How to weigh portfolio risk versus reward

Although often hidden in the background, risk is interwoven into every aspect of our lives. Given this inescapable reality, it is in our best interest to cultivate a sensible, and even cooperative, attitude toward it.   Toward this end it may be instructive to consider the Chinese symbol for “risk” which is a combination of two ideograms, the one being “danger” or “crisis” and the other “opportunity.”  In the West we know this as the risk/reward tradeoff. The goal is never to avoid risk altogether: because that’s impossible, given the realities of the world because without exposing ourselves to risk we cannot take advantage of the opportunities that it offers. So, the question becomes, “How much danger am I willing to court, and what can I expect as a reward for the amount of risk I have taken on?”  This question, and its answers, are at the heart of what we call “risk management.” As fiduciaries entrusted to manage people’s retirement portfolios, our duty is to get the best return on investments that we can while minimizing the portfolios’ exposure to danger.  In other words, what we do is “risk management.” One of the most important factors when it comes to managing risk in a retirement portfolio is time.  This concept of time is captured in our slogan “Investing for all seasons,” which refers to the seasons of one’s life; youth, maturity and old age.  Youth, or young adulthood, is the time to take the maximum amount of risk.  We leave home and either journey afar or begin a new endeavor such as starting a business or learning a craft.  We have energy, enthusiasm that has not been tempered yet by life’s inevitable “hard knocks” and most of all, time.  Time to recover from set backs and time to save for retirement.  Young adults can and should take on the maximum amount of risk in their portfolios because they have the time… | Read More »