Volatility Does Not Equal Risk

Jul 1997

There’s a small army of consultants trying to convince investors that volatility is risk.  It isn’t—at least, not for most investors.  Some investors may decide that volatility is undesirable to the point that they want to take steps to reduce it, yet reducing volatility may not reduce risk.  Risk, for most people, refers to the chance or likelihood that they will not achieve their financial goals.  If an investor is planning to retire in X years and needs a certain-sized nest egg to support his retirement, then volatility in the context of achieving his goal will probably not seem so risky—especially when compared to less volatility in the context of not achieving his goal.