A recent article by Cullen Roche compares a leveraged stock portfolio to using steroids. Cullen goes on to explain that steroids can be a very useful and effective strategy for treating medical conditions to a certain extent as long as it isn’t abused. There are similarities with using leverage on your stock picks. See the original article below…
Barry Ritholtz has a new article on Bloomberg discussing San Diego County’s firing of a risk parity firm that used to manage part of its pension. Risk parity strategies often engage in using leverage. Cliff Asness, who runs AQR, a firm implementing risk parity approaches (among others), hated Barry’s piece and called it “facile” “innuendo”. He then referred to a piece explaining why he likes leverage in a portfolio at times. So, who’s right?
Leverage is a bit like steroids. Steroids are neither good nor bad. They tend to magnify the effect of something and that can be good or bad depending on how it’s used. If you use steroids in specific targeted ways they can be an effective medical treatment. Likewise, if you abuse them they can be a destructive and unnecessary supplement.¹ Leverage is essentially the same thing. It will magnify the effect of a portfolio’s outcomes. There are very reckless ways to do this and very safe ways to use leverage. But one thing is almost always undeniable – leverage will cost you. And that’s the kicker.
You can form your own opinion about how much “Steroids” you can handle in your portfolio.