The willingness to take risks can pay off in your finances and in your career, but it can be hard to take that step.
I’m not much of a risk-taker. Last month, when I attended NMX, I hit the blackjack tables with some friends. No, I didn’t actually play. Instead, I watch a couple of other bloggers risk their money at the table. I still consider gambling a rather risky proposition — one that’s riskier than my propensity to invest in index funds and ETFs.
However, a little bit later, I did consent to “risk” $20 on roulette. I put it all on black. The wheel stopped on red. I spent the rest of the evening (which really wasn’t that long because it was already nearing 2 a.m. and I was ready for bed) thinking of how I could have reduced my risk. Put $15 on black and $5 on red? Put $10 on each? After losing out on the 50/50 chance, I surely wasn’t going to actually put anything on a number.
Obviously, risk is not something I enjoy. There are times that I wonder if maybe my reluctance to take risks has hurt my business and even my finances a little bit.
Why I’m Not a Risk Taker
I’ve written in the past about how I have a hard time putting myself out there. Taking risks by trying to put myself forward as an “expert” is difficult for me. There are a lot of reasons for this, beyond the realities that I tend toward introversion and am mildly ADD. One of the reasons is that I’m not especially confident in my looks. I don’t think I’m ugly, but I don’t consider myself among the beautiful people who — according to all sorts of studies — are more likely to find success.
As I watch attractive people build on their successes, and in many cases talk about things I’ve been writing about for years, it is a little frustrating. Not that they don’t deserve success; many of them work hard and deserve it. However, sometimes I wonder if I could have had the same success if I had a little more confidence in my looks and my abilities and was more willing to get “out there.”
And that’s another thing. I’m riddled with impostor syndrome. I know that’s it’s slowed me down in the past (and probably holds me back a little bit now). It’s one of the reasons that I don’t charge higher rates for my freelance work. The reluctance to take risks and ask for higher rates when someone asks about my fees is one of the reasons that I often charge less than I could. I don’t want to risk the potential client saying no — even though that hasn’t really happened yet. But that’s a risk I’m not entirely comfortable with since — even though I can “afford” that risk because I’ve reached a certain level of success with my home business.
My financial risk taking (or lack thereof) is extremely straightforward. I don’t want to lose the money. Earlier this year, I was happy to be beating the marketing with my Grow Your Dough portfolio, but recent events have sucked the life out of that portfolio and it’s no longer doing so well. Instead, the emergency fund that is a taxable account, with it’s less risky index fund, is closely tracking the market (which means it’s a bit down), and the ETFs that Betterment has chosen for my Roth IRA are keeping that portfolio afloat. It’s the only portfolio of mine with gains right now.
This whole experience has reinforced my reluctance to take risks with investments.
Why You Need to Take Risks
You do need to take risks, though, even if they are calculated. I do take some small risks. I invest in equities rather than leaving my money in cash or investing in bonds. I know that I’ll never build wealth effectively, or even overcome inflation, without taking a little risk and investing in equities. But I temper that risk by focusing mainly on index funds and index ETFs.
I wrote a book that very few people are reading, even though it’s gotten decent reviews from people I know (my mom thinks it’s great). I took that small risk, although I probably could have seen more success if I had taken the bigger risks that come with putting yourself out there and really marketing the book. I probably should have taken the risk and asked people to review my book on Amazon, and any number of other things.
Taking risks is important if you want to see success. Entrepreneurs know this. Calculated risks lead to better success for business owners — including home business owners. While you don’t want to get crazy in the way you take risks, you need to take some risks if you want to see returns in your finances and in your business. You need to take emotional risks if you want successful relationships. You have to be willing to view failure as an acceptable outcome of the risks you take, and you need learn from that failure and take another risk on something else.
It’s hard for me to take risks, and I think that’s probably held me back a little bit. I could be making more money, and maybe even be “out there” a little more with my home business if I took more risks. And I probably need to learn how to take more calculated risks that are likely to result in success. (That means overcoming my brain structure, which likely means too much self-control and not enough activity in my “desire systems.”)
But small risks are better than no risks. If you aren’t willing to take any risk at all, chances are that you won’t build the wealth you need for a good retirement (unless you’re born into wealth), and you won’t have what it takes to truly succeed with your home business venture.
General Contentment: The Final Reason I Don’t Take Risks
Of course, the final reason I don’t take risks is that I don’t want to mess up what’s really a pretty good thing. Even though I sometimes complain, the truth is that I’ve got it pretty good, and I don’t want to risk my current situation for something that might be better — no guarantees. I’m reasonably happy with where I’m at, even though sometimes I do feel a twinge of jealously toward those who are doing things that, technically, I could have done years before. But I’ve got no one to blame but myself, since I’m not the one who took the risks.
What do you think? Do you take risks? Are they calculated?