This is an elementary mathematical finance article. This means if you know some math (linear algebra, differential calculus) you can find a quick solution to a simple finance question. The topic was inspired by a recent article in The American Mathematical Monthly (Volume 117, Number 1 January 2010, pp. 3-26): “Find Good Bets in the Lottery, and Why You Shouldn’t Take Them” by Aaron Abrams and Skip Garibaldi which said optimal asset allocation is now an undergraduate exercise. That may well be, but there are a lot of people with very deep mathematical backgrounds that have yet to have seen this. We will fill in the details here. The style is terse, but the content should be about what you would expect from one day of lecture in a mathematical finance course.
The current state of the global financial markets has gotten more people than usual worrying about the technical aspects of finance. One method for reasoning about investment returns and risk is a tool called the Sharpe Ratio. It is well worth reviewing this measure and seeing how, if used properly, it doesn’t favor any of the mistakes that underly our current financial crisis. Continue reading