Hedge: What It Is and How It Works in Investing


Investing can be a risky business, but a hedge can help mitigate that risk, which is a way to protect yourself from potential losses. In this article, we’ll define what a hedge is, how it works in investing, and some popular hedging strategies.

What is a hedge?

A hedge is an investment that’s made to offset potential losses in another investment. The idea behind hedging is to protect yourself from the downside risk of an investment. A hedge can be used to protect against a variety of risks, including market volatility, changes in interest rates, or currency fluctuations.

How it works

Hedging is essentially a way of insurance. By investing in something that offsets the risks of another investment, you can limit your losses if the investment doesn’t perform as expected.

There are many different types of hedging strategies, but the two most popular are hedging with derivatives and hedging through diversification.

Hedging with derivatives

A derivative is a financial instrument that derives its value from an underlying asset. This underlying asset can be a stock, bond, commodity, or any other financial instrument. Derivatives are commonly used in hedging strategies.

One popular type of derivative is the put option. A put option is a contract that gives the owner the right, but not the obligation, to sell an underlying asset at a specified price within a specified time frame. In other words, a put option is a bet that an asset will decrease in value.

Example with a put option

Let’s say you own 100 shares of XYZ stock, which is currently trading at $50 per share. You’re worried that the stock might decrease in value, so you buy a put option that gives you the right to sell those 100 shares at $45 per share.

If the stock drops to $40 per share, you can exercise your put option and sell the shares for $45 each. You’ve limited your losses to $5 per share, rather than the $10 per share loss you would have incurred without the put option.

Hedging through diversification

Another popular hedging strategy is diversification. Diversification is the practice of spreading your investments across a variety of assets to reduce the risk of any one investment. By diversifying your investments, you can offset potential losses in one asset with gains in another.

For example, if you invest solely in technology stocks, you might be exposed to a high level of risk if there’s a downturn in the tech industry. However, if you diversify your portfolio to include stocks in different industries, as well as bonds and other financial instruments, you can spread your risk and reduce your exposure to any one industry.

Spread Hedging

Another method of hedging is through spread hedging. This involves taking opposite positions in two different markets or securities, with the goal of offsetting potential losses in one area with gains in the other. For instance, an investor who owns a stock may take a short position in a related sector or market. If the stock goes down, the investor can make a profit on the short position, thus offsetting the losses on the stock.

PRO TIP: A perfect hedge can eliminate all risk in a position or portfolio by being 100% inversely correlated to the vulnerable asset. However, it is an ideal rather than a reality and comes at a cost. Basis risk is the possibility that the asset and hedge won’t move in opposite directions as expected, resulting in a discrepancy referred to as “basis”.


Although hedging can provide protection against losses, it is not without its risks. One major risk is that the hedging strategy may not work as intended, which could lead to even greater losses than if the investor had not hedged at all. Additionally, hedging can be costly, as the purchase of derivative contracts or other securities can be expensive.

Another risk of hedging is that it can limit the potential gains of an investment. If a hedge is successful and protects an investor against losses, it may also limit the upside potential of the investment. This means that while the investor may not lose as much money, they may also not gain as much as they could have without the hedge.

Hedging and the everyday investor

Hedging strategies are not just for large institutions or high net worth individuals. Everyday investors can also benefit from using hedging strategies to protect their investments. Hedging can be done through the use of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), options, or other types of securities.

ETFs are a popular way for individual investors to hedge their portfolios. ETFs are traded on stock exchanges and represent a basket of stocks or other assets. By purchasing an ETF that tracks a certain market or sector, investors can protect against losses in that area.

Options are another popular way to hedge investments. Options contracts give the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an underlying asset at a specified price within a specified time frame. By purchasing a put option on a stock, for instance, an investor can protect against potential losses if the stock price declines.


 Is hedging legal?

Yes, hedging is a legal investment strategy.

What is the difference between hedging and speculation?

Hedging is a strategy used to protect against losses, while speculation is a strategy used to try and profit from market movements.

Do all investors need to hedge their investments?

Not all investors need to hedge their investments, but it can be a useful strategy for those who are looking to protect against potential losses.

The Bottom line

Hedging is a powerful investment tool that can be used to protect against potential losses. By using derivatives or other securities to offset potential losses, investors can limit their downside risk. However, hedging is not without its risks and can be costly. For this reason, it is important for investors to carefully consider their hedging strategies and understand the potential risks and rewards.

Key Takeaways

  • Hedging is a strategy used to protect against potential losses.
  • Hedging can be done through the use of derivatives or other securities.
  • There are various hedging strategies, including using options, ETFs, and spread hedging.
  • While hedging can limit losses, it can also limit potential gains and be costly.
  • Everyday investors can benefit from using hedging strategies to protect their investments.
View Article Sources
  1. Hedges: Softening Claims in Academic Writing – George Mason University Writing Center
  2. Hedging Language – Pennsylvania State University
  3. Hedges – 7.208 – Colorado State University Extension