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You’ve no doubt heard of stocks and bonds. But if you’ve never delved into these popular investments, you might not know how different they really are – and why these differences are so important. Here’s a beginner’s analysis of what stocks and bonds are, what risks they pose and how to include them in a thoughtfully constructed investment portfolio.

What are stocks and bonds?


Shares constitute partial ownership or a share in a company. By buying stocks, you are actually buying a smaller piece of the company – one or more “stocks”. And the more shares you buy, the more you own the company. Said said the company has a share price of $ 50 per share, and you invest $ 2,500 (that’s 50 shares at $ 50 each).

Now imagine for a few years the company has been running steadily. Because the partial owner is concerned, a significant success is your success, and the value of your shares will grow just as much as the value of the company. If its stock price rises to $ 75 (50% more), the value of your investment will rise by 50% to $ 3750. You can then sell those shares to another investor with a return of $ 1250.

Of course, the opposite is true. If a company is doing poorly, the value of your shares may drop lower than you bought them. In this case, if you sold them, you lost money.

Shares are also known as corporate stocks, common stock, corporate stocks, stocks and shares. Companies can issue shares to the public for several reasons, but the most common is fundraising, which can be used to boost future growth.


Bonds are a loan you get from a company or government. No capital or shares were found for purchase. Simply put, a company or government borrows from you when you buy a bond and it will pay you interest on the loan for a set period, after which it will repay the entire amount for which you purchased the bond. But bonds are absolutely risk-free. If the company goes bankrupt during the bond period, it stops receiving interest payments and may not repay your full principal.

Let’s say you buy a bond for $ 2,500 and it pays 2% annual interest for 10 years. This means that each year you receive $ 50 in interest payments, which are usually evenly distributed throughout the year. For 10 years, you would have earned $ 500 percent, and you ended up getting your initial investment of $ 2,500. Holding bonds for the entire term is known as “holding to maturity”.

With bonds you usually know exactly what you are subscribing to, and regular interest payments can be used as a predictable source fixed income over a long period.

The duration of the bonds depends on the type you buy, but usually ranges from a few days to 30 years. Eventually, the interest rate – known as the yield – will vary depending on the type and duration of the bond.

Differences between stocks and bonds

While both tools seek to grow their money, the way they are made and the income they offer are very different.

Justice vs. Debt

When you hear about stock and debt markets, they usually refer to stocks and bonds respectively.

Equity is the most popular liquid financial asset (an investment that can be easily converted into cash) in the United States. In 2018, the country issued $ 221.2 billion in equity. Corporations often issue shares to raise cash to expand operations, and in return investors are given the opportunity to benefit from the company’s future growth and success.

Buying bonds means issuing a debt that needs to be repaid with interest. You have a share of ownership in the company, but you enter into an agreement that the company or government must pay a fixed interest rate over time as well as a principal amount at the end of that period.

Capital gains vs. fixed income

Stocks and bonds also make cash in different ways.

To make money on stocks, you need to sell the stocks sold at a higher price than you paid for them to make a profit or capital gain. Capital gains can be used as income or reinvested, but they will be taxed long-term or short-term capital gains respectively.

Bonds create cash through regular interest payments. The frequency of distribution may vary, but is usually usually as follows:

  • Treasury bonds and banknotes: Once every six months until maturity.

  • Treasury accounts: Only after repayment.

  • Corporate bonds: Semi-annually, quarterly, monthly or maturing.

Bonds can also be sold in the market for capital gains, although for many conservative investors predictable fixed income is most attractive for these instruments. Worse, some types of stocks offer a fixed income that is more reminiscent of debt than equity, but this is usually a source of stock value.

Reverse performance

One of the most important differences between stocks and bonds is that they tend to be inversely related in terms of value – when stock prices rise, bond prices fall and vice versa.

Historically, when stock prices rise and more people buy to take advantage of this rise, bond prices usually fall as demand falls. Conversely, when stock prices fall and investors want to turn to traditionally lower-risk investments, such as low-yield bonds, their demand increases and, in turn, their prices.

The table below compares the overall profitability of the S&P 500 (inventories) and the annual profitability of Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate index (bonds) since 2000. And while there are survivors, especially in recent times, the feedback relationship seems to be fair: bonds tend to have better years when stocks are at their worst, and vice versa.

Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Ing indicator (%)

Bond output is also closely linked to interest rates. For example, if you buy a bond with a yield of 2%, it may be more valuable if interest rates fall because newly issued bonds will have a lower yield than yours. On the other hand, higher interest rates may mean that newly issued bonds have higher yields than yours, less demand for your bond and, in turn, its value.

To stimulate spending, the Federal Reserve typically lowers interest rates during economic downturns – periods that are usually worse for many stocks. But lower interest rates will raise the price of existing bonds higher, strengthening the reverse price dynamics.

The risks and benefits of each

Stock risks

The biggest risk of shares in investing is a decrease in the value of shares after their acquisition. There are several reasons why stock prices fluctuate (you can learn more about them in our stock management instructions), but in the short term, if productivity remains expected by investors, the value of its shares may fall. Given the reasons why business can decline, stocks are usually riskier than bonds.

However, higher risk can bring higher returns. From June 11, 2020, the S&P 500 has a 10-year term average annual yield 10.65%, while in the US. the bond market, measured by Bloomberg Barclays U.S. The aggregate bond index has a 10-year total yield of 3.92%.

Bond risks

U.S. Treasury bonds tend to be more resilient than stocks in the short term, but this lower risk usually means lower yields, as noted above. Treasury securities such as government bonds and bills, completely risk-free, as these tools are backed by the US. government.

Corporate bonds, on the other hand, have a broad level of risk and return. If a company is more likely to go bankrupt and therefore cannot continue to pay interest, its bonds will be considered much riskier than those in a company with a very low probability of going bankrupt. The low ability to repay debt is reflected in its credit rating, which is paid by credit rating agencies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

Corporate bonds can be grouped into two categories: investment-grade bonds and high-yield bonds.

  • Investment class. Higher credit rating, less risk, less return.

  • High profitability (also called unwanted bond). Low credit rating, higher risk, high yield.

These different levels of risk and return help investors choose which part to invest money in – otherwise known as creating an investment portfolio. According to Brett Koppel, a certified financial planner in Buffalo, New York, stocks and bonds play different roles that can yield the best results when used as a complement to each other.

“Generally, I believe that investors looking for higher returns should do so by investing more stocks, as opposed to buying riskier investments with a fixed return,” Kappel says. “The main role of fixed income in a portfolio is to diversify stocks and preserve capital, not to achieve the highest possible return.”

Stock / bond portfolio allocation

There are many adaptations to help you determine how to distribute stocks and bonds in your portfolio. One says that the percentage of stocks in your portfolio should be equal to 100 minus your age. So if it’s 30, your portfolio should contain 70% stock, 30% bond (or other) safe investments). If 60, it should be 40% stock, 60% bond.

The basic idea here makes sense: as you approach retirement age you can protect your nest egg from wild market fluctuations by allocating more of your funds to bonds and less to stocks.

However, detractors of this theory may argue that it is too conservative given our longer life expectancy and prevalence. low cost funds, which offers a cheaper, easier form of diversification and is usually less risky than individual stocks. Some argue that in our world is better suited to 110, or even 120 minus – the best approach.

For most investors, the distribution of stocks / bonds comes down to risk tolerance. How much instability do you like in the short term in exchange for stronger long-term benefits? One Vanguard study collected data from 1926 to 2018 to find out how different distributions were made during this period. Using this data, think about how it fits your own timing and risk tolerance to determine what might be good for you.

Years with a loss (out of 93)

Remember that on average for a year, rarely a particular year really corresponds to its average level. For example, S&P 500 ended 2008 by 37%, but by the end of 2009 had recovered 26.46%, partially offsetting 2008 losses. Conversely, Bloomberg Barclays U.S. The aggregate bond index ended 2008 by 5.24%, and in 2009 it was higher by 5.93%.

Keep this in mind when looking at the column on the right: a portfolio consisting of 100% equity is almost twice as likely to end the year with a loss than a portfolio of 100% bonds. Are you willing to spend these downturns in exchange for a higher probability of a return in the long run, given your timing?

Upside down: When debt and equity roles are reversible

There are certain types of stocks that offer the benefits of fixed income bonds, and there are bonds that fit the nature of stocks with higher risk and higher yields.

Dividends and preferred stock

Dividend stocks often produced by large, stable companies that regularly generate high profits. Instead of investing these profits in growth, they often distribute them among shareholders – this is the distribution of dividends. Because these companies typically focus on aggressive growth, their stock prices may not rise as high or fast as smaller companies, but consistent dividend payments can be valuable for investors looking to diversify their fixed income assets.

Preferred stocks It is even more reminiscent of bonds and is considered a fixed-income investment, which is usually riskier than bonds but less risky than ordinary stocks. Preferred shares pay dividends, which often exceed both dividends on ordinary stock and interest payments on bonds.

Sale of bonds

Also bonds can be sold in the market with capital gains if their value increases higher than you paid for them. This may be due to changes in interest rates, higher ratings by credit agencies or a combination thereof.

However, achieving high returns on risky bonds often overcomes the goal of investing in bonds, primarily – to diversify from stocks, save capital and provide a cushion for a rapid market crash.


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