Prudent Investment and the Prudent Investor Rule [From and] (3 Articles)

~ Tuesday, January 10, 2023 Blog Post ~


By James Chen, Updated October 09, 2022

What Is a Prudent Investment?

Fiduciaries (such as financial advisors, attorneys, CPAs and retirement plan sponsors), whom an investor entrusts to make prudent investments, should make certain that a chosen investment makes sense within their client’s overall portfolio and that fees will not detract significantly from the investment’s returns.


  • Good fiduciaries monitor the performance of the investments they have selected for their clients to make sure they are achieving their stated goals.
  • The Prudent Investor Rule specifies that fiduciaries must make sound money-management decisions for their clients based on the information available.

How Prudent Investment Works

Important: The prudent-person rule (formerly known as the “prudent man rule”) is a legal maxim restricting the discretion allowed in managing a client’s account to the types of investments that a prudent person seeking reasonable income and preservation of capital might buy for their own portfolio.

Investors can increase the likelihood of making a prudent investment by following these three recommendations:

  • Diversifying asset classes: Investors can reduce the overall volatility of their portfolios by investing in different asset types. For example, Mark’s portfolio may consist of stocks, bonds, commodities, cryptocurrency and forex. If stocks are in a bear market, Mark’s losses may get offset by gains in his cryptocurrency holdings. It is prudent for investors to allocate a smaller proportion of their portfolios to riskier assets, such as small capitalization stocks and commodities.
  • Rebalancing: Prudent investing requires investors to rebalance their portfolios periodically. For instance, if the stock component of Jennifer’s portfolio increases from 40% to 65% after a year of consistent gains, it is prudent to reduce her stock holdings back to 40% by selling some of the excess returns and purchasing other asset classes that are currently out of favor.
  • Minimizing fees: Prudent investing involves reducing fees and commissions. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) allow investors to purchase a portfolio of selected stocks without paying a commission for each trade.

Prudent Investor Rule Example


Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. “Appendix C — Fiduciary Law.” Accessed March 12, 2021.


By Adam Hayes, Updated July 12, 2022

What Is the Prudent Investor Rule?

The prudent investor rule states that the decision-making process must follow certain guidelines.


  • Judge Samuel Putnam was responsible for formulating the first known instance of this rule.2
  • A declaration of trust is used to provide explicit instructions for its management in order to support beneficiaries.
  • The standards of the Rule are spelled out in the 1992 Uniform Prudent Investor Act (UPIA).

Understanding the Prudent Investor Rule

“Do what you will, the capital is at hazard…All that can be required of a trustee to invest is that he shall conduct himself faithfully and exercise a sound discretion. He is to observe how men of prudence, discretion, and intelligence manage their own affairs…considering the probable income, as well as the probable safety of the capital to be invested.”

This case pitted Harvard College against the trustees of John McLean’s estate. In its case, the college alleged that the trustees had purposely made risky bets in order to benefit the deceased man’s widow rather than establish a standard source of income.3 This is the earliest record of an attempt to establish prudent standards for investments.

A prudent investment will not always turn out to be a highly profitable investment; in addition, no one can predict with certainty what will happen with any investment decision. Thus, the prudent investor rule only applies to the decision-making process of investing the assets of a trust. This relies on the knowledge the fiduciary has at the time to determine if an investment is a good idea. Investing exclusively in penny stocks, for example, could violate the prudent investor rule, because they are known to be risky at the outset.

Prudent Investor Rule and Trust Management

A declaration of trust outlines who the trust will benefit, who can amend or revoke the trust (if it can be amended at all), who will serve as trustee, and what powers the trustee holds. The statement also includes information regarding what is to happen if a beneficiary wants to receive distributions or who will replace the trustee in the event of illness, incapacitation, death, or any other reason, such as legal action taken against the trustee.

The core of the declaration of trust is the trust’s purpose or objectives and explicit instructions for how the trustee may invest and manage assets to support beneficiaries. While the declaration of trust is not required to be made in writing, it often is. In addition, some states require the declaration to be written.

Finally, this document can highlight details about the types of assets within a trust, depending on its objectives. For example, if the trust’s main goal is to provide a relatively liquid pool of assets for beneficiaries in a family for generations to come, the trust may hold safer securities, such as Treasury securities of medium duration.

Example of Prudent Investor Rule

Her financial advisor provides her with the necessary advice regarding cryptocurrencies (because they are not allowed to recommend them) and suggests that Olga may want to invest a portion of her savings in other risky assets, such as penny stocks. This would be consistent with the prudent investor rule as this advice is in accordance with her high-risk philosophy and ability to bear such risk.


Article # 3: What is the prudent investor rule?

What is the prudent investor rule? [10 Images]

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Freelance finance writer Sheena Ricarte's interests comprise international finance, economics, personal finance, asset protection law, & investment management.

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Freelance finance writer Sheena Ricarte's interests comprise international finance, economics, personal finance, asset protection law, & investment management.