Risk and Return
When Mary Owens' husband, Ralph, passed away about three months ago he left behind a small
fortune, which he had accumulated by living a very thrifty life and by investing in common stocks.
Ralph had worked as an engineer for a surgical instruments manufacturer for over 30 years and had
taken full advantage of the company's voluntary retirement savings plan. However, instead of buying
a diversified set of investments he had invested his money into a few high growth companies. Over
time his investment portfolio had grown to about $900,000 being primarily comprised of the stocks of
3 companies. He was very fortunate that his selections turned out to be good ones and after numerous
stock-splits the prices of the three companies had appreciated significantly over time.
Mary, on the other hand, was a very conservative and cautious person. She had devoted her life to
being a stay-home mom and had raised their two kids into fine adults, each of whom had a fairly
successful career. Jim, 28, had followed in Ralph's footsteps. In addition to being gainfully employed
as an engineer, he was pursuing an MBA at a prestigious business school. Annette, 26, was
completing her residency at a major metropolitan hospital. Although Mary and Ralph had enjoyed a
wonderful married life, it was Ralph who managed almost all the financial affairs of their family.
Mary, like many spouses of their generation, preferred to focus on other family matters.
It was only after Ralph's passing on that Mary realized how unprepared she was for the complex
decisions that have to be made when managing one's wealth. Upon the advice of her close friend,
Agnes. Mary decided to call the broker's office and request that her account be turned over to Bill
May, the firm's senior financial advisor. Agnes, a widow herself, had been very happy with Bill's
advice and professionalism. He had helped her rebalance and re-allocate her portfolio with the result
that her portfolio's value had steadily increased over the years without much volatility.
At their first meeting, Bill examined the Owens' portfolio and was shocked at how narrowly
focused its composition had been. In fact, just during the past year - due to the significant drop in the
technology sector - the portfolio had lost almost 30% of its value. "Ralph, certainly liked to flirt with
risk," said Bill. "The first thing we are going to have to do is diversify your portfolio and lower its
beta. As it stands you could make a lot of money if the technology sector takes off, but the reverse
scenario could be devastating. I am sure you will agree with me that given your status in life you do
not need to bear this much of risk." Mary shrugged her shoulders and looked blankly at Bill.
"Diversify .Beta what are you talking about? These terms are new to me and so confusing. You
are right, Bill, I don't need the high risk but can you explain to me how the risk level of my portfolio
can be lowered?" Bill realized right away that Mary needed a primer on the risk-return tradeoff and on
portfolio management. Accordingly, he scheduled another appointment for later that week and
prepared Exhibit 1 to demonstrate the various nuances of risk, expected return, and portfolio
Expected Rate of Return
Scenario Probability Treasury Bill Index Fund
Recession 20% 5% -10% 6% -25% 20%
Near Recession 20% 5% -6% 7% -20% 16%
Normal 30% 5% 12% 9% 15% 12%
Near Boom 10% 5% 15% 11% 25% -9%
Boom 20% 5% 20% 14% 35% -20%
1. Using a suitable diagram explain how bill could use the security market line to show Mary which stocks could be undervalued and which may be overvalued.
9.What would happen if Mary were to put 70% of her portfolio in the High-tech stock and 30% in the index Fund? Would this combination be better for her? Explain.
10.Based on these calculations what do you think Bill should propose as a possible portfolio combination for Mary?
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