When Fortune Doesn’t Favor the Bold: Perils of Volatility for Wealth Growth and Preservation

The Journal of Wealth Management Winter 2022, 25 (3) 10-36; DOI: https://doi.org/10.3905/jwm.2022.1.189

44 Pages Posted: 11 May 2022 Last revised: 4 Nov 2022

Date Written: November 3, 2022

Abstract

Successful entrepreneurs and executives often hold much of their wealth in a highly appreciated single stock and thereby face a difficult financial dilemma. On the one hand, the high idiosyncratic volatility of a concentrated single stock position can lead to significant risk of catastrophic losses; on the other hand, selling the stock can result in an immediate and punitive tax burden. The paper develops an analytical framework for evaluating this choice and explain how it relates to classic betting strategies and economic theory. For many investors a full and immediate liquidation of their appreciated single stock might be optimal from the perspective of long-run wealth growth and preservation. In fact, in absence of diversification most investors must expect catastrophic losses of wealth over reasonable investment horizons. For investors reluctant to incur an upfront tax burden, tax-efficient techniques for disposing of appreciated single stock might strike the balance between the urgency to diversify concentrated risk and aversion to taxes. Whereas for median and mode cumulative wealth the primary effect likely comes from diversification, be it tax-efficient or not, for mean cumulative wealth tax efficiency of diversification can yield a tangible improvement.

Keywords: Wealth Growth, Wealth Preservation, Concentrated Stock, Appreciated Stock, Concentrated Risk, Diversification

JEL Classification: D14, G11, G51, H24

Suggested Citation

Sosner, Nathan, When Fortune Doesn’t Favor the Bold: Perils of Volatility for Wealth Growth and Preservation (November 3, 2022). The Journal of Wealth Management Winter 2022, 25 (3) 10-36; DOI: https://doi.org/10.3905/jwm.2022.1.189, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4104756 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4104756

Nathan Sosner (Contact Author)

AQR Capital Management, LLC ( email )

One Greenwich Plaza
Greenwich, CT 06830
United States

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