“There’s no free lunch.” That’s the one thing investors should remember in 2023, according to an opinion piece in Bloomberg. No matter how many so-called experts claim to have a foolproof method for garnering high returns, the real secret to keep in mind is high returns always require high risks.
Many people, even those who work in finance, choose to ignore the risk/reward trade-off, but understanding it is also a good way to stay protected against scams. Anyone promising to beat the market is either lying, incompetent, or charging exorbitant fees for their services, the article maintains. The mantra “there is no free lunch” even stands true against new innovations such as high frequency trading or the blockchain, something exemplified in the last few years where social media was full of people touting the next big winner. But those “winners” are now underperforming, and investors who took that advice and bet on tech and crypto are down 45% and 64%, respectively. It’s easier to take those risks in a bull market, when riskier investments generally do better, and even if one of those riskier assets is doing well in the current bear market, it’s likely because of the greater risk, not because the asset was a winner.
But taking on more risk isn’t the wrong thing to do; it will probably garner a bigger return in the long run and doesn’t necessarily mean that a big loss will happen. Investors just need to be able to stomach the greater uncertainty that comes with the risk, and understand that there’s no such thing as “risk-free.” Indeed, some of the biggest financial blowups have occurred because someone claimed to “have a risk-free strategy that will beat the market,” pressuring investors to take on more leverage to get bigger returns. Case in point: the housing bubble burst and the FTX crypto exchange implosion. While those who work in finance should know better, they often don’t. The simple truth is that “if you are beating the market, you are risking a bigger loss, and it will probably happen at the worst possible time,” the article contends.
Those that can afford to take that loss and have the stomach to endure the uncertainty should absolutely do so in order to get their reward. And those that choose to pay for advice should focus more on the long-term—saving for retirement—than on winning in the short-term. But this year, the key word for investors should be balance. Take risks, but not too much; a low-fee index fund that tracks a variety of stocks would be the way to go.