Financial Advice: Risk vs. Reward

6/27/2012, 1:25 p.m.

When investing your money, it's important to take risk versus reward into account. Like so many other areas of life, the risky path has the most potential for a big payoff, but the safe route is all but guaranteed to earn you at least a little something. Knowing your personal risk tolerance level and using this in conjunction with where you are in meeting your financial goals will help you determine the best way to balance your investments.

Smart Investing Means Knowing Yourself

What is your personal tolerance for risk? Would you rather hope for the big payoff and possibly lose money in the meantime, or would you prefer to invest your money in solid accounts with a small rate of return? While no investments are guaranteed, the small accounts can provide you with a fairly reliable return over time. All the same, riskier investments become significantly less risky, statistically, over years, often leading to great returns. After a year of dwindling accounts, it's hard to be confident that riskier investing can be worth it, but if you have enough time left before retirement, playing risk versus reward may be a great bet.

Smart Investing Means Knowing Your Long-Term Goals

If you are almost ready to retire, it's probably safest to keep most of your wealth in medium- to low-risk investments. While these types of investments don't have the same return potential as high-risk ones, they also aren't likely to leave you with less money than you started with. When you look at it like that, it may sound strange to recommend riskier investing to anyone. How can high-risk investing possibly beat the odds?

Try to think of risk versus reward this way: if you invest in a high-risk fund, the value may go up or down. When it's up, you are making money, which you can put back into the investment or invest elsewhere. When it goes down, you may be losing some money on the fund, but you can buy more shares at a decreased rate at this time, giving you higher earning potential in the future. When examined over the span of many years, the higher risk options often provide a greater rate of return than less risky investments. If you have many years before you retire, this may be a great method to build your wealth.

No matter what your feelings are towards risk vs reward, you should seek the help of a financial advisor. These professionals can help you determine both what your personal feelings are toward risk, as well as how to best meet your financial goals. Investments that may seem too risky on the surface may have better returns over time, and seeking the help of a financial planner is the best way to know what the right choices are for you. Maximizing your wealth with the right mix of risk is critical, and with proper research and guidance, you can make it happen.

Questions? Email me at wesley@thewandwgroup.com and visit our website at http://www.thewandwgroup.com. New Money Talk is a weekly article focusing on retirement, personal finance, and estate planning.

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