head Trader. In 2018, Option Alpha hit the Inc. 500 list at #215 as one of the fastest growing private companies in the US. Formerly an Investment Banker in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group for Deutsche Bank in New York and REIT Analyst for BB&T Capital Markets in Washington D.C., he's a Full-time Options Trader and Real Estate Investor. He's been interviewed on dozens of investing websites/podcasts and he's been seen in Barron’s Magazine, SmartMoney, and various other financial publications. Kirk currently lives in Pennsylvania (USA) with his beautiful wife and three children.