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Iron fly strategy – A simplified guide with examples

Options trading holds a variety of strategies, one of which is the iron butterfly. It might take some effort to grasp, but with basic understanding and practice, it becomes straightforward to use. Let’s delve into the essentials of the iron butterfly option strategy.

What is an iron butterfly?

Iron Butterfly is a smart way to aim for steady earnings while keeping risks and profits under check. This method is a part of “wingspreads” option strategies, named after flying creatures like butterflies or condors due to their structure.

In this, a bear call spread joins with a bull put spread, both having the same expiration date, meeting at a middle strike price. At this middle price, a short call and put are sold, forming the “body”, and a call and put are bought above and below this price, forming the “wings.”

Distinguishing Features:

  • Unlike a basic butterfly spread, Iron Butterfly is a credit spread, which means you get a net premium when you open, while a basic butterfly is a debit spread.
  • Here, four contracts are required unlike three in a basic butterfly spread.

How to use the iron butterfly strategy?

The Iron Butterfly strategy helps in limiting both potential gains and losses. This strategy is crafted to ensure traders retain some of the initial premium paid. This occurs when the price of the concerned security or index settles between the higher and lower strike prices.

Traders opt for this strategy during less volatile market phases, anticipating the security will remain within a specified price range till the options expire.

Profit increases as the closing price nears the middle strike price at expiration. Losses are faced if the price closes above the higher call’s strike price or below the lower put’s strike price. The breakeven points are found by adding or subtracting the received premium from the middle strike price.

For instance,

Middle strike price = ₹5000

Net premium paid at the start = ₹6500

Upper breakeven point = ₹5000 + ₹650 (x 100 shares = ₹6500) = ₹5650

Lower breakeven point = ₹5000 – ₹650 (x 100 shares = ₹6500) = ₹4350

Losing scenario

If the price goes above or below certain points, the trader will spend more to buy back the short call or put than what they got at first, leading to a net loss.

Suppose XYZ Company closes at ₹7500 in November. All the options in the spread will expire worthless except for the call options.

The trader has to buy back the short ₹5000 call for ₹250,000 (₹7500 market price – ₹5000 strike price x 100 shares) to close the position and gets a premium of ₹150,000 on the ₹6000 call (₹7500 market price – ₹6000 strike price = ₹1500 x 100 shares).

The net loss on the calls is ₹100,000, which is then subtracted from the initial net premium of ₹65,000 for a final net loss of ₹35,000.

It’s not mandatory for the upper and lower strike prices to be equally distant from the middle strike price. Iron butterflies can be made with a tilt in one direction or the other, where the trader thinks the asset price will rise or fall a bit but only to a certain point.

If the trader thinks XYZ Company will rise to ₹6000 by expiration, they can adjust the upper call or lower put strike prices accordingly.

Iron butterflies can also be flipped so that long positions are at the middle strike price while short positions are at the edges. This can be done profitably during times of high changes in the underlying instrument’s price

Pros of iron butterfly option strategy

  • Small capital requirement: Can be initiated with a relatively low amount of capital.
  • Steady income: Helps in generating a steady income.
  • Lower risk: Lesser risk as compared to directional spreads.
  • Adjustability: Can be rolled up or down based on price movements.
  • Defined risk and reward: The initial net premium is the maximum possible profit, while the calculated loss from the calls or puts minus the initial premium is the maximum possible loss.

Cons of iron butterfly option strategy

  • Commission costs: Higher commission costs due to the opening and closing of four positions.
  • Rare maximum profit: Achieving the maximum profit is seldom as prices usually settle between the selected price ranges.
  • Higher loss chances: Proportionately higher chances of loss due to the narrow spreads used.
  • Skill and financial requirements: Brokerages may require certain skill levels and financial conditions to be met for employing this strategy.


Iron butterflies help in earning regular income while keeping risk low. This strategy should only be used after fully grasping the risks and benefits.

Most trading platforms need users to have certain expertise and financial standing to use this or similar strategies.


What is an example of a iron butterfly options strategy?

– XYZ Pvt. Ltd. stock rallies to Rs. 3500 in August. 
– A trader looking to employ the Iron Butterfly strategy writes a September Rs. 3500 call and puts, receiving a Rs. 300 premium for each contract.
– Additionally, the trader buys a September Rs. 3600 calls and a September Rs. 3400 put for Rs. 75 each. 
– The outcome is an immediate Rs. 6500 credit post deducting the cost of the long positions from the premium obtained for the short ones (Rs. 8000 – Rs. 1500).

What is the formula for the iron butterfly strategy?

– Upper Breakeven Point = Strike Price of Short Call + Net Premium Received. 
– Lower Breakeven Point = Strike Price of Short Put − Net Premium Received.

Which is better – iron condor or iron butterfly?

Iron condor and iron butterfly are used for two different purposes, despite both strategies using a combination of options to execute trades. While the condor is a low-risk low-reward strategy, the iron butterfly offers a relatively high-risk high-reward. So, the choice between them depends on the investor’s risk-reward goals. 

What is a short butterfly spread strategy?

Short iron butterfly is an options strategy for neutral markets involving four option contracts, expiring on the same date, with slightly varying strike prices. It is a combination of bull put and bear call strategies.

Does iron butterfly work?

An iron butterfly helps traders profit in a low-volatile market. However, like all other stock market techniques, the iron butterfly is not 100% accurate. It may help traders identify the right positions to enter and exit but does not necessarily lead to profits always.

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