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Understanding Risk Tolerance Appetite & How You Can Calculate It

Understanding Risk Tolerance Appetite & How You Can Calculate It
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Remember the old Wall Street saying, “You can eat well or you can sleep well” ? Well, in the world of stock market investing, this saying packs a punch. It’s all about determining risk tolerance, which is like your personal gauge for how comfortable you are with the ups and downs of the market roller coaster. Picture this: if you want to eat well (meaning high returns), you might need to accept a few sleepless nights as you ride the waves of market volatility. On the flip side, if you prefer peaceful slumbers, you might settle for more modest gains. Let’s try to understand how you can strike a balance and measure your risk tolerance.

What is Risk Tolerance in Investing?

So, think of risk tolerance as your personal comfort level with how much ups and downs you can handle when investing your hard-earned money. It’s like deciding how fast you’re willing to drive on a bumpy road. In other words, the risk tolerance meaning in investing is basically how comfortable you are with the idea of your investments going up and down in value. 

A high risk tolerance is synonymous with investing in stocks, equity funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). On the other hand, a lower comfort level with risk is usually linked to buying types of bonds, bond funds, and income funds.

How Risk Tolerance Works?

When the stock market is soaring, we all might feel like taking big risks. But you know what really shows your true risk-taking style? Yep, you guessed it – when the market takes a nosedive.

Remember back to March 2020? The market was in a serious slump. Unemployment rates were through the roof, and everyone was super uncertain about what would happen next with this whole COVID-19 situation.

So, think about yourself back then. Did you hold onto your investments despite the chaos? Or did you hit the panic button and sell everything? If you stay strong through the tough times, you probably lean towards high risk apetite. And if you actually took advantage of the falling market to invest more, you’re quite the risk-taker – which turned out pretty well when the stock market made some impressive gains in 2021.

Additionally, 2022 wasn’t all smooth sailing either. Interest rates went up, and that caused both stocks and bonds to tumble. Some of those really speculative stocks even dropped by a whopping 80% from their peaks. 

How to Calculate Risk Tolerance in Investing?

Remember when calculating risk versus reward, you’ll want to divide your net profit (the potential reward) by the cost of your maximum potential loss. Let’s take an example of two companies offering different returns to understand better. 

  • Option A: Investing in a well-established company that has historically shown steady, moderate growth. The potential return is around 5-6% per year.
  • Option B: Investing in a startup that has the potential for high returns, but it’s riskier because startups can fail. The potential return is around 10-12% per year.

In this example, based on the potential returns and risk factors, Option A is generally considered lower risk, while Option B is higher risk due to its potential for both higher returns and potential failure. Remember, all investments carry some level of risk, so it’s important to do your research and consider your own situation carefully.

Types of Risk Tolerance

Determining risk tolerance varies among investors, influencing their approach to managing investment volatility. Thus, let’s have a look at how different investment risk apetite can be. 

I. Conservative Risk Tolerance

Investors with a conservative risk tolerance prioritize safeguarding their invested capital over the potential for high returns. They are uncomfortable with significant market fluctuations and prefer low-risk investment options. Conservative investors often allocate a larger portion of their portfolio to assets like stable dividend-paying stocks, bonds, and cash equivalents. They accept lower potential gains in exchange for greater stability and reduced exposure to market downturns.

II. Moderate Risk Tolerance

Investors with a moderate risk tolerance seek a balanced approach between potential returns and risk. Moderate investors diversify their portfolios across various asset classes, including stocks, bonds, and potentially alternative investment funds(AIFs). They accept a reasonable level of risk to achieve their financial objectives while valuing a certain level of stability.

III. Aggressive Risk Tolerance

Investors with an aggressive risk appetite are comfortable with notable fluctuations in investment value for the potential of higher returns. They accept higher risk tolerance levels of volatility, often focusing on growth-oriented assets like stocks, REITs, and potentially higher-risk investments. Aggressive investors are typically long-term oriented and can withstand short-term market volatility.

How to Measure Risk Tolerance?

Here are some ways to measure risk tolerance:

  • Take a risk tolerance quiz: There are a number of risk tolerance quizzes available online that can help you assess your risk tolerance.
  • Consider your financial situation: How much money do you have saved up? How much money do you need to live on each month?
  • Think about your investment goals: How much money do you want to make? When do you need the money?
  • Think about your personality: Are you someone who is comfortable with risk? Or do you prefer to play it safe?

How Can I Determine My Risk Tolerance?

Determining risk tolerance is like finding the right balance between adventure and caution in the investment world. Here’s a simple way to do it:

  • Know Your Goals: Start by thinking about what you want to achieve with your investments. Are you looking for steady growth or willing to take bigger chances for potentially bigger rewards?
  • Time on Your Side: Consider how long you plan to invest. If you’re in it for the long haul, you might be able to ride out the ups and downs better.
  • Gut Check: Imagine your investments drop in value – how does that make you feel? If it gives you sleepless nights, you might lean more towards the cautious side.
  • Play the “What If” Game: Think about different market scenarios. Would you panic and sell if your investments took a hit, or would you hold on and wait for things to improve?
  • Learn from the Past: Reflect on how you reacted during past financial ups and downs. Did you stay calm or get jittery?
  • Talk to an Expert: Consider chatting with a financial advisor. They have a knack for helping you see measuring risk tolerance more clearly.

How Investment Experience Relates to Measuring Risk Tolerance?

Think of investment experience like learning to ride a bike. When you’re just starting, you might be cautious and stick to flat, smooth paths – that’s like having a conservative risk tolerance. As you gain more experience, you might try trickier routes, but still avoid big jumps – that’s a moderate risk tolerance. And if you become a pro, you might even take on jumps and sharp turns with confidence – that’s like having an aggressive risk tolerance. Your investment experience shapes how comfortable you are with market ups and downs, guiding your risk tolerance.


Consider two friends, X and Y, who are both contemplating entering the stock market.

X, the conservative investor, is nearing retirement and prioritizes stability and protecting their invested money. With a low risk tolerance level, X decides to allocate a significant portion of their investment portfolio to bonds and dividend-paying stocks. His main goal is to ensure a consistent income. 

On the flip side, we have Y, the aggressive investor. Y is ready for higher potential returns and is willing to take on more risk. He chooses to allocate a larger part of their portfolio to growth-focused stocks, and is even open to exploring investments in emerging industries with higher risk. Y’s confidence in handling market volatility comes from their long investment horizon.

In this scenario, Alex demonstrates a conservative risk tolerance, aiming for stability, while Jordan showcases an aggressive risk tolerance, embracing higher risk in pursuit of potential growth, driven by their distinct investment goals and life stages.

Risk Appetite vs Risk Tolerance-What’s the Difference?

When it comes to navigating the world of investments, understanding the nuances between risk appetite vs risk tolerance is essential. These two terms often work hand in hand but refer to distinct aspects of your approach to risk that have been explained in the following table: 

AspectRisk AppetiteRisk Tolerance
DefinitionWillingness to take on riskAbility to handle and endure risk
FocusPsychological and emotional aspectFinancial and practical aspect
Influence on DecisionDetermines initial risk exposureGuides investment strategy over time
FactorsPersonal beliefs, goals, emotionsInvestment horizon, financial status
ExampleBeing open to high-risk venturesStaying calm during market turmoil

To Wrap It Up…

In conclusion, grasping the concept of risk tolerance is paramount for investors on their journey toward financial success. Measuring the risk apetite acts as a compass, guiding you through the dynamic landscape of investment choices. We understand how overwhelming investing in the stock market gets, especially with the buzz around. This is where you can rely on smallcase.

Investing in smallcase takes this understanding to the next level. With the ability to curate a portfolio of stocks spanning diverse sectors, all based on your individual risk apetite, you gain a powerful tool to craft a balanced and strategic investment approach. Whether you lean towards conservative, moderate, or aggressive risk tolerance, smallcase provides you with the flexibility to shape your portfolio accordingly.


1. What are the 3 levels of risk tolerance?

The three different levels are Conservative, Aggressive, and Moderate.

2. What does risk tolerance depend on?

It largely depends on the financial situation, investment goals, time horizon, volatility, risk capacity, and more.

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