The Most Expensive Money Mistake to Avoid

The death last week of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher at the relatively young age of 60 was a deeply sad event that brought back four decades of memories. It also reminded me of the mind-boggling money mistake committed by her co-star Harrison Ford. I’ll get to that in a minute.

As an investor, you’ve probably faced this situation many times: Should you take the safe money now, or roll the dice for a potentially bigger reward down the road? This dilemma doesn’t just rear its head when trying to choose investments. It’s also a tough question most of us periodically face in our careers.

In fact, the decision can have greater ramifications than whether to buy a certain stock, bond, or mutual fund. Our professional lives unfold over several decades, which means that the right — or wrong — choice can involve a lot of money. All too often, people blink in the face of opportunity and cheat themselves of a bigger payoff.

You must have faith in yourself and know when to bet on your most precious asset — you. If your gut says that you might score a bigger payday if you just show some courage and patience, you should weigh the risks and rewards and err on the side of self-confidence. There are few things more painful than a lifetime of regrets and blown chances, especially when it comes to money.

Simply put, the greatest money mistake is giving in to unwarranted fear.

Let’s get back to Harrison Ford.

A galactic money blunder…


When “New Hollywood” wunderkind George Lucas was devising his space opera Star Wars in the mid-1970s, Harrison Ford was a struggling, unknown actor who did carpentry to make ends meet. Fortuitously, Ford was hired by Lucas to work on his sets.

Lucas noticed the handsome and charismatic handyman and asked him to read lines for actors auditioning for parts in the forthcoming film. Ford snagged his first starring part, as Han Solo. When it came out in 1977, Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon and grossed $300 million, the first film to reach that landmark. At the time, Lucas’ epic was the biggest grossing film since 1939’s legendary blockbuster Gone With The Wind.

Star Wars revived the science fiction genre and set an entirely new standard for special effects. It launched a series of hugely successful sequels and also changed the economics of movie making. After Star Wars, merchandising became a major and integral part of a movie’s business model.

When he hired the young Harrison Ford, Lucas made him an offer: he could take a straight salary or a percentage of the gross and merchandising profits. Harrison took the salary, because he figured his role as Han was a lark and the movie wouldn’t do all that well.

The entire Star Wars franchise (box office receipts, VHS/DVD/digital sales, toys, merchandise, books, video games, licensing, etc.) to date has generated more than $30.5 billion in revenue. Merchandising alone has generated $975 million.

In 2012, Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) bought the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas for $4 billion. The investment has paid off. The Disney-produced Star Wars: The Force Awakens (starring Ford and Fisher) was the 10th highest grossing film of 2016.

Sure, superstar Harrison Ford is hardly hurting for dough these days. But to this day, Ford doesn’t like to talk about his fateful decision to take a straight salary in 1977.

By the way: Harrison Ford’s salary for doing the original Star Wars was $10,000.

Have you made a big money mistake that still haunts you? Send me an email and get it off your chest. Our readers would benefit: — John Persinos

An unorthodox income play…

The moral of our Hollywood story: there’s a difference between undue risk and calculated risk. Which brings us to this unorthodox but proven way to generate income.

The conventional sources of income — bonds and dividend-paying equities such as utility stocks — all face a highly uncertain 2017. However, Jim Fink, chief investment strategist of Options For Income, reminds us that income investors needn’t despair. He reveals an investment strategy that can generate robust streams of income in bull, bear, and even flat markets.

Multiple dangers lurking in the Era of Trump make this method all the more compelling, especially as the Federal Reserve continues to tighten the monetary spigot.

As higher rates this year become available in other asset classes, dividend-paying stocks will lose their appeal from a risk-to-reward standpoint. That’s why you should consider credit spreads.

With this simple yet powerful options strategy, you can bolster your income portfolio to secure the lifestyle and retirement of your dreams. This method is easier to execute than you might think.

With widely followed analysts predicting a cataclysmic market in 2017, it’s the perfect time to consider this options strategy for generating income while simultaneously hedging your portfolio.

An arrow in your quiver…

I’ve been getting a lot of letters lately from readers asking about hedging strategies; a credit spread is one arrow in your quiver.

Now you may have heard that trading options is risky. And that’s true… if you’re an options buyer. But if you want dependable income with limited downside, that’s not the best way to trade options. Instead, you should sell them. Most option buyers are speculators who place high-risk trades, hoping for a big payout. And that’s why they strike out most of the time.

Every time the buyers strike out, you keep the money. With credit spreads, you get the opportunity to cash in not only whether the overall market is up or down, but even when individual stocks show a consistent downturn.

Credit spreads are a low-risk options strategy for generating monthly income even in down markets — all without you having to continually monitor your brokerage account.

You’re probably familiar with a “put,” which is an option contract giving the owner the right, but not the obligation, to sell a specified amount of an underlying asset at a set price within a specified time. The buyer of a put option estimates that the underlying asset will drop below the exercise price before the expiration date.

A put is a bet that the price of the underlying stock will depreciate relative to the strike price. This is the opposite of a call option, which gives the holder the right to buy shares.

But we’re suggesting a strategy that’s far better: Instead of only selling a put contract, you trade a credit spread instead.

Credit spreads refer to options spreads that you actually receive cash (net credit) for executing them. This credit to your options trading account is why such options spreads are called “credit spreads.”

With a credit spread, you sell one put contract… and you buy another one at a lower price. You pocket the difference between the two contracts. And that money is deposited into your account immediately.

Explained another way: When you write an option, you are putting on a short options position but when you buy a cheaper option on the same underlying stock using the premium received from the sale of the short options position, a credit spread is created. This low-risk strategy can produce consistent income regardless of market conditions.

The beauty of a credit spread is that the two options form a “safety net” that limits any loss. The trade-off is that your gains are lower than if you only sold the puts. But there is a much tinier chance of anything going wrong.

A credit spread puts a limit to an otherwise unlimited loss potential, which is crucial in these times, as global markets subject investors to nerve-wracking roller coaster rides.

When you trade a credit spread, you’re swapping a limited amount of profit potential for the opportunity to limit risk. Uncovered options, on the other hand, can pose significant or unlimited risk.

As Jim Fink, the income expert behind Options For Income, explains: “We always follow my number one rule: Don’t buy options… sell them! When you sell options, the odds of winning tilt heavily in your favor. And that makes selling options about the closest you can get to almost never losing money when investing.”

Whether you’re a beginning investor or a seasoned pro, credit spreads are among a group of income generating strategies you should consider.

In the meantime… may the investment force be with you.