Identifying your investment risk

Our solution to identifying your investment risk… and why it matters

This past weekend my wife and I went and visited two of our best friends in the hospital who just had a baby girl. When we got the text that the baby had arrived, we were in line at the Nike employee store. As we got up the counter, my wife became teary eyed with thoughts of happiness for our friends, as you can imagine the check in person didn’t quite know what to do! The cool thing about being at Nike at that time, was that we were able to pick up this little number as a gift for the newborn, which I would highly recommend simply because it's awesome.

Later that night we went to visit them, and I had not been to a doctor’s office/hospital in a while, and while I was there noticed the “pain tolerance scale” up on the wall in our friend’s room.


This scale has always made me laugh as often times it is usually relative and doesn’t define what the parameters are. What signifies a 10 on the pain scale? A broken leg? Something more painful? I know for me it was crashing my bike and meeting the gravel face first.

This got me thinking about a financial scale that many of us have seen before called the “risk scale”. Most people who have invested before have probably been asked the question, “Are you more of a conservative, moderate, or aggressive investor?” And most people say some form of, “Moderate, I think? I obviously want to make money but don’t want to lose it all”. Similar to the pain tolerance scale, the question needs to be asked; what does conservative, moderate, or aggressive mean? This is a reasonable question many people have a hard time answering. Human Investing has recently partnered with Riskalyze, a company that looks to provide tangible risk information that investors can act on.

risk 2
risk 2

Here is how it works: After completing a simple risk questionnaire you're are given a risk score from 1 to 100. This score acts as a benchmark (investor lingo for pain scale) and explains what to expect during different market conditions. For example, if you are invested in the S&P 500 your risk score is a 78 according to the assessment. It also shows you that generally in a given 6 month period of time you can expect a best case return of 28% and a worst case return of -18% with a historical average rate or return of around 9%. As the investor, YOU get to decide if you’re comfortable with that and can look at different investment options or portfolios that fit your goals and timeline best.

So why does this matter? Because over time investors typically under-perform the market due to things like lack of discipline, changing strategies, and trying to time the markets. We believe that a more informed investor who understands their risk and the upside and downside of their allocation can fair better. When I show this tool to 401k participants I often use the following sound bite to explain that most investors are emotional and have a short-term view; In 2014 the 20 year backward looking S&P 500 annualized return was 9.85% while the average US equity mutual fund investor annualized return was only 5.19%! Yes you read that right. Over a 4% difference per year the average investor missed out on.

Our hope is by equipping investors with information like this people can have a better understanding of which investment mix is best for them and how to stick to it over time. Thus, creating higher returns by increasing discipline.

If you are looking for an explanation about the pain scale, I am just as confused as you and probably can’t help. But, if you would like to have a conversation about your risk score and how to implement it, don’t hesitate to email someone from our team or give us a call!

InvestmentsAndrew Nelson