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Balancing Risk and Return: Understanding the ‘Eat Well, Sleep Well’ Strategy

Last updated 03/19/2024 by

Abi Bus

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“Eat well, sleep well” is a financial adage that highlights the risk-return tradeoff in investment decisions. Investors choose between high returns (“eating well”) and peace of mind (“sleeping well”) when selecting securities. Balancing return needs with risk tolerance is crucial, known as the “eat well, sleep well” tradeoff. Diversifying investments across asset classes can help achieve both objectives.

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Understanding eat well, sleep well

When investors contemplate which securities to buy, they make their judgments based on what level of returns they require, as well as how much risk they want to take on. Risk-return is the relationship between the potential amount of return gained on an investment and the amount of risk an investor must accept to participate in that investment. The higher the return desired, the more risk the investor must accept.
That is where the “eat well, sleep well” adage comes in. Investing in securities with high expected returns offers investors the potential to eat well, but also maybe lose out on sleep, due to their volatile nature and higher probability of dishing out devastating losses. In contrast, investing in lower-risk assets helps to minimize the potential for loss and generate smoother returns, enabling investors to sleep better, at the expense of eating less.
Each investor’s risk tolerance is the single most important factor in constructing an investment portfolio. Investors often must balance their return needs and goals with their individual risk tolerances. This tradeoff can be referred to as “eat well, sleep well.”

Types of eat well, sleep well securities

Securities that prioritize stability and safety include cash deposits, money market funds, certificates of deposit (CD), and Treasury-inflation protected securities (TIPS). These investments offer minimal risk of loss, allowing investors to sleep soundly. However, they typically yield lower returns compared to riskier assets.
On the other hand, investors seeking higher returns may opt for riskier assets such as emerging market securities and small-cap stocks. While these investments offer greater profit potential, they also come with heightened volatility and increased risk, potentially leading to sleepless nights.

Eat well, sleep well method

A popular saying on Wall Street is that stocks let us eat well and bonds let us sleep well. This phrase is a little overgeneralized—there are some fixed-income investments out there, such as junk bonds, that are riskier than, say, investing in an index fund tracking stocks in the S&P 500—but does make an important point about how investors can go about getting the best of both worlds.
In theory, investors can build a portfolio made up of both eat well and sleep well securities. When done properly, allocating capital among different asset classes and industries helps to minimize risk and potentially increase gains.
Diversification is important. Spreading out holdings should insulate portfolios from the ups and downs of a single stock or class of securities.
Risk tolerance may change over time, so it is important to revisit the topic periodically.

Special considerations

Every investor would love to double their capital overnight. However, few are willing to take on the kind of risk such a result would involve.
A lot also depends on age. The rule of thumb is that an investor should gradually reduce risk exposure over the years, switching to less volatile securities as they close in on retirement.
In general, young people are advised to prioritize eating well versus sleeping well. Financial advisors argue that they have time on their side to ride out market volatility and should look to amass the biggest amount of money for later in life. That emphasis gradually changes as the person gets older and needs more money to get by.
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
  • Allows investors to balance risk and return preferences
  • Enables diversification to mitigate risk
  • Provides insight into portfolio construction
  • May lead to missed opportunities for higher returns
  • Requires ongoing monitoring and adjustment
  • Can be challenging for novice investors to implement effectively

Frequently asked questions

What factors should investors consider when balancing risk and return?

Investors should consider their financial goals, time horizon, risk tolerance, and market conditions when balancing risk and return. Understanding how much risk they can comfortably accept while still achieving their desired returns is crucial.

How often should investors reassess their risk tolerance?

Investors should reassess their risk tolerance periodically, especially during significant life events or changes in financial circumstances. It’s essential to ensure that investment strategies align with evolving risk preferences and long-term goals.

Is it possible to achieve both high returns and peace of mind in investing?

While it’s challenging to achieve both high returns and peace of mind simultaneously, investors can strive for a balance by diversifying their portfolios and carefully selecting investments based on their risk-return profiles. Diversification helps mitigate risk while potentially increasing overall returns.

What are some common mistakes investors make when balancing risk and return?

One common mistake is chasing high returns without considering the associated risks, which can lead to significant losses. Additionally, some investors may be overly conservative and miss out on opportunities for growth by avoiding risk altogether. It’s essential to strike a balance that aligns with individual financial goals and risk tolerance.

How can investors mitigate risks associated with higher-return investments?

Investors can mitigate risks associated with higher-return investments by diversifying their portfolios, conducting thorough research, and staying informed about market trends. Additionally, maintaining a long-term perspective and avoiding emotional decision-making can help navigate volatility and reduce the impact of short-term fluctuations.

Key takeaways

  • The “eat well, sleep well” adage highlights the tradeoff between risk and return in investing.
  • Investors must balance their desire for high returns with their tolerance for risk.
  • Diversifying investments across asset classes can help mitigate risk while aiming for favorable returns.
  • Risk tolerance may evolve over time, necessitating periodic portfolio reassessment.
  • Age often influences risk tolerance, with younger investors typically prioritizing higher returns and older investors focusing on wealth preservation.

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