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Stocks are a type of security that gives stockholders a share of ownership in a company. Stocks also are called “equities.”
Source Stocks | Investor.gov
A bond is a debt security, similar to an IOU. Borrowers issue bonds to raise money from investors willing to lend them money for a certain amount of time. When you buy a bond, you are lending to the issuer, which may be a government, municipality, or corporation. In return, the issuer promises to pay you a specified rate of interest during the life of the bond and to repay the principal, also known as face value or par value of the bond, when it “matures,” or comes due after a set period of time.
Source Bonds | Investor.gov
An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company that is designed to meet retirement and other long-range goals, under which you make a lump-sum payment or series of payments. In return, the insurer agrees to make periodic payments to you beginning immediately or at some future date. Annuities typically offer tax-deferred growth of earnings and may include a death benefit that will pay your beneficiary a specified minimum amount, such as your total purchase payments. While tax is deferred on earnings growth, when withdrawals are taken from the annuity, gains are taxed at ordinary income rates, and not capital gains rates. If you withdraw your money early from an annuity, you may pay substantial surrender charges to the insurance company, as well as tax penalties.
Source Annuities | Investor.gov
A mutual fund is a company that pools money from many investors and invests the money in securities such as stocks, bonds, and short-term debt. The combined holdings of the mutual fund are known as its portfolio. Investors buy shares in mutual funds. Each share represents an investor’s part ownership in the fund and the income it generates.
Source Mutual Funds | Investor.gov
Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
A certificate of deposit (CD) is a savings account that holds a fixed amount of money for a fixed period of time, such as six months, one year, or five years. In exchange, the issuing bank or credit union pays you interest. When you cash in or redeem your CD, you receive the money you originally invested plus any interest. Certificates of deposit are considered to be one of the safest savings options. A CD bought through a federally insured bank or credit union is insured up to $250,000.
Exchanged-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Like mutual funds, ETFs offer investors a way to pool their money in a fund that makes investments in stocks, bonds, or other assets and, in return, to receive an interest in that investment pool. Unlike mutual funds, however, ETF shares are traded on a national stock exchange and at market prices that may or may not be the same as the net asset value (“NAV”) of the shares, that is, the value of the ETF’s assets minus its liabilities divided by the number of shares outstanding.
An “index fund” is a type of mutual fund or exchange-traded fund that seeks to track the returns of a market index. The S&P 500 Index, the Russell 2000 Index, and the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index are just a few examples of market indexes that index funds may seek to track. A market index measures the performance of a “basket” of securities (like stocks or bonds), which is meant to represent a sector of a stock market, or of an economy. You cannot invest directly in a market index, but because index funds track a market index they provide an indirect investment option.
Source Index Funds | Investor.gov
Money Market Funds
A money market fund is a type of mutual fund that has relatively low risks compared to other mutual funds and most other investments and historically has had lower returns. Money market funds invest in high-quality, short-term debt securities and pay dividends that generally reflect short-term interest rates. Many investors use money market funds to store cash or as an alternative to investing in the stock market.
Target Date Funds
A number of companies offer “target date retirement funds,” sometimes referred to as “target date funds” or “lifecycle funds.” Target date funds, which are often mutual funds, hold a mix of stocks, bonds, and other investments. Over time, the mix gradually shifts according to the fund’s investment strategy. Target date funds are designed to be long-term investments for individuals with particular retirement dates in mind. The name of the fund often refers to its target date. For example, you might see funds with names like “Portfolio 2030,” “Retirement Fund 2030,” or “Target 2030″ that are designed for individuals who intend to retire in or near the year 2030.
Real Estate Investment Trust (REITs)
Real estate investment trusts (“REITs”) allow individuals to invest in large-scale, income-producing real estate. A REIT is a company that owns and typically operates income-producing real estate or related assets. These may include office buildings, shopping malls, apartments, hotels, resorts, self-storage facilities, warehouses, and mortgages or loans. Unlike other real estate companies, a REIT does not develop real estate properties to resell them. Instead, a REIT buys and develops properties primarily to operate them as part of its own investment portfolio.
Commodity futures contracts are an agreement to buy or sell a specific quantity of a commodity at a specified price on a particular date in the future. Metals, grains, and other food, as well as financial instruments, including U.S. and foreign currencies, are traded in the futures market.
Source Commodities | Investor.gov
Savings bonds are debt securities issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to help pay for the U.S. government’s borrowing needs. U.S. savings bonds are considered one of the safest investments because they are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.
Source Savings Bonds | Investor.gov
A viatical settlement allows you to invest in another person’s life insurance policy. With a viatical settlement, you purchase the policy (or part of it) at a price that is less than the death benefit of the policy. When the seller dies, you collect the death benefit. Your return depends upon the seller’s life expectancy and the actual date he or she dies. If the seller dies before the estimated life expectancy, you may receive a higher return. But if the seller lives longer than expected, your return will be lower. You can even lose part of your principal investment if the person lives long enough so that you have to pay additional premiums to maintain the policy.