Five Ways to Invest Without Buying Stocks

Roll+dice+on+stocks

From 2001-2006 I lost over a quarter million dollars trading stocks, options and currencies.

I was pretty much the dumbest 20-something ever.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve dug myself out of a pretty darn big debt hole, recently got married, and have even begun investing again.

Just not in stocks.
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What Fees Are Part of Your 401(k) Plan?

A 401k plan generally involves four parties: the contributing employees, the sponsoring employer, a plan administrator, and various investment advisors.

A 401k plan aims to grow employees’ contributions through investments for retirement.  To better manage a plan’s ongoing operation, once the plan has been set up by the employer for employee participation, the employer will usually appoint a plan administrator to take care of the plan with tasks such as recording keeping and accounting, providing customer service, giving educational seminars, etc…

But the actual investment of the plan contributions are managed by a group of investment companies, such as mutual fund brokerages (Vanguard, Fidelity, and ShareBuilder are a few), that the plan administrator has contracted with.

There are two major 401k fees in connection with plan administration and investment management.
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Portfolio Rebalancing – Keep Your Asset Goals In Line

Balance
Balance

Are Your Investments In Balance?

Investors construct their portfolios based on investment goals and risk tolerance by assigning appropriate weights to different asset classes and categories (or how much dough should go to each class). Over time, as market conditions change, investment performances among asset classes change but not in the same amount at the same time.  Some assets may grow faster and become over weighted, while others fall behind and become under weighted.  As a result, the risk profile of the portfolio is altered (you have too much invested in certain classes).  Without proper adjustment, the current portfolio would have a higher or lower risk depending on the relative values of over weighted assets and under weighted assets.  Portfolio rebalancing brings a portfolio’s current asset allocation back to the original mix so that investments can be realigned to initial investment goals to maintain an appropriate risk level.
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Portfolio Diversification

Investing incurs risks because it is impossible to correctly predict future returns of any investment every time (if you can let me know!). However, what is certain is that not all investments perform the same way under the same market conditions; some zig while others zag.  Investors may try to pick one investment asset over the other by non-diversifying, but any wrong pick would result in lower returns or losses. Portfolio diversification reduces investment risk by eliminating such possibilities through investing in assets of different expected returns.  The expected return on a diversified portfolio will always lower than the asset with the highest expected return but higher than the asset with the lowest expected return.  In other words – it evens out your highs and lows for a more even return.
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What is Asset Allocation?

Different buckets for asset allocation

What is Asset Allocation?

Different buckets for asset allocation

Different buckets for asset allocation

Asset allocation is an investment strategy that is used to choose among various asset classes such as stocks, bonds, commodities, foreign currencies, real estate, annuities and life insurance, and high value collectibles including precious metals.

Asset allocation as a way of investing is an important part of a person’s financial planning process that primarily concerns the very relationship of an investment portfolio’s risk and return.  Different asset classes offer different risks and returns as long as their performances are not perfectly correlated (if they go up and down in the same market conditions).  Asset allocation reduces the volatility of investment results when not all investments in the portfolio rise and fall at the same time.

How is Asset Allocation Related to Investing?

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Why Invest In Stocks

Stock Charts

Despite all the latest turmoil of the stock market during the Great Recession of 2008, as we now call it, investing in stocks remains the premier means to investing.

The stock market tends to have volatile performances in times of any economic uncertainties, but that is why it is a good barometer for the economy.  The stock market in general will always deliver long-term returns, just as the economy eventually advances after trying times.

No other investment vehicles are as closely and directly related to the many aspects of an economy as the stock market.  As risky as it may seem, the stock market is still arguably the most rewarding investment place.

Two critical elements are worth considering in answering “why invest in stocks?”
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Why Invest in Bonds?

Business Paper

Why invest in bonds? We hear so much about stocks in the news but bonds don’t get mentioned with the same level importance and urgency (the Dow stock index gets all the glory on the 6 o’clock news).  Yet bonds are an integral piece of most portfolios as well as being an important debt instrument, used to create capital for businesses and municipalities.
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