Risk Defined

Apr 2019

risk is simply the possibility of not achieving one’s investment objectives. A worker can invest a meaningful amount of money consis­tently over 40 years and still not have accumulated a suitable nest egg at retirement if that money is invested in T-Bills or money market instruments. That’s risky behavior, given today’s average longevity and typical retirement objectives, even though month-to-month portfolio fluctuations are apt to be very minor. It’s risky because T-Bill returns are unlikely to meaning­fully outdistance inflation over the long term—even before taxes. The expression “no risk—no return” is better put “no volatility—no return.” Think of it this way: Investment returns are compensation for investors’ willingness to accept near-term volatility and uncertainty. Going back to the determinants of economic growth, investors need to own (have equity in) something that produces economic growth in order to realize the benefits of economic growth. T-Bills and money market instruments (including bank deposits) are merely short-term loans to borrowers, the largest of which is the U.S. government.