Every investment can be described in terms of the amount of risk associated with it. Higher-risk investments tend to experience greater volatility, which means they are likely to go up and down in value more often and by larger amounts than lower-risk investments. In return, higher-risk investments have the potential to produce higher returns over the long term, although this is not guaranteed.
For example, investments such as cash deposits and bonds issued by the UK Government (known as gilts) are considered low risk. UK commercial property, corporate bonds issued by UK companies as well as other types of global bonds issued by overseas governments and companies are considered medium risk. In the case of global bonds, generally those which pay a higher income are riskier than those which pay a lower income level. Shares in companies in the UK and other developed markets are considered high risk, while shares from companies in emerging markets are considered very high risk. You can reduce the overall risk in a portfolio by using ‘diversification’ – in other words, spreading your money across different investments. By doing this, you can match your overall portfolio to the level of risk that is right for you.
It’s important that your investment portfolio matches your willingness and ability to take investment risk. A ‘lowest medium’ risk profile shows that your willingness and ability to accept investment risk is just below average. A portfolio matching this risk profile is likely to experience both rises and falls in value. So while there is potential for returns from your investment to match or go above the rate of inflation (in other words, the rate at which the prices of goods and services rise), you also need to accept that your investment could fall in value, particularly in the short term.
A portfolio for this risk profile is most likely to contain mainly low- and medium-risk investments, including cash, government bonds, UK corporate bonds, and a mix of global bonds as well as UK commercial property. It will also be expected to contain some high-risk investments such as shares, but held mainly in UK and other developed markets. Small amounts in other higher-risk investments may also be included. As a result, you should always check that you are comfortable with what’s included.