Common Types of Investments and How They Work

Investing can intimidate a lot of people because there are many options and it can be hard to figure out which investments are right for your portfolio. This guide walks you through ten of the most common types of investments, from stocks to commodities and explains why you may want to consider including each in your portfolio. If you’re serious about investing it might make sense to find a financial advisor who can guide you and help you figure out which investments will help you reach your goals.

What Are the 3 Main Investment Categories?

While the types of investments are numerous, it is possible to group them into one of three categories, equity, fixed-income and cash or cash equivalents.

The term “equity” covers any kind of bogorupdate.id investment that gives the investor an ownership stake in an enterprise. The most common example is common stocks. Other examples are preferred shares, funds that hold stocks, such as exchange-traded funds and mutual funds, private equity and American depositary receipts.

The term fixed-income covers any kind of investment that entails the investors essentially loaning money to an enterprise. The most common example is bonds, which come in various forms, including corporate and government, whether local, state or federal. Some fixed-income securities have equity-like characteristics, such as convertible bonds.

Cash and cash equivalents comprise a third type of investments. Besides bills such as you might keep in a wallet, this type includes checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit and money market accounts. Money market funds are sometimes considered cash equivalents because it’s easy to withdraw from such accounts, but they are technically fixed-income securities – albeit extremely secure securities.

5 Types of Securities

While it is possible to put investments into one of three categories, as described above, there are many types within these categories. Here are 11 key examples.

1. Stocks

Stocks, also known as shares or equities, might be the most well-known and simple type of investment. When you buy stock, you’re buying an ownership stake in a publicly-traded company. Many of the biggest companies in the country are publicly traded, meaning you can buy stock in them. Some examples include Exxon, Apple and Microsoft.

How you can make money: When you buy a stock, you’re hoping that the price will go up so you can then sell it for a profit. The risk, of course, is that the price of the stock could go down, in which case you’d lose money.

2. Bonds

When you buy a bond, you’re essentially lending money to an entity. Generally, this is a business or a government entity. Companies issue corporate bonds, whereas local governments issue municipal bonds. The U.S. Treasury issues Treasury bonds, notes and bills, all of which are debt instruments that investors buy.

How you can make money: While the money is being lent, the lender or investor gets interest payments. After the bond matures, meaning you’ve held it for the contractually determined amount of time, you get your principal back.

The rate of return for bonds is typically much lower than it is for stocks, but bonds also tend to be a lower risk. There is still some risk involved, of course. The company you buy a bond from could fold or the government could default. Treasury bonds, notes and bills, however, are considered very safe investments.

3. Mutual Funds

A mutual fund is a pool of many investors’ money that is invested broadly in a number of companies. Mutual funds can be actively managed or passively managed. An actively managed fund has a fund manager who picks securities in which to put investors’ money. Fund managers often try to beat a designated market index by choosing investments that will outperform such an index. A passively managed fund, also known as an index fund, simply tracks a major stock market index like the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the S&P 500. Mutual funds can invest in a broad array of securities: equities, bonds, commodities, currencies and derivatives.

Mutual funds carry many of the same risks as stocks and bonds, depending on what they are invested in. The risk is often lesser, though, because the investments are inherently diversified.

How you can make money: Investors make money off mutual funds when the value of stocks, bonds and other bundled securities that the fund invests in go up. You can buy them directly through the managing firm and discount brokerages. But note there is typically a minimum investment and you’ll pay an annual fee.

4. Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are similar to mutual funds in that they are a collection of investments that tracks a market index. Unlike mutual funds, which are purchased through a fund company, shares of ETFs are bought and sold on the stock markets. Their price fluctuates throughout the trading day, whereas mutual funds’ value is simply the net asset value of your investments, which is calculated at the end of each trading session.

How you can make money: ETFs make money from the collection of a return amongst all of their investments. ETFs are often recommended to new investors because they’re more diversified than individual stocks. You can further minimize risk by choosing an ETF that tracks a broad index. And just like mutual funds, you can make money from an ETF by selling it as it gains value.

5. Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

A certificate of deposit (CD) is considered to be a very low-risk investment. You give a bank a certain amount of money for a predetermined amount of time and earn interest on that money. When that time period is over, you get your principal back, plus the predetermined amount of interest. The longer the loan period, the higher your interest rate is likely to be. While the risk is low, so is the potential return.

How you can make money: With a CD, you make money from the interest that you earn during the term of the deposit. CDs are good long-term investments for saving money. There are no major risks because they are FDIC-insured up to $250,000, which would cover your money even if your bank were to collapse. That said, you have to make sure you won’t need the money during the term of the CD, as there are major penalties for early withdrawals.

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