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Widow Maker


A Widow Maker is a colloquial term in the world of finance for a risky or speculative investment which could lead to sudden massive losses. It generally refers to strategies that have the potential to be extremely profitable but can also result in substantial losses. The term is derived from the potential impact of these losses on the financial well-being of individuals and families.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Widow Maker” is: /ˈwɪdoʊ ˈmeɪkər/ .

Key Takeaways

  1. Widow Maker is the nickname for a very serious heart condition. It is known as the left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery disease. The term Widow Maker comes from the potential deadly consequences of an artery becoming completely or nearly 100% blocked.
  2. In a broader context, “Widow Maker” can also refer to any catastrophic situations or things that are very dangerous and could potentially result in death. In pop culture, this term is sometimes used for dangerous sports, war situations, high-risk professions and so on.
  3. The treatment for Widow Maker heart condition involves immediate medical attention. This usually means emergency angioplasty, stenting, and bypass surgery. However, leading a heart-healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding harmful habits like smoking can significantly reduce the risk of such heart diseases.


In business and finance, the term widow maker is used to describe a high-risk investment or decision that has the potential to lead to significant losses. Generally, it involves long-shot bets or high-risk derivatives on unpredictable market shifts that sometimes even experienced investors or traders find tough to predict accurately. The term carries negative connotations, highlighting the financial danger these risky trades or investments can bring. Despite the potential for high returns, the potential for severe losses makes these investments or trades highly risky, earning them the name “widow maker.” Understanding the term is important as it helps investors and traders to measure the amount of risk they are willing to take on in pursuit of potential profits.


The term “Widow Maker” is often used in the financial or trading world to refer to a high-risk investment or trading strategy that has the potential to lead to significant losses. The term was born out of the risky nature of these investments or strategies, which could lead to financial ruin and effectively ‘make widows’ out of the investors’ spouses. Essentially, Widow Makers are speculative bets that are challenging to profit from, due to their unpredictable and risky nature.Despite the risk, the purpose of engaging in a Widow Maker strategy is the potential to earn substantial profits. These strategies typically involve complex financial instruments or unusual trading techniques, which if successful, can lead to major returns. For example, investors or traders may bet against a trend in the market, or make use of complex derivative instruments to speculate on price movements. However, such strategies require extensive knowledge and experience to execute effectively and are thus generally not recommended for novice investors.


1. Shorting Japanese Government Bonds: One of the most well-known examples of a widow maker trade was shorting 10-year Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) in the mid-1990s. Many traders expected JGBs to plummet due to Japan’s high debt levels and poor demographic trends. However, Japanese interest rates continued to stay low, causing short-sellers to incur significant losses, thus representing a widow maker trade.2. The 2008 Financial Crisis: Before the 2008 financial crisis, many hedge funds and adventurous investors were betting against American subprime mortgages, expecting the housing market bubble to burst. However, in 2005 and 2006, the US housing market looked unwaveringly stable, costing these traders enormous amounts in interest payments and potential gains. It’s considered a “widow maker” because it made numerous investors go bankrupt before the bubble eventually burst in 2007 and 2008.3. Betting Against Tech Companies During Dotcom Bubble: During the late 1990s dot-com bubble, those who bet against overvalued tech stocks often found themselves facing significant losses, even if they were eventually correct. As the adage goes, “the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent”. High valuation tech stocks continued to rise beyond the traders’ expectations, leading to significant losses for those who had shorted these stocks. This move became known as a widow maker trade.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the term Widow Maker in finance?

The term Widow Maker in finance usually refers to a high-risk, high-reward investment or trading strategy that could potentially bring significant profit, but also bears a high level of risk.

Why is it called the Widow Maker?

The term Widow Maker is a metaphor that reflects the high risk associated with this kind of trading. It can lead to substantial losses and can metaphorically ‘make a widow’ due to the financial ruin it could potentially cause.

What are the examples of Widow Maker trades?

Some examples of Widow Maker trades include short selling, arbitrage, investing in high-risk stocks, commodity futures trading, and highly leveraged trading.

Is it advisable to pursue Widow Maker trades?

It always depends on one’s appetite for risk and financial situation. While Widow Maker trades can indeed bring substantial profits, they also come with significant risks. These trades are generally not considered advisable for novice or risk-averse investors.

How can one mitigate the risks of Widow Maker trades?

Mitigation of these risks requires expert knowledge of the markets and strategic money management. Hedge funds or high-profile investors, for example, might use them as part of a larger, diversified investment strategy. Following market trends, conducting due diligence, and implementing a sound risk management strategy are also vitally important.

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