Novice Mistakes Can Be Costly When Calculating Returns

I talk a lot about managing risk, and for good reason. I recently saw a social media post illustrating the problem of taking excess risk.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'strengthPlan @strengthPlan 12h 12h My whole plan was put all my money in Tesla stock and it goes up 1000%. So far it went -50% so we still need 1050% to go #tsla 104 717 336 37.4K Follow Lázaro @MiliSecSparta Replying to @strengthPlan 1100% not 1050%. From 1 to 0.5 is a 50% drop, so from 0.5 back to 1 needs 100%. %. 18:19.1 16 May 24 1,397 Views'

People who don’t understand basic math tend to do risky things. If you think you can make up big losses because a stock has historically had excellent returns, you need to understand how this works.

The original comment and the response are both badly wrong. Can you see the problem? I like to illustrate problems using simple examples.

Let’s say an investor started out with $10. A 100% return on $10 is $10, giving him a total of $20. A 1,000% return on $10 is $100, giving him a total of $110. So, let’s see what it takes to get to $110 if he first takes a loss of 50%.

A 50% loss means that his $10 is now $5. So, now he needs to go from $5 to a total of $110. That means he now needs a return of $105 on his $5 to reach $110. This requires a return of 2100% to reach that total.

So, both of these commenters vastly underestimated the damage done by a steep drop in share price. Thus, it is imperative to limit the risks of such a drop.

Managing Risk in the Market

How can you manage risks? I use three strategies for managing risk.

Although the stock market is inherently risky, you can ensure that no single position decimates your portfolio by keeping your position sizes small. My general rule is that no single position takes up more than 2% to 3% of my overall portfolio. That means even if a position goes bankrupt and shares go all the way to zero — and I have had that happen — it can only dent my overall portfolio by 3%.

I do make an exception in the case of most mutual funds, which are inherently already diversified. However, you do need to ensure that mutual funds that make up more than 3% of your portfolio aren’t highly leveraged or overly concentrated, because there are cases where such mutual funds themselves have gone bankrupt.

The second way I manage risk is to diversify. Every year, the sector performance in the S&P 500 can vary tremendously. In 2023, for example, the technology sector was up 56%, the S&P 500 Index was up 24%, but the utility sector was down 7%. If you want to manage your risk, you don’t want to overload any particular sector. Spread your bets across multiple sectors, and you should be OK.

Of course, there are times that all sectors are down. That’s part of the inherent risk in the market. You can ride out these declines as long as you adhere to my final rule for managing volatility: Don’t use leverage.

Your brokerage will be more than happy to loan you money to buy shares. But, in the case of a big market decline, you may find yourself getting margin calls. If that happens, your shares could be sold out from under you, which removes your ability to ride out volatility.

Follow these rules, and you should build wealth over time, without undue risk. You may not get rich quickly, but you will get rich — without finding yourself in a deep hole from which you may never recover.

VIDEO: Inside “The Income Zone” With Robert Rapier

Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for ways to generate steady income, regardless of the market’s ups and downs, consider our colleague Robert Rapier.

Robert wants to give you exclusive access to all his lucrative income picks…forever.

Robert Rapier is offering a legacy membership to ALL THREE of his income investing advisories: Utility Forecaster, Income Forecaster, and Rapier’s Income Accelerator. His new three-in-one service is called the Platinum Income Alliance.

This deal is so lucrative, and stacked so heavily in your favor, Robert can only let 100 people through the doors. Take advantage of this rare opportunity by clicking here today.