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What is Risk?

publication date: Feb 13, 2020
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Image Source: Mike Cohen. 

Let’s start by talking about what isn’t risk. Risk isn’t easily measured, and yet that is what the asset management industry and academia tend to serve up to the average and professional investor alike. You will see the standard deviation of a stock or portfolio, showing how much the value wiggles. You will see beta, which shows how much the value wiggles as compared to the benchmark’s own wiggles. You will see things like the Sharpe and Sortino ratios, which tackle further quantifiable ways to describe risk--and the list of equations goes on and on. Do you know what is a much more difficult question for an asset manager to answer? How much real risk is contained in your portfolio? I was going to say fundamental risk, but real risk is a broader category and what I am driving at in this piece. So, let’s get after it. What is real risk as it pertains to an individual investment or a portfolio?

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