Avoid Losing Big

If you abide by rule number one, everything is made easier.

Avoid Losing Big

Rule #1 – Avoid major losses

If you abide by rule number one, everything is made easier. By everything, we mean the ability to generate sufficient returns and compound wealth.

This will be a short note...a reminder of the risk that grabs our attention, and the actions we are constantly taking to mitigate it. In this period of extreme economic & political uncertainty – we are hoping this brings some welcomed relief. If you find this article helpful, we suggest you read our full whitepaper, “Drawdown Patrol Investing”, available on our website.

The Marriage of Risk and Return

This relationship won’t break. In fact, it can’t break. There’s no way to find investment returns without assuming risk. But as Benjamin Graham says, “The essence of investment management is the management of risks, not the management of returns.”

Risk can be defined in a myriad of ways, but the risk that worries those of us at Aptus the most is drawdown risk. It is our opinion that all other forms of risk pale in comparison when sizing up the importance and impact on an investor’s outcome. Why? Because of two things - behavior and math.


An advisor can estimate an investor’s risk tolerance and risk capacity. The problem is those things change. If you had $1,000,000 in the S&P 500 on February 19th – on March 23rd, you would have been holding nearly 35% less. Think about that. In four weeks, a $350,000 loss. It would take nerves of steel for most of us to not have some level of concern.

From a behavioral standpoint, nothing can throw a well-laid plan off course like a large drawdown. As we say, the path from point A to point B matters. The smoother the better.


Large losses crush your ability to compound capital mathematically.

One way to think about this is through length of recovery. The more value lost, the more time it will take to recover.

Another way of thinking about this is through the law of percentages. It simply states that losses can hurt more than gains help. Let’s take a look at a simple example using some actual numbers from 2020:

Assume you lose 35% and then gain 35%. Because you are losing 35 on a higher base and earning 35 on a lower base, you end up in the hole still down 12.25%.

-$1,000,000 * (1 - .35) = $650,000

-$650,000 * (1 + .35) = $877,500

-Starting Value of $1,000,000 – Ending Value of $877,500 = Loss of $122,500

Our Portfolios

Uncertainty abounds, and we could list the reasons for that, but what’s more relevant is what we are doing about it.

We are not trying to time the markets by holding cash. The markets have shown us, in short order, the magnitude of lost opportunities that holding cash can represent.

What we have done is build more exposure to holdings that we think can benefit from volatility rising. Owning hedges was a huge help in the February-March drawdown, giving holders the opportunity to take advantage of volatility spiking and markets dropping. Our portfolios are now back to a more defensive position than we can recall them ever having.

We’re aware that risk and return are a packaged deal. We will experience losses at some point. Losses don’t scare us. Large losses do. We are positioned accordingly as we move into the latter part of the year.

If you’d like to see any type of stress test or scenario analysis on your portfolio, ask! Words are one thing, seeing the math of worst-case scenarios is different. Those numbers should bring a sign of relief.

As always, thank you for your trust and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions at all.


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Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any securities or to advise on the use or suitability of The AMG Managed Portfolio Series, or any of the underlying securities in isolation. Information specific to the underlying securities making up the portfolios can be found in the Funds’ prospectuses. Please carefully read the prospectus before making an investment decision.

This commentary offers generalized research, not personalized investment advice. It is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a complete description of our investment services or performance. Nothing on this fact sheet should be interpreted to state or imply that past results are an indication of future investment returns. All investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to consult with an investment & tax professional before implementing any investment strategy.

Investing involves risk. Principal loss is possible. Investing in ETFs is subject to additional risks that do not apply to conventional mutual funds, including the risks that the market price of the shares may trade at a discount to its net asset value(“NAV), an active secondary market may not develop or be maintained, or trading may be halted by the exchange in which they trade, which may impact a fund’s ability to sell its shares. Shares of any ETF are bought and sold at Market Price (not NAV) and are not individually redeemed from the fund. Brokerage commissions will reduce returns. Market returns are based on the midpoint of the bid/ask spread at 4:00pm Eastern Time (when NAV is normally determined for most ETFs), and do not represent the returns you would receive if you traded shares at other times. Diversification is not a guarantee of performance and may not protect against loss of investment principal.