Assessing Investment Risk and Return: Key Factors for Private Investors

Assessing Investment Risk and Return: Key Factors for Private Investors

Investment risk and return are crucial considerations for any investor. The original investment, which serves as the initial capital deployed, heavily influences the potential return on investment. This original investment defines the baseline against which subsequent gains or losses are measured. Understanding the impact of the original investment on overall returns is fundamental to assessing the risk and reward profile of any investment opportunity. By carefully evaluating the relationship between the original investment and potential returns, investors can make informed decisions to balance risk and reward. Adjusting the original investment amount allows investors to modulate their exposure to risk, potentially influencing the overall return on investment.

What is Risk?

The rate of return is a crucial metric in assessing the performance of investments. A high rate of return often accompanies a risky investment, where the potential for greater profits is balanced against the increased uncertainty of achieving those returns. Investors must carefully analyze the relationship between risk and the expected rate of return before committing to a particular investment. Additionally, a diversified portfolio can help manage the impact of a single risky investment that might not yield the anticipated rate of return.

Systematic risk is the risk that affects all assets in a market or a sector. It is caused by factors beyond individual investors' control, such as market fluctuations, interest rate changes, inflation, political instability, etc. Diversification cannot eliminate systematic risk, but higher expected returns can compensate for it.

Unsystematic risk is a risk that affects only a specific investment or a group of assets. It is caused by factors specific to the business, industry, or investment project, such as management quality, financial leverage, liquidity, competition, etc. Unsystematic risk can be reduced or eliminated by diversification, as different investments have different sources of unsystematic risk.

How is Risk Measured?

Analyzing cash investments is crucial when evaluating risk, as they form the foundation of a conservative portfolio. Diverse tools are utilized to quantify the risk associated with cash investments, encompassing metrics like liquidity ratios and interest rate fluctuations. These metrics aid in assessing the potential vulnerabilities of such holdings within an investment strategy. Additionally, an investment strategy heavily reliant on risk assessment models and diversification methods aims to mitigate the inherent uncertainties, ensuring a balanced and resilient portfolio. Some of the most common ones are:

Standard Deviation

This is a statistical measure that shows how much the actual returns of an investment deviate from its average or expected return over some time. A higher standard deviation indicates a higher variability or volatility of returns and, thus, a higher risk.


This measure shows how sensitive an investment is to the market movements or a benchmark. A beta of 1 means the asset moves in sync with the market or the benchmark. A beta greater than 1 means the investment is more volatile than the market or the benchmark. A beta less than 1 means that the investment is less volatile than the market or the benchmark.

Sharpe ratio

This measure shows how much excess return an investment generates per unit of risk. It is calculated by dividing the difference between the expected return of an investment and the risk-free return (such as a treasury bill or a savings account) by its standard deviation. A higher Sharpe ratio indicates a better risk-adjusted performance.

What is Return?

An investment strategy greatly influences the return an investor can expect over a period of time. For instance, a long-term investment strategy focusing on diversified assets aims for steady growth over an extended period of time. In contrast, a short-term investment strategy might target quick returns within a brief period of time by leveraging market fluctuations. The chosen investment strategy significantly impacts the returns achieved over the selected period of time, whether it's focused on capital appreciation, income generation, or a combination of both.

Total return is the sum of capital gain or loss and income from an investment. Capital gain or loss is the difference between an investment's selling and buying prices. Income is any cash flow from an asset, such as dividends, interest, rent, etc.

Holding period return is the total return over a specific period, such as a month, a year, or a decade. It shows how much an investor has earned or lost from an investment during that period.

How is Return Calculated?

There are various tools and methods to calculate and compare the return of an investment. Some of the most common ones are:

Annualized Return

This measure shows how much an investment has grown or declined yearly. It is calculated by raising the holding period return to the power of one divided by the number of years in the holding period and then subtracting one from it. Annualized return allows investors to compare investments with different holding periods equally.

Risk-Adjusted Return

This measure shows how much return an investment generates relative to the level of risk taken. It is calculated by dividing the expected return of an asset by its beta or standard deviation. Risk-adjusted return allows investors to compare investments with different levels of risk on an equal basis.

Return on Investment (ROI)

This measure shows how much profit or loss an investment has generated relative to its initial cost. It is calculated by dividing the difference between an investment's final value and initial value by its initial value and multiplying it by 100%. ROI allows investors to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of an investment.

How to Optimize Risk-Return Trade-off?

The risk-return trade-off is one of the fundamental principles in investing. It states a positive relationship between investment risk and return: higher potential returns come with higher potential risks, and vice versa. Therefore, investors must balance their risk tolerance and return objectives when making investment decisions.

One way to optimize this trade-off is to follow modern portfolio theory (MPT), developed by Nobel laureate Harry Markowitz in the 1950s. MPT suggests that investors can construct an optimal portfolio of investments that offers the highest expected return or the lowest level of risk for a given level of return by diversifying across different asset classes, sectors, and regions that are not perfectly correlated.

Another way to optimize this trade-off is to use the capital asset pricing model (CAPM), developed by Nobel laureates William Sharpe, John Lintner, and Jan Mossin in the 1960s. CAPM suggests that investors can estimate the expected return on an individual investment or a portfolio of assets by using a formula that relates the expected return to the systematic risk, the risk-free return, and the market return.


Investment risk and return are two sides of the same coin in investing. Private investors should understand their risk profile and return objectives before making investment decisions. Private investors should also use appropriate tools and methods to assess and compare the investment risk and return of different investment options. Private investors should seek to achieve an optimal balance between investment risk and return by following the principles of modern portfolio theory and the capital asset pricing model.

We hope this article has provided you with some valuable insights on how to assess investment risk and return as a private investor. If you need more guidance or advice on investing wisely and profitably, please contact us at Wealth Venture Partners. We are a team of experienced and professional financial advisors who can help you create a customized and diversified investment portfolio that suits your needs and goals.