What Is Risk Tolerance?


Risk tolerance is a term used to describe the degree of uncertainty people are willing to accept when making decisions. Put simply, it is a measure of how comfortable people feel with taking risks. It is important to evaluate ones risk tolerance in order to make decisions that suit their specific needs and financial goals.

Definition of Risk Tolerance

Risk tolerance can be defined as an individual's willingness to accept fluctuations in their investments and investments returns. Generally, people that have a high risk tolerance may be more willing to invest in higher risk investments, while people with a low risk tolerance may prefer safer investments.

Importance of Evaluating Risk Tolerance

Evaluating risk tolerance is essential to making smart investments. By understanding their risk tolerance, people can identify investments that are suitable for them, and avoid investments that are too risky for their financial risk profile. Investing in investments that are aligned with their risk tolerance will also help in setting realistic expectations about the future performance of their investments.

Types of Risk

Risk tolerance is the amount of risk an individual or organization can handle before experiencing adverse effects. The types of risks that affect investments and organizations vary, each of which can differ in severity. Below are common types of risk and some of the ways they can be identified.

Systematic Risk

Systematic risk, also known as market risk, refers to the risk that a security or entire portfolio will decrease in value as a result of fluctuations in the stock market or other associated economic factors. Examples of systematic risks include inflation, political instability, currency fluctuation, and changes in interest and tax rates. Systematic risk is difficult to diversify, can affect multiple securities significantly, and may have potentially long-term effects.

Unsystematic Risk

Unsystematic risk, also known as specific risk, refers to the risk that affects a single security or industry. This risk is easier to identify, is often caused by news or events that are specific to a security or industry, and can usually be eliminated or at least mitigated with diversification. Examples of unsystematic risk include product obsolescence, competitive rise, or management shifts.

Political Risk

Political risk is the risk associated with an investment in a foreign country due to the possible change in political environment. This type of risk is closely tied to the effectiveness of the foreign government and its ability to create policies and regulations favorable to foreign investors. Political risk can also be associated with government seizures, revolutions, or military invasions which can lead to a devaluation of the investment.

Financial Risk

Financial risk refers to the risk associated with an organization or security's ability to meet financial obligations. These risks can be caused by external factors such as changes in market conditions, or they can be due to internal factors such as a company's liquidity position or management capabilities. Examples of financial risks include liquidity risk, interest rate risk, foreign exchange risk, and credit risk.

How to Measure Risk Tolerance

When it comes to measuring risk tolerance, your individual level of risk tolerance should be an important criterium. While everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach for everyone, having a clear understanding of your financial capacity, attitude and position can help to determine your risk tolerance. Here are three different approaches to measuring risk tolerance.

Assess Financial Position

The first step to measuring risk tolerance is to assess your financial position. This includes your income, assets, and liabilities, as well as the structure of your investments and the amount of risk you are currently exposed to. This will help you get an overall picture of your financial situation and provide a better understanding of your risk capacity.

Calculate Risk Capacity

Once you have assessed your financial position and mapped out your investments, you can begin to calculate your risk capacity. This can be done by taking into account your age, attitude towards risk, financial goals, and other factors that have an influence on your risk tolerance. This is important as it gives a more in-depth understanding of what type of investments and risk exposure you can handle.

Consider Risk Attitude

Finally, when it comes to measuring risk tolerance, it’s important to consider your risk attitude and personal preferences. This includes your views on investing, the types of investments you prefer, how much risk you are willing to take and other related factors. Risk attitude is an important factor as it indicates how willing you are to accept volatility and losses in exchange for potential gains.

Ultimately, understanding your risk tolerance can be a difficult and complex task as it requires assessing your financial position, calculating risk capacity and considering your risk attitude. Having a clear understanding of your risk tolerance can help you make smarter and more informed investment decisions.

Factors to Consider When Assessing Risk Tolerance

One's level of risk tolerance is an important factor to consider when investing. There is no 'one size fits all' risk tolerance; each investor is different and the appropriate level of risk for them will depend on a variety of factors. Knowing your personal risk tolerance and understanding the factors that determine it can help you make smarter decisions when crafting your investment strategy. The following are some of the main factors that should be considered when assessing your risk tolerance.


Age is one of the primary factors that influences risk tolerance. Generally, younger investors are able to take on higher levels of risk because their portfolios have a longer amount of time to recover from any short-term trouble. Since older investors are closer to needing the money, they typically have lower risk tolerances.

Risk/Reward Ratio

The risk/reward ratio of an investment should also be considered when evaluating risk tolerance. Higher risks often come with higher potential rewards, but you should consider whether the expected reward is worth the potential downsides. Determine your comfort level with the ratio to decide if it's a risk you're willing to take.

Investment Time Horizon

The investment time horizon is also an important factor when evaluating risk tolerance. If you are investing for the long term, you can typically take on a higher level of risk. Short-term investments may require a more conservative approach.

Different Types of Risk Tolerance

Generally, there are three categories of risk tolerance: conservative, moderate, and aggressive. Each type of risk tolerance is designed to suit a different types of investors, and it is important to know which type is right for you when selecting your investment strategy.


A conservative risk tolerance is suited for investors who would like to have their investments remain relatively stable and not have a large decrease in value. Conservative investors are more interested in preserving their capital than in seeking to maximize their return on investment. The types of investments available for those with a conservative risk tolerance include: CDs, money market funds, and bonds.


A moderate risk tolerance is designed for investors who are willing to take on some risk in exchange for a higher potential return on their investments. Moderate investments balance capital preservation with a higher return on investment and include investments such as exchange traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, and stocks.


An aggressive risk tolerance is designed for those investors who are willing to take on above-average risks in exchange for the potential to achieve higher returns. These types of investments include commodities, private equity, venture capital, and speculative stocks. Aggressive investments should be limited for those investors with a long-term investment horizon and who can take on a loss of capital if the investment does not perform as expected.

Tips for Understanding Your Risk Tolerance

Understanding your risk tolerance is a critical part of investing and can help you reach your financial goals. Risk tolerance is the level of discomfort you feel when facing the level of uncertainty associated with your investments. It’s important to be aware of your risk tolerance before making any investment decisions.

First Prioritize Financial Goals

Before you can start to determine your risk tolerance, you need to first prioritize your financial goals. Think about what you’re hoping to get out of your investments and how soon you’d like to reach them. Also consider what type of risks you’re willing to take to achieve your goals. Knowing your financial goals will help you understand what level of risk you should take in your investments.

Consult Financial Expert

Considering consulting a financial expert to help you decide on the best type of investments for your needs. A financial professional can review your goals and help you make decisions based on your risk tolerance. Financial advisors can also help you assess your portfolio and make changes that are in line with your risk level.

Choose Appropriate Investment Mix

Once you’ve determined your risk tolerance and goals, it’s time to create an investment mix that works for you. Make sure to include different types of investments according to your risk level. This could include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real estate investments. Make sure to do your research and understand the investments you choose, as some may involve more risk than others.

  • Prioritize Financial Goals
  • Consult Financial Expert
  • Choose Appropriate Investment Mix


Risk tolerance is an individual mindset concerning the level of risk that one is willing to accept when making investment decisions. It is a relatively personal idea and can be influenced by a variety of factors. Ultimately, a person’s risk tolerance level will guide the planning and implementation of their investment strategies. Understanding one’s own risk tolerance can save an investor from taking on more risk than they should, and ensure that an investment plan allows them to sleep well at night.

It is important to remember that risk tolerance is a dynamic concept and can change over time, depending on one’s age, life stage, new information and experiences. Factors such as risk capacity, risk aversion, and risk preference should all be considered when assessing one’s risk tolerance. Having an understanding of personal risk tolerance combined with sound financial advice can result in a successful investment strategy.

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