Buying shares of a company’s stock is a way to own a piece of that company. Stocks come in a wide variety, and they often are described based the company’s size, type, performance during market cycles and potential for short- and long-term growth. They can include “common” stock, which gives an owner no priority in the company, and “preferred” stock, which generally pays a specific dividend that must be paid prior to any distributions to other stockholders.
A bond is a loan an investor makes to an organization in exchange for interest payments over a specified term plus repayment of principal at the bond’s maturity date. Similar “fixed income” vehicles are structured with the same concept in mind: the investor is paid interest for a certain period of time and then receives back his/her principle. The owner of the bond or fixed income generally does not have any equity interest in the company. Types of Bonds/Fixed Income Include:
U.S. Treasury Securities
U.S. Treasury securities (“Treasuries”) are issued by the federal government and are considered to be among the safest investments an investor can make, because all Treasury securities are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government.
“Agencies” is a term used to describe bonds issued or guaranteed by U.S. federal government agencies and bonds issued by government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs)—corporations created by Congress to foster a public purpose.
Municipal securities, or “munis,” are bonds issued by states, cities, counties and other governmental entities to raise money to build roads, schools and a host of other projects for the public good.
International and Emerging Markets Bonds
These are bonds issued by foreign governments and companies. Since interest rate movements may differ from country to country, international bonds are another way to diversify your portfolio, but carry their own set of risks.
Companies issue corporate bonds to raise money for capital expenditures, operations and acquisitions. Corporate bonds are issued by all types of businesses, and are segmented into major industry groups
Mortgage-backed securities are bonds secured by home and other real estate loans. They are created when a number of these loans, usually with similar characteristics, are pooled together
Deposits at banks and most credit unions are federally insured up to a limit set by Congress. And transaction (or checking) accounts and deposit accounts offer liquidity, making it easy for you to get to your funds for any reason—from day-to-day expenses to a down payment or money for unexpected emergencies. The interest earned from bank products—including certificates of deposit (CDs)—tends to be lower than potential returns from other investments.
Bank products include:
Savings Accounts -Insured deposit accounts, which pay interest and give flexibility to make as many deposits as the client would like but have more withdrawal restrictions that the checking accounts and higher minimum deposits.
Money Market Accounts – Deposit accounts that give safety, convenience, and liquidity of a savings accounts, plus a slightly higher interest rate.
Certificates of Deposit – An insured deposit account that offers a predictable return at high interest rates than savings accounts, however, money cannot be withdrawn for a set term without a penalty.
Funds—such as mutual funds, closed-end funds and exchange-traded funds—pool money from many investors and invest it according to a specific investment strategy. Funds can offer diversification, professional management and a wide variety of investment strategies and styles. However, depending on the fund, they can involve leverage, derivatives or other riskier investments and investment strategies.
Annuities and Insurance
An annuity is a contract between an investor and an insurance company, in which the company promises to make periodic payments, either starting immediately—called an immediate annuity—or at some future time—a deferred annuity. An annuity can be for a fixed amount, or it can be variable. A fixed annuity is not tied to the market and provides steady payments at a fixed rate. A variable annuity, on the other hand, would be tied to some part of the market, usually an index. Although there are many forms these annuities can take, a typical variable annuity provides no guaranteed returns, but could give the investor the possibility of higher returns than a fixed product could. Insurance companies have also created hybrid products, called indexed annuities, which allow an investor to participate in some upside of the market while having some protection. Annuities can be very complicated and potentially costly investments for investors. They can also provide some tax benefits.
Life insurance products can also be investments. Life insurance products come in various forms, including term life, whole life and universal life policies. There also are variations on these—variable life insurance and variable universal life—which are considered securities.
Options are contracts that give the purchaser the right to buy or sell a security, such as a stock or exchange-traded fund, at a fixed price within a specific period of time. Some options have unlimited upside and downside, while other can only result in the loss of the contract value. Options are popular among speculators as they allow an investor to control a large number of shares of an investment with minimal initial cash outlay. This inherent leverage adds significantly to the risk of options.
Futures – Commodities and Securities
Commodity futures contracts are agreements to buy or sell a specific quantity of a commodity at a specified price on a particular date in the future. Commodities include metals, oil, grains and animal products, as well as financial instruments and currencies. With limited exceptions, trading in futures contracts must be executed on the floor of a commodity exchange
Federal regulations permit trading in futures contracts on single stocks, also known as single stock futures, and certain security indices. As with options, futures contracts can have a great degree of risk attached to them.
Private Placements, also known as alternative investments, are investments that are exempt from the registration requirements of the §4(a)(2) of the Securities Act. Regulation D allows certain investments to be exempt from these registration requirements so long as it is not marketed to more than a certain number of individuals that are not considered Accredited Investors. So long as the investment is sold to accredited investors, they maintain this exemption. There are several categories in which an investor can qualify as an accredited investor under Rule 501 of Regulation D. The most commonly used criteria for identifying and individual investor as accredited is based on income and net worth. The investments include various products that may offer higher rates of rates of return, but with an increase in risk. Some common examples of private placements include, Real Estate Investment Trusts, (REIT’s), Non- Traded REIT’s, hedge funds, equipment leasing agreements, tenants-in-common, and various oil and gas limited partnerships. Additionally, private placements and other alternative investments often are not liquid, and therefore inappropriate for an investor that may need access to their cash.