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I'm not familiar with Sharebuilder's options platform. I use the Thinkorswim platform from TD Ameritrade and highly recommend it. It has all kinds of bells and whistles, but also a lot of really useful tools and functions for beginner options traders. TD Ameritrade has a lot of daily seminars (Swimming Lessons) aimed at new options traders.

Margin requirements differ a bit for each broker, but in general you can buy and sell options on margin. Generally, if you sell puts you only need to put up 20% of the value of 100 shares of stock. For example, selling one put on MMM will reduce your buying power by $2120, even though the max loss on the trade (assuming MMM goes to zero) is $10,825 (the cost of 100 shares of stock, minus the commission received).

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