What is Risk Premium?

Risk Premium

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Risk Premium

The risk premium is the additional return an investor expects to receive (or requires to receive) when they invest in a risky asset compared to a risk-free asset. In essence, it’s the reward that investors demand for bearing the additional risk.

There are various forms of risk premiums, depending on the context:

  • Equity Risk Premium (ERP) : This is the extra return investors expect to earn (over and above the risk-free rate) for investing in a diversified portfolio of stocks compared to investing in risk-free securities, such as government bonds. The ERP compensates investors for the uncertainty associated with future corporate earnings, economic conditions, and other factors that might affect stock prices.
  • Country Risk Premium (CRP) : This is an additional premium required by investors to invest in securities from a particular country, compensating for country-specific risks, such as political instability, economic volatility, or potential issues with property rights or repatriation of funds.
  • Default (or Credit) Risk Premium: This is the extra return required by investors when lending money to a borrower (like a corporation issuing bonds) compared to lending to a risk-free borrower. The premium compensates for the risk that the borrower might default on its obligations.
  • Liquidity Risk Premium: Investors might require additional returns to invest in securities that are not easily convertible to cash without a considerable price discount. This premium compensates for the potential difficulty in selling the asset quickly without affecting its price.
  • Maturity Risk Premium: This premium compensates investors for the uncertainty related to price swings in long-term debt securities due to interest rate changes.

To calculate the risk premium for an asset, you would generally use the following formula:

Risk Premium = Expected Return on Risky Asset − Risk-Free Rate

For example, if a stock is expected to yield a return of 10% in the next year, and the risk-free rate (like a government bond) is 3%, then the equity risk premium would be 7% (10% – 3%).

Understanding risk premiums is crucial for investors and financial professionals, as it helps in making informed decisions regarding investment choices and evaluating the trade-off between risk and return.

Example of Risk Premium

Let’s delve into a detailed example using the concept of Equity Risk Premium (ERP).

Imagine you’re an investor trying to decide between investing in a 10-year U.S. government bond (often considered a “risk-free” asset) or a diversified portfolio of stocks from the S&P 500.

  • 10-Year U.S. Government Bond:
  • S&P 500 Stocks:
    • Expected annual return based on historical averages: 8% per annum.

Calculating the Equity Risk Premium (ERP):

To determine the ERP, you’ll subtract the risk-free rate (the government bond yield) from the expected return on the risky asset (S&P 500 stocks).

ERP = Expected Return on S&P 500 – 10-Year U.S. Government Bond Yield

ERP = 8% − 2.5%
ERP = 5.5%

So, the Equity Risk Premium is 5.5%.


This means that, based on historical averages and current bond yields, you would expect to earn an additional 5.5% annually by investing in a diversified group of stocks from the S&P 500 instead of the 10-year U.S. government bond. This extra 5.5% compensates you for the additional risks associated with investing in stocks, such as price volatility and uncertainty about future corporate earnings.

Now, as an investor, you’d weigh this potential extra return against your own risk tolerance. If you’re risk-averse, you might decide that the certainty of the 2.5% return from the bond is preferable, even though it’s lower. If you’re willing to tolerate more risk for the chance at higher returns, the stock portfolio might be more appealing.

Remember, while the historical return is useful for estimation, it doesn’t guarantee future performance. It’s always important to conduct thorough research and perhaps consult with financial advisors before making significant investment decisions.

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