Why would we ever think volatility – a statistic that contains components of both risk and return – should only be associated with risk? Recently, more and more professionals have caught on to this issue (see “A 401k Fiduciary Dilemma: The Risk of Using Volatility to Define Risk,” FiduciaryNews.com, May 28, 2014) The problem with using volatility to define risk takes me back to my teenage years and my war with literary interpretation. Those who grew up in the era of anti-war literature and movies might recognize the significance of the metaphor revealed in this story.

Like many nerdy science types, I spent my high school days rebelling against English class. I despised reading anything but pure science (a youthful fault long overcome). The hatred of any and all works of fiction rose to such a level that in 10th grade I convinced a dozen or so of my classmates to simply refuse to read a novel and write a report on it. The teacher countered with a refusal of his own – he refused to give us a passing grade unless we completed the assignment. At least that was his initial response. Upon reflection, he decided to give us a choice: Either we read a novel and write a report on it, or we write our own novel.

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