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Can one bad investment wipe out an entire portfolio?


Investing can be scary, but can just one bad investment ruin your entire portfolio?
Investing can be scary, but can just one bad investment ruin your entire portfolio?
Hemera/Thinkstock

In times like these, when bankers are going to jail and your neighbors are losing their homes, it's human nature to worry about making one wrong move with money.

Stories of people who have lost millions in assets are flooding the media markets. And yes, some of those people lost their money on just one bad investment decision. But in general, these investors bear little resemblance to typical Americans who work for respectable companies. In two famous instances, those who lost everything made investments with an "all-in" approach.

Many investors with financier Bernard Madoff placed all their retirement funds into a Ponzi scheme on the promise of substantial gains [source: Zambito and Smith]. In another example, at the bidding of their bosses, employees of Enron, the giant Texas energy company, tied their retirement funds to the company's stock. When stock prices started plummeting on the news of accounting irregularities, the employees could not sell. Ultimately, they lost their jobs and their nest eggs, which they had placed so precariously into a single company's basket [source: Calkins].

But what are your chances of losing everything with just one wrong move? Read on for reassurance.