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Investment Horizon

The length of time an investor is aiming to maintain a portfolio before selling the securities for a profit

What is Investment Horizon?

Investment horizon is a term used to identify the length of time an investor is aiming to maintain their portfolio before selling their securities for a profit. An individual’s investment horizon is affected by several different factors. However, the primary determining factor is often the amount of risk that the investor is capable of bearing, both by preference, as well as by financial capability.


Investment Horizon


Investment horizons are a critical piece in portfolio investing because they help determine the amount of time an investor will hold their investments to compensate for the risks that they have or will take when investing in the securities that they have or want.


Breaking Down Investment Horizons

Individuals in their early investing years are the most likely to have longer-term investment horizons because they generally have more time to make a profit from their investments or recover from losses sustained when taking risks. They are also much more likely to make riskier investments with the potential for a greater payoff down the road for the same reason: they have more time.

Seasoned investors, or those who are in the later years of their lives, are, by default, generally more likely to do the exact opposite because they have less time to realize profits before looking to retire and make use of the profits accrued by their portfolios.


Investment Horizon is a key concept on the Fixed Income Fundamentals Course, a prerequisite for the FMVA Certificate


Three Types of Investment Horizons


1. Short-term investment horizon

First, let’s talk about a short-term investment horizon. They are, as mentioned above, typically best for individuals in their later years preparing for retirement or for individuals who are strongly averse to risk or need to access a significant amount of cash for a large purchase in the near future. While it’s different from one person to the next, a short investment horizon usually doesn’t exceed a period of three years. For these risk-averse investors, it’s best to have guaranteed assets or securities, including high-interest savings accounts and certificates of deposit.


2. Medium-term investment horizon

Investors who are less risk-averse and not looking for cash for retirement or a large purchase are better suited to a medium-term investment horizon, which usually means a period of three to ten years. Investors with this type of investment horizon are somewhere in the middle between low and high risk, meaning a conservative and diversified portfolio is best, mixing investments in both stocks and bonds. The ratio of stocks to bonds should be determined by the individual’s specific wants and needs.


3. Long-term investment horizon

Finally, for investors willing to take big risks for big rewards and who have the time to wait for the payoff or to recoup losses after risky endeavors, long-term investment horizons are the way to go. In most cases, the portfolio of the long-term investor includes a significant amount of risky investments with potentially high yields. The remainder of the portfolio should then be a mix of stocks and bonds, with the ratio leaning more heavily towards stocks.

Every investor must determine the amount of risk they are willing and able to tolerate and how much time they can devote to maintaining their portfolio before needing to access their profits. These key elements affect the investor’s investment horizon, which ultimately affects what they fill their investment portfolio with.


More Resources

CFI is the official provider of the global Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA) certification program, designed to help anyone become a world-class financial analyst. The following resources will be helpful in furthering your financial education:

  • Investing: A Beginner’s Guide
  • Long and Short Positions
  • Momentum Investing
  • Rate of Return

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