I have been using double-entry accounting to carefully track my financial situation for a couple of years now, but I am just dabbling with stock options for the first time. I wrote a put option (sold to open), and I'm not sure how to account for it. Is there a standard way? How are you doing it?

I'm using GnuCash, so any answers which deal with the limitations of that software in particular are appreciated.

  • When you say "sold put option", do you mean you sold short the put option, i.e. wrote a new put option contract, and are now negative in the position, or do you mean that you had a long position (a put contract you had purchased previously) and have sold it? If you have written a new contract, you have an ongoing liability until the contract expires or is exercised. I'm not sure about GnuCash in particular, but I'd want to record and manage that liability in an account somewhere. Jan 7 '15 at 21:18
  • Ah, very good point, @ChrisW.Rea. I wrote the option, so should have said sold-to-open. I will update the question.
    – Sean W.
    Jan 8 '15 at 3:11

Because you've sold something you've received cash (or at least an entry on your brokerage statement to say you've got cash) so you should record that as a credit in your brokerage account in GnuCash. The other side of the entry should go into another account that you create called something like "Open Positions" and is usually marked as a Liability account type (if you need to mark it as such).

If you want to keep an accurate daily tally of your net worth you can add a new entry to your Open Positions account and offset that against Income which will be either negative or positive depending on how the position has moved for/against you. You can also do this at a lower frequency or not at all and just put an entry in when your position closes out because you bought it back or it expired or it was exercised.

My preferred method is to have a single entry in the Open Positions account with an arbitrary date near when I expect it to be closed and each time I edit that value (daily or weekly) so I only have the initial entry and the current adjust to look at which reduces the number of entries and confusion if there are too many.

  • Great answer, thank you very much. After some thought, I ended up doing something very similar, but I like the name "Open Positions" better so I'll probably go with that.
    – Sean W.
    Jan 9 '15 at 13:43

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