It’s too late to ‘re-evaluate’ your Risk Tolerance

By Michael J. Wiener

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

It’s not easy to know your true investment risk tolerance. Fred Schwed explained this problem wonderfully in his book Where are the Customers’ Yachts?:

“There are certain things that cannot be adequately explained to a virgin either by words or pictures. Nor can any description that I might offer here even approximate what it feels like to lose a real chunk of money that you used to own.”

Now that the stock market has tanked and investors are learning what it feels like to lose money, experts like financial planner Jonathan Bednar are saying “This is a great time to re-evaluate your true risk tolerance,” and “If you are nervous then you may be taking on more risk than you are really comfortable with and should rebalance into a more conservative portfolio.”

This advice amounts to “sell stocks while they are low.” The best time to figure out that you don’t have the stomach for a stock market crash is while prices are still high. It’s now too late to reduce your stock allocation without permanently locking in losses.

Easy to think you have high risk tolerance in a bull market

Unfortunately, when stocks are soaring it’s far too easy to convince yourself that your risk tolerance is high. So maybe we need a different strategy. Perhaps we should record videos of ourselves saying how we feel after stocks crashed, and set a calendar reminder to watch this video annually. The next time stocks are soaring again, maybe the video will help us lighten up on stocks while prices are still high.

In the meantime, we have a choice to make. Either sell stocks and permanently lock in losses, or try to gut it out until the recovery and reduce our stock allocation at better prices.

Michael J. Wiener runs the web site Michael James on Money, where he looks for the right answers to personal finance and investing questions. He’s retired from work as a “math guy in high tech” and has been running his website since 2007.  He’s a former mutual fund investor, former stock picker, now index investor. This blog originally appeared on his site on March 16, 2020 and is republished on the Hub with his permission. 

One thought on “It’s too late to ‘re-evaluate’ your Risk Tolerance

  1. This market can go down another 25% from here.

    Why should the 1M you still have turn into 750K?

    Investors can’t sleep on the wheel and taking losses is just as important as taking profits.

    A stop loss strategy can’t be ignored just because some think the market has already corrected enough.

    Good luck to all

Leave a Reply