The three most common kinds of investments


The following is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice.

Traditional savings accounts don’t earn you very much money and there’s no reason to believe that will change any time soon. If you’re looking to get more out of the money you already have, you may want to consider creating an investment plan.

If you’ve never invested your money before, it may be worth your while to speak with a trained financial advisor to get their expert advice. In the meantime, however, here’s a short guide to three of the most common investment vehicles, so you can better understand the tools at your disposal.


A bond is essentially a loan you give to a government or company. And just like any other loan, it accrues interest over time. Bonds come with a pre-determined maturity date, which is when the “loan” comes due and you’re repaid your initial investment. Interest earned on the bond is paid out periodically until maturity. The frequency of the payments depends on the terms of the bond.

Bonds are issued most often by governments in need of funds for largescale projects. They’re usually very stable (if not quite completely guaranteed), making bonds one of the safest investment options available. They’re so safe, in fact, that the return on your investment can be pretty miniscule – in some cases not much better than a traditional savings account.

You also won’t be able to access the money you’ve invested into a bond until the maturity date, so that should always be a consideration when investing. You may be able to sell your bond, however, should you need funds immediately. Just keep in mind that there are usually fees associates with selling a bond before its maturity date. In either case, you'll want to make sure you have enough liquid (i.e. easily accessible) assets on hand in case of emergency or unforeseen circumstances.

Finally, not all bonds are created equal. There are multiple companies that rate bonds (such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s). A highly rated bond represents high credit quality and a safe investment. A poorly rated bond (also known as a junk bond) is a very risky investment, usually because they’re being issued by a company in financial distress. Because they’re so risky, however, these lower quality bonds usually pay much higher yields (presuming they pay at all).


A stock is a stake in a company. Purchasing stock in a company makes you a part owner in that company and usually grants you some measure of control over the company’s affairs – often in the form of an invitation to shareholders’ meetings and the ability to vote on key decisions. (Your influence really depends on the quantity of stock you own.)

You generally make money on stocks in one of two ways. You might receive dividends, which are a portion of the company’s profits that have been designated for shareholders. Not all stocks offer dividends, however, in which case you will likely only make a profit if the value of the stock you own increases and you then sell that stock.

Because the profitability of your stock depends entirely on the success of the company you’ve invested in, it’s a riskier form of investment. Should the company falter, the value of the stock could plummet overnight. Because of this, it may be dangerous to place too much of your available money into the stock market.

That said, stocks have much higher potential where return on investment is concerned. You can also sell your stock and recover your investment at any time

Mutual funds

A mutual fund is a collection of stocks and bonds overseen by an investment specialist. Because mutual funds include a variety of investments, they are diversified, which reduces the risk should any one particular stock or bond fail.

Mutual funds can pay off in a number of different ways. You might earn dividends or interest payments on individual stocks and bonds. If the account manager sells certain stocks or bonds for a profit, that money may be distributed to investors directly. Finally, if the overall value of the fund increases (as stock values rise), you can sell your stake for a profit. Like a stock, shares in a mutual fund are liquid, meaning you can sell them any time.

Despite all these positives, a mutual fund is far from perfect. There are many fees associated with maintaining a mutual fund, which can cut significantly into your earnings. You can (and should) maintain a diversified portfolio of investments all on your own, so ultimately the value of a mutual fund (aside from the convenience) is tied closely to the performance of the manager. As such, it may be a great option for the first-time investor looking to get their feet wet, but eventually you may want to manage your investments directly.

Tagged in Investing, Savings accounts, Retirement

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Financial Counseling Association of America Financial Counseling Association of America
    MMI is a proud member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), a national association representing financial counseling companies that provide consumer credit counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, bankruptcy counseling, debt management, and various financial education services.
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.9/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development - Equal Housing Opportunity Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.