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Risk and the value of information

Everyone makes decisions on a daily basis. Be it a personal group; we must make them in one way or another. How we make these decisions matters a lot, and it is a wide subject of study in the modern economy. When consumers decide to spend more and save less, it leads to positive growth of the economy, and if they decide to spend less, it can lead to negative economic growth.

According to decision theory, the methods of solving decision-making problems when faced with uncertainty, certainty, and risk differ. Under certainty environment, the decision-maker full knowledge of the outcome and the alternatives they are exposed to. In this case, we can say they have perfect information. The information has perceived value in terms of influencing decision-making. Once feels more secure when making the decision because they understand what is going to happen in the end.

But there many situations where people make decisions without perfect information. If additional information is received under uncertainty or risk, the decision-maker is more confident. Perfect information is more applicable if it wipes out uncertainty or risk completely. However, perfect information is only a story. It can only be used as a reference point to what should. And even though we are living in an information era, where information is shared through different media, perfect information remains only in books. 

Under this topic, we shall be looking and risk as a factor for decision making. We will also be looking at the value of information, which is a critical aspect of a decision-making process.

What is the risk?

Risk is a common term financial economy. When you want to make an investment, you don't just begin putting your money in a business without first looking at the possible outcome. You may have heard people saying that life is all about taking risks. It is like playing a game of high risk where you bet your money on uncertain outcomes. You are only hoping the outcome will be in your favor, but you expect things to be different.

That is what risk is all about. Essentially, risk is the chance that the outcome of an investment's actual gains will be different from the expected outcome or return. In other words, risk involves the possibility of losing some or all of the original investment. Risk is a quantifiable state of things, whereby it is usually assessed by considering historical behavior. Before making starting a new venture, an investment will want to know the exact changes that the venture will peak as expected. In this case, they look at some historical data on such business in the same area from different investors. The term standard deviation is a common term associated with risk. It provides a measure of the volatility of asset prices in comparison to their historical averages within a specific time frame. This data can be used by investors looking to get ahead of their investments.

Although risk is mostly associated with financial investments, it is something that may happen in life situations. It is like there is is no decision one will make in life without considering risk factors. It is more common in investment and financial fields because that is where risk factors are most applicable. Overall, it is possible and very important to manage investment risks. One can do this by learning the basics or risks and how it is measured. Understanding risks can be helpful in different scenarios, and some of the ways to manage them holistically will help various investors avoid unnecessary and costly losses.

While it is true that life is all about losses and gains, it does not make much sense to lose on purpose. 

Human beings are considered rational decision-makers because no one likes to lose. We all make decisions based on what we feel is more helpful than any different situation. This is why people don't like making mistakes with their investments. Knowing that there is risk in everything you do is the first step towards gaining the most benefits. You will always feel better getting into a venture with some clue about the possible outcomes. And if you feel the investment will cost more than what it will give you, there is no reason to continue with such a business.

Basics of risk

We are all exposed to some sort of risk on a daily basis. When you are driving, walking down the street, investing, capital planning, or doing anything else in your life, there is always some risk involved, and that is what you need to be aware of. For and investor, there are so many factors to consider when assessing a risky scenario. For instance, your personality, lifestyle, and age are some of the top factors to put in mind for individual investment and risk reasons.

Each person has a unique risk profile that determines how willing they may be and their ability to take in investment risks. These profiles differ among individuals. You may have heard some people describe themselves as risk-takers because they believe in overcoming obstacles to get what they want. In simple terms, they access the possible outcome and look only at the best option. And some are afraid of taking any risk because they believe it is unnecessary. Anything that seems too risky to them will not be accepted, and they will cast it aside to look at something else.

Generally, when there is a rise in investment risks, investors expect higher returns are their reward for taking on the risks. It is also the compensation they get for taking risks. In other words, investments that come with the highest risks are the most expensive, but the most rewarding as well. When you take a risk and come out positive, it will make you happier and fulfilled than when you never took the risk. And this is why taking risks could be a good thing. But you don't need to take them if you feel or know that outcome is most likely unpleasant.

A critical idea in finance is the link between risk and return. In this case, an investor that is willing to take the greatest risk will gain greater potential returns. Risk appears in different ways, and an investor expects to be well compensated for any additional risk. We can easily say that life, in general, is a risky game, where every decision you make has unforeseen consequences. Those who take that highest risks get to reap the most out of their lives, while those who are afraid to take any step often find themselves lacking behind. You take a life insurance cover because you don't know what is going to happen to your next. You take your car's insurance, but you may never get involved in an accident and ask for compensation. These are only a few examples of life situations where risk is much prominent and unavoidable.

Another excellent example of risky investment is the US Treasury bond, which is considered a safer investment than corporate bonds. It provides a lower rate of return. Also, a corporation is much more likely to go bankrupt than the government since the risk of investing in a corporate bond is very higher; hence investor is promised a higher rate of return. One needs to investigate the exact quantity of risk they are taking by considering historical behaviors and data for possible outcomes. We have already talked about standard deviation, as a term most linked to risk. It shows the value of taking the risk in both a positive and negative manner.

It is advisable for individuals, financial advisors and firms to develop a risk management strategy to help in their investment and business activities. In other words, you need to know there is a risk in every investment and come up with a clear strategy of getting yourself out of risky situations. It is prudent for an investor to have an exit strategy, one they can use to shield themselves from the outcomes of high-risk situations. Whether for investment, or general life purposes, having a risk management strategy is among the best ways to live a more fulfilling life. Several academic theories, metrics, and strategies have been identified as sufficient strategies for measuring, analyzing, and managing risks. Some of them include standard deviation, beta, in Value at Risk, and the Capital Asset Pricing Model.

Risk and information

Information is the most valuable asset you will have when it comes to risk assessment and management. This is where the value of information becomes more prominent. The consumer and producer theories suggest that people make decisions based on the available information and the best possible outcome. But most importantly. Several factors determine how people make their investment and consumption decisions. They look at what they have and what they will gain if they make one choice over the other. Another model used to explain these behaviors is the expected utility theory – that people look at uncertain situations from the point higher utility outcomes. Anything that does not seem to give the consumer what they want is cast aside. People always want the best from their lives, and they will use every opportunity they have to gain such power.  

Information is at the center of it all. If there were perfect information, then people would be making more informed decisions, and we would not be talking much about risks. But because perfect information is only a myth, we are compelled to be satisfied with taking chances, and most shooting an arrow into the darkness with some hope of hitting something. That is what life is all about, and most of us have learned to leave with each other.

Nevertheless, the value of information is one asset that holds the foundation of decision making. It is defined as how answering a question allows a decision-maker to improve their decision. This term is quite easy to define, just like opportunity cost, but often hard to internalize. Getting the real concept through the definition can take you on a long winding path. This is why it would be better to use an example.

Investment and decision making

The decision theory states that the value of additional information is the real value of the change in the decision-maker's action. It is the result of information minus the cost of obtaining that information. If one gets additional information, yet it does not offer any change in the decision behavior, then there is no value in that additional information. In this case, the value of additional information perfecting the current information (VP1) is denoted as:

VP1 = (V2-V1) – (C2- C1)


V = value of information

C = cost of obtaining the information

V1 and C1 relate to the information set, whereas C1 and C2 are linked to the new set.

Where VP1 is high, there is a beneficial need to serve additional information.

Consider this, a manager has a problem of making a decision because of uncertainty of high-risk conditions, if he lacks perfect information about the decision's situation. As if that is not enough, he has limited ability to generate a decision alternative because of the imperfect information environment around the decision. This means, under the pressure of a set of possible decisions, one will follow a specific path based on the available information. If new information comes in and influences change in decision, we can say the value of new information is the difference between the outcome and the old decision.

Let's say company A wants to open a new shop in some parts of California. They will first need to find out all the necessary information about the area, including security in the region. This way, that will understand how risky or less risky it is to go ahead with the decision.

Life is all about making choices, and no one can live with making a decision. Every day comes with new challenges that demand a certain decision. In any situation, information becomes the best weapon for creating a perfect decision-making environmentRisk, especially amidst risk and uncertainty.

Author: James Hamilton

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