Learn the difference between aggressive and conservative stocks to help you build a better portfolio

Understanding the difference between aggressive and conservative stocks will help you invest more safely with a well-diversified portfolio

Aggressive stocks are typically more highly leveraged (with more debt) and volatile than value or conservative stocks. That doesn’t mean you should avoid aggressive stock investing altogether. Even for conservative investors, there are very good reasons to add some aggressive stocks—in limited quantities—to their portfolios.

Here’s more on the difference between aggressive and conservative stocks, and how both can fit into a portfolio.


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Know the difference between aggressive and conservative stocks so you can determine how much to invest in stocks for the aggressive segment of your portfolio

Aggressive stocks typically don’t have a secure hold on a growing market or at least the stable clientele that conservative stocks have. When something goes wrong with aggressive investments, you run the risk of serious, if not total, loss.

When we single out our aggressive favourites, we try to choose those with as much underlying value and as many hidden assets as possible. This is the best way, for both conservative and aggressive investors alike, to cut risk with those stocks.

Our stock selections for the aggressive investor tend to be more volatile than our conservative recommendations, and they can give you bigger gains and bigger losses. This may be due to financial leverage, or to the risk in their industry or particular situation. Keep in mind that these or any aggressive investments should make up only a smaller part of most Successful Investor portfolios.

Zeroing in on a handful of small to medium-sized companies can pay off nicely when it works, but it can be extremely costly when you pick too few winners and/or too many duds.

But that doesn’t mean you should avoid aggressive stocks altogether. We recommend limiting your aggressive holdings to a smaller part of your overall portfolio. This is because aggressive stocks expose you to a greater risk of loss. An investor with a longer time horizon or without the need for current income from a portfolio can invest more money in aggressive stocks.

As an aside, if you add highly speculative stocks to your portfolio first you should understand the chances you’ll take. They’re only suitable for investors who can accept a greater degree of risk. You can be wrong on any of your stock picks, of course. But when you’re wrong on a highly speculative stock, losses are likely to be larger than with a well-established yet aggressive company.

Understanding the difference between aggressive and conservative stocks in your portfolio

Conservative investing is an investment strategy that involves a focus on lower-risk, predictable and stable businesses. This strategy typically involves the purchase of blue-chip stocks and other low-risk investments. A conservative investing approach also means building a well-balanced portfolio gradually, over time.

Aggressive stocks are higher-risk investments that can potentially produce higher returns than more conservative stocks, but also have equal potential for bigger losses. As a general rule, we recommend that you limit aggressive stocks to a smaller part of your overall portfolio. They should also make up an even smaller portion, say, of a portfolio for highly conservative investors.

Pay attention to the risk difference between aggressive and conservative stocks to protect your portfolio

Cut your risk by taking a conservative approach to your aggressive investing.

For instance, you should hold your aggressive investments within a portfolio that reflects our three-pronged Successful Investor wealth-building philosophy. That is, invest mainly in well-established, dividend-paying companies; spread your money out across most if not all of the five main economic sectors (Manufacturing, Resources, Consumer, Finance, Utilities); downplay stocks that are in the broker/media limelight. That way, you protect yourself from an unforeseeable industry downturn. You also increase your chances of stumbling upon a market superstar—a stock that does much better than average.

You may stretch these rules a little in aggressive investing, while still sticking to the general principles. You may invest in more companies that are less well-established, compared to a conservative investor. But avoid loading up on penny stocks, recent new issues or any stocks that expose you to a serious risk of total loss.

Understand the management difference between aggressive and conservative stocks to maximize your earnings

Well-established companies are the key to profitable and low-risk investments.

Instead of moving between extremes of risk, we continue to think investors will profit most—and with the least risk—by buying shares of well-established companies with strong business prospects and strong positions in healthy industries. That’s not to say that there won’t be surprises that affect every company in a particular industry. But well-established, safety-conscious stocks have the asset size and the financial clout—including sound balance sheets and strong cash flow—to weather market downturns or changing industry conditions.

You can get our advice on investment issues, plus buy/sell/hold advice on stocks you may be considering buying, in our Successful Investor newsletter.

Look for hidden assets in your aggressive stock picks

Look for aggressive investing stocks with hidden value—value that attracts far less investor attention than it deserves. That gives buyers a bargain. It may also attract takeover bids.

Hidden assets can consist of real estate or underused brand names. One of today’s best-hidden assets in aggressive investing is research and development spending by technology stocks. High research and development budgets let tech stocks keep adding profitable new products to their lines and improving existing ones.

How has your tolerance for aggressive stocks changed throughout your investing career?

What would you recommend to new investors looking at both aggressive and conservative stocks?

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