Stop me if you’ve heard (or said!) this one before: “I’m looking for an investment that offers above-average returns, with little or no risk.”
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Being overly risk-averse is a luxury most individual investors simply cannot afford. In investing, the phrase, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” rings true. Whether they can stomach it or not, investors are likely to need a healthy dose of stock market volatility in their portfolios.
As a financial planning professional, my job is to acclimate clients to the amount of risk they should accept in order to meet their long-term goals, as opposed to accommodating their finicky appetites for risk — particularly if this means sacrificing their futures to enable them to feel safe and comfortable today.
I have two antacids for investors with sensitive stomachs.
First, put down your iPhone and let go of your mouse, and you won’t get hurt. Said another way: Turn off the streaming noise and squawk of short-term stock market moves. Even a smooth line looks rough and jagged under a high-powered lens; so too will the price fluctuations of a given stock or sector when inspected using daily or hourly magnification. Behavioral economists have, in fact, shown that the less frequently you take stock of the value of your investments, the more risk tolerant you become.
Secondly, get educated about capital markets and asset classes. The more you understand about how investments work, the better you’ll be able to accept, tolerate and manage investment risk. In fact, education is a great antidote to fear on one hand, and rashness on the other. With respect to investment decisions, women tend to be under-confident, while men are inclined to be overconfident. But when the two genders become more educated about investing, their behavior tends to converge. Women gain confidence, and men become less overconfident.