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Investing

Explore asset types

Not all investments are created equal. Each type of asset brings a unique set of cash flows and risk profile, both of which must align to your investment objectives.

Equities

Equity investments include investments made in publicly-traded stocks or any other financial security that allows an investor to take ownership in the company. 

Components of a stock

Share price

This is the price of one share of stock. Since companies can perform "stock splits," higher prices don't necessarily mean better stocks.

Dividend

Some companies offer dividends, or routine payouts to shareholders, which are expressed as a percentage "yield" of the share price.

Ticker symbol

Publicly-traded companies receive a 2, 3 or 4-character symbol that is shown next to their share price in the media.

Market capitalization

This is the product of share price and total shares outstanding. Values larger than 5 billion represent "large cap" stocks.

P/E Ratio

Price-to-earnings per share reflects a stock's value, with higher ratios, like 50, signifying overvalued, or growth-oriented, stocks.

Factors for assessing risk

Beta

Beta compares a given stock's returns with that of the S&P 500 index. Values greater than 1.00 indicate more a volatile stock.

Trading volume

Heavily-traded stocks, such as Coca-Cola, tend to be less risky, all else equal, than a "small cap" stock traded infrequently.

Sector

"Cyclical" industries, like Airlines, tend to move strongly with the overall economy, meaning losses are likely during a recession.

Fixed income

These assets compromise of bonds and notes that large companies or the government issue to borrow money. Like a loan, issuers pay incremental "coupon" payments that reflect interest and, ultimately, the bond's "face value" at maturity, which can differ slightly from what the investor paid for the bond.

Components of a bond

Yield

A bond's yield - often different from its "yield to maturity" - is the percentage of face value that investors receive in interest.

Maturity date

While most bonds pay regular interest payments, it's not until the maturity date that the face value is paid to the investor.

Rating

Organizations like Morningstar and Fitch rating bonds based on their likelihood to "default," or not pay the bondholder back.

Funds

Mutual funds and ETFs (exchange-traded funds) are pools of many different stocks and bonds that are packaged and sold as shares to investors like you, who can use the diversified set of assets to reduce overall risk, in exchange for small fees. Funds are often used for specific investment objectives, such as mirroring the performance of an index or conservatively building wealth for retirement.

Components of a fund

Net Asset Value (NAV)

This per-share figure represents the fund's total value of investment assets minus any liabilities.

Expense ratio

This figure states the percentage of fees you'll pay for every dollar invested in the fund. Aim for ratios 0.50% or less.

Prospectus

This document is basically the manual defines a fund's investment strategy and disclosures about its holdings.