Blue-chip stocks—which get their name from poker, where the most valuable playing chip color is blue—are well-known, well-established companies that have a history of paying out consistent dividends, regardless of the economic conditions. Investors like them because they tend to grow dividend rates faster than the rate of inflation, so the owner increases income without having to buy another share. Blue-chip stocks are not flashy, but they have solid balance sheets and steady returns.
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The most feared words on any stock exchange are margin call. A margin call is made when a position is losing money and more money is required by the broker to keep the trade open. If and when a stock ticker moves quickly, there can be people whose borrowing levels literally bankrupt them as things get worse ... fast. Volatility can be either a blessing or a curse, but if you have too much leverage, it can break a trader.
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Risk tolerance is a psychological trait that is genetically based, but positively influenced by education, income, and wealth (as these increase, risk tolerance appears to increase slightly) and negatively by age (as one gets older, risk tolerance decreases). Your risk tolerance is how you feel about risk and the degree of anxiety you feel when risk is present. In psychological terms, risk tolerance is defined as “the extent to which a person chooses to risk experiencing a less favorable outcome in the pursuit of a more favorable outcome.” In other words, would you risk $100 to win $1,000? Or $1,000 to win $1,000? All humans vary in their risk tolerance, and there is no “right” balance.
By understanding your risk tolerance, you can avoid those investments which are likely to make you anxious. Generally speaking, you should never own an asset which keeps you from sleeping in the night. Anxiety stimulates fear which triggers emotional responses (rather than logical responses) to the stressor. During periods of financial uncertainty, the investor who can retain a cool head and follows an analytical decision process invariably comes out ahead.