Swedroe: Understanding Different Types Of Risk

April 12, 2017

Risk Tolerance And Adaptability

Another factor is investors’ willingness to take risk—their risk tolerance. It’s important that investors don’t take more financial risk than their stomachs can handle. The reason is that, when the inevitable bear markets arrive, they might be more inclined to panic-sell, and the best laid plans would end up in the trash heap of emotions.

Even if they were not driven to panic, life is just too short not to enjoy it. One should be able to “sleep well” with his or her investments. Thus, a high earnings capability, or even a high need to take risk, shouldn’t necessarily result in an aggressive investment portfolio.

Yet another factor to consider is the ability to adjust your “supply” of human capital. Consider the following: You develop a financial plan that allows you to retire at age 65. However, the market’s rate of return falls below the expected return you built into your plan, or you weren’t able to save as much as you had expected. Now you will need to work longer.

Can you continue in the labor force? What level of income can you generate? Will the market allow you to sell your skills, and at what price? Younger workers typically have more ability to adjust their supply of human capital. In addition, those with a variety of skill sets also have a greater ability to adjust their supply to economic conditions. 

We’ll revisit this discussion later in the week to consider additional risk factors, including mortality and longevity risk, and using “tax alpha” strategies to improve the odds of achieving your financial goals.

Larry Swedroe is the director of research for The BAM Alliance, a community of more than 140 independent registered investment advisors throughout the country.


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