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Finding a Balance between Risk and Return

investment 401K Roth IRA One of the most basic investment principles is that returns reward you for the risks that you take. While investors are often uncomfortable with the concept of risk, it is this uncertainty that makes higher rates of return possible. Some basic investment principles related to risk and return include:

  • Returns on specific investments are not known in advance. Investors can review historical rates of return, but there is no guarantee that past returns will be indicative of future returns.
  • With most investments, there is the possibility that the investment will not meet your return expectations.
  • The uncertainty regarding your actual return creates risk. Greater uncertainties typically lead to greater risk.
  • Investments are subject to many different types of risk. Cash is primarily subject to purchasing power risk, or the risk that is purchasing power will decrease due to inflation. In addition to purchasing power risk, bonds are subject to interest rate risk, or the risk that interest rates will increase and cause the bond’s value to decrease; and default risk, or the risk that the issuer will not repay the principal or interest on the bonds. Stocks are primarily subject to nonmarket risk, or the risk that events specific to a company or its industry will adversely affect a stock’s price; and market risk, or the risk that a particular stock will be affected by overall stock market movements.
  • There is generally a trade-off-between risk and return. Low levels of risk are the most desirable and typically have lower return potential, while higher levels of risk are typically undesirable so must offer higher return potential to encourage investors to invest. Be cautious of claims of high returns with low risk.

There are strategies that can be used to reduce the total risk in your investment portfolio:

  • Diversify your portfolio. You should diversify among several different investment categories, including cash, bonds, and stocks, as well as within investment categories, such as owning several types of stocks. A properly diversified portfolio should contain a mix of asset types whose values have historically moved in different directions or in the same direction with different magnitudes. By owning several investments rather than just one, a downturn in any one should not have a significant impact on your total return. Of course, the opposite is also true ─ if you have one investment with exceptional returns, your total return will be lower than if that was your only investment.
  • Stay in the market through different market cycles. Remaining in the market over the long term helps to reduce the risk of receiving a lower return than expected, especially for more volatile investments, such as stocks.
  • Use dollar cost averaging to invest. Rather than accumulating cash so you have a large sum to invest, invest small amounts regularly. Dollar cost averaging involves investing a certain sum of money in set amounts at regular intervals. This spreads your purchases over a period of time, preventing you from making one major purchase at high prices. Since you are investing a set amount, you purchase more shares when prices are lower and fewer shares when prices are higher.

While a valuable investment strategy, dollar cost averaging does not ensure a profit or protect against losses in declining markets. Before starting a program, consider your ability to continue purchases during periods of low price levels. This strategy requires the discipline to invest consistently regardless of market prices and can help develop a habit of regular investing.

If you like to discuss how to balance risk and return in your portfolio, please call.

Copyright © Integrated Concepts 2012. Some articles in this newsletter were prepared by Integrated Concepts, a separate, nonaffiliated business entity. This newsletter intends to offer factual and up-to-date information on the subjects discussed, but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. The appropriate professional advisers should be consulted before implementing any options presented. No party assumes liability for any loss or damage resulting from errors or omissions or reliance on or use of this material.

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