Can you guard against "Black Swan" events?

If you don’t know what a “Black Swan” event is, you might first want to read Nassim Taleb’s book The Black Swan, which has nothing at all to do with ballet dancers and everything to do with the effect that low-probability high-impact (and unexpected) events can have on your investments.

Over on the Motley Fool (UK), Tony Reading published an article titled “Three In Four Investors Fear A Black Swan Event“. I was not so much interested in the article as in the counter-comment left by “koochak” in which he (or she) said that…

“By definition, a Black Swan is an unexpected event. I would therefore argue that there is NO way of guarding against it.”

While I agree that there is no way to predict a particular “Black Swan” event (else it wouldn’t be one) and therefore no way to guard against it specifically, it is nonetheless possible to protect ourselves from a range of adverse events in general. For example:

I don’t know if or when my house will burn down, or will be burgled, or suffer subsidence, or be adversely affected in some other way that I have not yet thought of. So I insure it.

In terms of investment in general, and spread betting in particular, I have no idea which of my holdings will suddenly gap-down to zero… or when, or why. But I can protect myself by diversifying and / or by affording each of my ideally-profitable positions a guaranteed stop order that will take me out of harm’s way if the worst should happen. In other words, I can mitigate risks — as explained in my Better Spread Betting book — even if I don’t know the exact nature of those risks.

In this context, there is one sure-fire way to mitigate the risk of a “Black Swan” event:

Just don’t play the speculation game at all! 

But then you won’t benefit from the upside risk that something good happens; including a positive “Black Swan” event. No one said that all Black Swans are bad, not even Taleb if I remember correctly.

Two Steps to Better Spread Betting:

1) Buy the Better Spread Betting Book
2) Sign up with Capital Spreads, IG, ETX Capital, or Spread Co

Disclaimer: this posting is for general education only; it is not trading advice.