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Beginners Guide to Derivatives Trading in 2024

By Will Ellis
Last Updated on January 4, 2024

The first step you can take for derivatives trading is to make sure you know what derivatives are and what they are used for. Derivatives do not have a value.

They are more of an agreement because it says one party will own the other party if a certain price is not paid by a certain date.

A derivative needs to be drawn up and agreed upon before anything is traded. This ensures you will not lose out on any money in the case that someone fails to pay you. Derivatives can be drawn up on anything including stock prices, interest rates, bond rates, commodity prices, and currency exchange rates. 

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Derivatives are a type of contract, they all have end dates that you need to keep in mind when trading. 

To give you an example, you might have a stock option that could move in price depending on how the stock is performing in the market. If you own some stocks in Tesla and the stock price goes down, the value of your call options will also go down. 

You will need to look at the expiration date of the contract since the expiration date depends on how hard you will get hit. So, if Tesla call options expire in January 2024, you will not be hit as hard as calls that are expiring in the month that the stock is dropping.

Table of Contents:

Types of Derivatives ➡️

There are a few different types of derivatives that you should know about before getting started. Here are the most common ones to keep in mind when you begin trading. 


These allow you to speculate on the decrease or increase of many things within the market including commodities, currencies, shares, and indices. You can trade CFDs by just taking a contract without needing to actually own the underlying asset. 

So, you are not buying the asset but rather speculating on whether you think the price of the asset is going to go up or down. You can trade CFDs on markets that are rising or falling which makes them a more attractive option than stocks for many people. 

Futures ⏳️

One of the oldest forms of derivatives is when it comes to trading futures contracts. This is also the most common form of derivatives. Futures can be purchased on many different things including interest rates, stock indices, and gold. 

Oil futures are what is currently the most common since oil prices are making headlines. Oil prices in contracts are also currently negative which means the supplier has to pay extra when they want their products unloaded. 

Futures contracts have two different ways of being settled. There can either be a delivery of underlying assets or there can be a cash settlement. 

Stock Options

Options are becoming more and more popular because retail traders are gaining access to them through places like Webull and Robinhood since they are free brokers. 

Options are a type of contract that is based on the price of underlying stocks. Contracts have to be for a delivery of 100 shares always. This means that option buyers are able to have large positions in the stocks of the company without putting very much capital in. This is known as having leverage which is always a good thing. 

There are some risks when it comes to leverage though. It’s mostly a risk when you do not know how the company or the shares work. For this reason, you need to make sure you are always doing your research before you put money into anything.

You can always seek the advice of a financial advisor if you are unsure about how it works or if you are not sure where to put your investment money.  


Bonds are meant to protect against a series of everyday events like a rating downgrade. They have the potential to make you lots of money when used in certain ways, but most of the time they will only protect you from common events which can prove helpful in many cases. 

One of the main risks when it comes to bondholders is interest rate swaps. This most commonly happens when there is a sudden change in rates that cannot be controlled. Bonds’ futures contracts can also be traded on exchanges like the CME. 

Commodities 🛒️

Keep in mind that if you are able to trade something, you can almost always buy derivatives on it. Commodities futures are one of the most heavily traded items on the market and are gaining popularity every day. 

While you might think of commodities as big-ticket items, there are a number of commodities you can have that are just everyday items like juice and soap. However, sometimes the commodities are much more expensive and they include things like precious metals, cattle, and oil. 

Currencies 💰️

Futures contracts can also be used with currencies. This mostly applies to companies that do operations abroad. It will protect them against exchange rates which can change every day and make it harder to operate a business in countries that use different money. 


Swaps are over-the-counter contracts that have been customized. They are not traded by retail investors and are usually not traded over exchanges either. The most common type of swap is for interest rates. Swaps happen when two parties are planning to exchange cash or liabilities. They are exchanged from two different securities and the trade will give you a set period of time. 

Futures Versus Options 🔎️

Options Trading

When it comes to learning about derivatives trying to understand the difference between Futures and Options can be extremely daunting. Once you see examples of each though, the difference becomes pretty clear. 

Futures and Options both have the same purpose. They allow investors to lock in the prices of the investment before the trading process begins. This is extremely important because it allows the investors to protect themselves from certain trading risks like the prices fluctuating. 

When you have a futures contract though, the buyers will have to pay the amount of the agreed-upon price at a specific time. The time is always before a certain due date arrives. When you are using options, you have the choice to back out of the contract before the due date of the contract comes. 

This makes a major difference between the two securities. With options, if the one you are investing in expires far away into the future, it will probably not have sufficient liquidity. Futures markets on the other hand are liquid and have narrow bid margins for spreads. 

What are the Benefits of Derivative Trading? ✔️

After learning what derivatives are and how you can commonly use them, you might be wondering what the benefit is and if you should bother trading them or not. There are many reasons to trade derivatives. 

Here are some of the most common ones to keep in mind. 


Investors commonly use their derivatives to hedge short and long-term positions in the security of their company. This includes buying options like SPY. Most people are more likely to do this when they want to add security in volatile periods of stock trading. 

Leverage Without Margin

If you do not have access to margin, you can still add leverage to all your trades by using things like options and futures contracts. Remember that an option is a contract that has 100 shares of the underlying stock. This means you will pay a low price but still be able to have a big position. 

You will need enough capital to pay for the shares though which can depend on what company you are buying shares into. 

Price Guarantees 💵️

This works for companies that are exposed to commodities at risk. One of the most common examples is oil drillers. They use futures contracts to make sure they can lock in the oil price at the current rate and they will not have to end up overpaying. 

This is also common with bond investors as they like to use interest rate swaps to make sure they can lock in a rate of return. You can add this to investments to make sure your interest rate is kept constant. 

When it comes to price guarantees, you can use derivatives along with your underlying assets to make the whole process smoother. 

Risks of Derivatives Trading ✖️

Along with benefits, there are always risks in trading derivatives. Here are the risks to keep in mind before you move forward:

Time Decay ⏰️

All options and futures will have an expiration date. The contract value can expire and decay quicker and quicker as the expiration date approaches. 

No Intrinsic Value

Remember that all derivatives are contracts that are based on the price of an underlying asset. Derivatives do not have their own value by themselves. So, the derivative has the potential to expire worthless if the price that was agreed upon is not reached before the date of expiration. 

Greater Risk Involved 🚩️

Investing in derivatives is considered riskier than if you were investing in traditional assets. This is because with derivatives leverage and volatility are always increased. 

When a stock declines by 10%, you will only lose 10% of your investment in the stock. However, when an option declines by 10%, you could even lose up to half of the same stock depending on the new price and the expiration date. 

More Complex

Derivatives require more complex ways of pricing because the calculation has to include sever things including underlying asset prices and the time you have until it expires. The formula for calculating the price also needs to include the rate of change as well as the volatility. 

Trying to figure out these formulas on your own can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why most people employ professional help so that you can make sure you get the right numbers and the right information. 

Why Should I Use Derivatives for Trading? 📊️

There are many different reasons why you might want to use derivatives for trading. Here are the most reasons people look into trading derivatives. 


For most traders, derivatives are the number one way to hedge investments as it adds securities and products. Most of the time, when an investor is adding hedging is when they are investing in something like an oil drilling firm. 

This is because everything that goes into setting up an oil drilling firm is complicated from the locating of the place to the setup for the drilling processes. It’s also a lengthy and complicated process. 

Oil drillers will often buy future oil futures contracts so the price of the oil in their drill is locked into one price and they do not need to worry about fluctuating. This means the company can make sure none of its revenue is lost by cashing in the contracts when the time comes. 

Speculation 🤔️

Derivatives can also be used to place bets on things that you think might gain money in the future. Most of the time, options are used to bet on tech stocks or stocks like Far out0of-money and GameStop. 

The exact stocks that are currently being used for speculation depend on the season as the types and popularity of stocks change over time. You can always wait and see what the season has in store before choosing which stocks you want to speculate on and add an investment too.  

Leverage ⚖️

Leverage can be dangerous and should only be used wisely. When you trade derivatives, you are making your portion of the company larger but you are not investing any more capital. If the stock ends up being larger than the strike price before your derivative expires, you will be able to have huge gains. However, this is also the risk that comes with derivatives. You could gain much, but also lose much. 

How To Trade Derivatives


Derivatives are not priced the same as stocks. Since they are processed differently, they are also traded with different exchanges. There are two main types of derivative exchanges: 

  • Over the Counter (OTC)- OTC trades have no authority figure that is central to the rules. This means you are trading outside the normal guidelines. This is how people get access to securities that are not usually available in more regulated exchanges. It’s completely legal to do it this way, but the risks do increase. 
  • Regulated Exchanges- This kind of trading takes place just like regulated exchanges in stocks. This means it’s open to CBOE and CME. They are all governed by the SEC and can only take place under certain rules. These types of trades are much less risky but they mean you get fewer rewards as well. 

What is the Point of Derivatives? 👀️

Derivatives were first designed to help investors eliminate exchange rate risks. They are used for more than just that nowadays though. They are now mostly used to help investors from being able to invest their money without needing to have too much risk. It also gives investors much more investment opportunities. 

Derivatives are an attractive option and are used by investors all over the world because you can be exposed to all the different price changes in the market but you do not necessarily have to own them and be affected by them. 

Derivatives serve many different functions for your portfolio. The main thing they do is make your portfolio much more diverse. You also get a better platform for being able to speculate prices and changes that might come for certain assets. This allows investors to have many different investment opportunities they would originally not be able to have without derivatives. 

One of the best ways to use derivatives is to gain access to financial assets that you might have originally understood. For example, many people have trouble understanding the ins and outs of cryptocurrency so they decide not to invest in it. 

Instead, you can buy a derivative which allows you to earn profits when the currency rises but you do not have to actually own the cryptocurrency. You can also trade currency derivatives which help you gain leverage in the market. 

Leverage is useful for a few different reasons, some of which I talked about above. Leverage is also important for those that want to rise their capital holdings and make larger profits when they have successful trades. Leverage can also make losses worse though which is why you should always use leverage carefully. 

The structure of derivatives is also important because it’s very different than simply investing in stocks or another type of investment. Derivatives can help you take advantage of the arbitrage opportunities in the market as well. 

This includes similar financial assets being priced at different rates at the same time but on different platforms. 

Trading derivatives is also important because it allows you to make purchases of derivatives that are moving in a different direction from the asset that you own. For example, many people that own Microsoft shares might want to buy a derivative that is based on the share prices of Microsoft. This is called a Put Option. This allows you as the investor to be able to hold the stick without having any risks whether the prices are appreciating or not. 

Frequently Asked Questions ➡️

What Kinds of Markets Have Financial Derivatives?

There are many different kinds of derivative markets just like there are many different types of derivatives. Most derivatives come from things like commodities, currencies, or even equities. However, there are many other types out there. 

There are other kinds of markets that use derivatives including short-term debt markets, over-the-counter lending markets, credit risk markets, and government bond markets. These are the markets that use derivative contracts. 

What Are the Most Common Types of Financial Derivatives?

All financial derivatives can be used to decrease or increase investment risks. The most common type of financial derivatives is futures contracts. This is a type of agreement on a  future financial transaction. There will be a set date and a set price for this so you know exactly what is happening. 

Whoever holds the contract has the right to use the financial derivative but they do not have an obligation which is what makes derivatives so attractive to investors. You can also take the derivative and purchase or sell the according asset at any time in the future. 

You will also have a CFD which allows for an exchange of the difference in the value of an asset. You have from the time the contract is opened to the time it’s closed and you do not need to spend any time owning the underlying asset which is why so many people prefer derivatives. 

How Can I Use Financial Derivatives?

There are many different ways you can use financial derivatives. They should mostly be used when you want to manage the amount of risk you have in a financial trade. A common example is when you are in the futures market and farmers are trying to sell their futures so that they can lock in a good price for the grain and livestock. 

This is one common way for them to reduce risk when it comes to needing to sell their things and make enough profits to make a living. 

People also use financial derivatives when it comes to needing CFD products for trading. CFDs can be leveraged and can be used to magnify trading results when there is more than one asset for sale. 

Final Thoughts

Trading Statistics

If it’s your first time investing and you want to look into using derivatives, there are many choices. Using this guide, you can get all the information you need before investing. Derivatives are often a less risky choice since you do not actually need to buy the asset. 

You also have space to make speculation bids if you think you know whether the price is going to move up or down. Overall, financial derivatives are a good choice for investors.

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