Ready to talk about your risk tolerance?

And no, this isn't about how daring you are on a weekend adventure.

Whether you're navigating the wild landscape of college life or taking your first steps into the world of adulting, understanding your investment risk tolerance is the key to turning financial mayhem into a strategic dance.

A man saying,

So let's talk about how to make your money work for you without breaking the bank or your sanity.

1. Understand your financial goals

Your time horizon, that magical span between today and when you’ll be ruling the world (or at least your own little corner of it), plays a crucial role in shaping your investment strategy.

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Short term goals

If you're eyeing a new car or a fun trip abroad, your time horizon might be shorter.

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Long term goals

If you’re mapping out a journey into home ownership or retirement, you've got time (and compound interest) on your side.

Understanding whether you're in for a sprint, a marathon, or perhaps a combination of both, helps determine how much risk you can comfortably stomach along the way. The more time you have at your disposal, the more risk you can weather.

Wheel of Fortune: Someone is turning the wheel and the caption says,

2. Consider your income and expenses

Let's break out the spreadsheets or the budgeting app of your choice. What's the deal with your income and expenses? Are you rolling in dough, or is your wallet echoing with the sound of a lone penny?

A person opening an empty wallet. Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

If you've got a steady income stream, a sufficient emergency fund, and a bit of wiggle room after covering your essentials, you might be more inclined to crank up the risk dial. Otherwise, it would be wise to tread with caution.

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The key is finding the middle ground where your investments don’t drain your wallet,and keep you moving toward your financial goals.

3. Assess your emotional comfort with risk

How do you feel about the idea of your hard-earned money taking a wild ride?

Are you an adrenaline junkie who laughs in the face of market volatility, or do the ups and downs make you reach for the barf bag?

If the idea of a market dip would keep you up at night, look for investments that let you sleep soundly, even when the market decides to do a few unexpected loops.

Moira from Schitt's Creek looking disheveled and saying,

Remember, it's not just about the numbers — it's about how those numbers make you feel. If you'll be overwhelmed with regret, like Moira from "Schitt's Creek", stay away!

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The risk tolerance spectrum

Your risk tolerance is somewhere between cautious navigator on one end and thrill-seeker on the other.

  • Conservative investors prefer to safeguard their investments overall.

  • Moderately conservative investors are willing to take small risks.

  • Moderate investors balance risk with reward.

  • Moderately aggressive investors prioritize long-term investment returns.

  • Aggressive investors want to maximize their returns and will tolerate volatility along the way.

What category feels like your home right now?

A person making facial expressions with their mouth to show uncertainty.

4. Review your knowledge

Are you a seasoned Wall Street wizard, or does the stock market lingo sound like a foreign language?

Fear not, the financial world has room for both beginners and seasoned pros. Recognizing your current financial expertise is the first step in crafting an investment strategy that fits you.

Research explaining that only 8% of millennials polled have a high level of knowledge about personal finance.

If you're a rookie, you might be more comfortable with lower-risk investments initially. You may even consider working with a financial advisor to get personalized advice.

Your risk tolerance will likely change over time as your financial situation, goals, and life circumstances change. Investing is rarely a "do it and forget it" sort of work, so don't forget to review your portfolio and adjust course when needed.

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What should Diane do?

Diane is graduating next year and knows she will need a car. She also hopes to purchase a home in the next 5-6 years. She isn't a knowledgeable investor and will need help managing her investment account.

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Dear Diane

Diane needs to find a financial advisor to manage her accounts for her.

Her investment portfolio will likely be moderate, as she is very young but with big financial goals only 6 years away.


Alex has a good job. They owe $70,000 in college loans, and they're saving for a wedding and a home. Alex is a rookie investor that gets anxious when their investment balance dips. How would you describe Alex's risk tolerance? Select all that apply:

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Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to risk tolerance. It's about finding the balance between your financial goals and emotional well-being.

Moira Rose from Schitt's Creek says,


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