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Investing Basics – Stocks, Structured Notes and Target Date Funds


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Common and preferred stocks may fall into one or more of the following categories:

 

  • Growth stocks have earnings growing at a faster rate than the market average. They rarely pay dividends and investors buy them in the hope of capital appreciation. A start-up technology company is likely to be a growth stock.
  • Income stocks pay dividends consistently. Investors buy them for the income they generate. An established utility company is likely to be an income stock.
  • Value stocks have a low price-to-earnings (PE) ratio, meaning they are cheaper to buy than stocks with a higher PE. Value stocks may be growth or income stocks, and their low PE ratio may reflect the fact that they have fallen out of favor with investors for some reason. People buy value stocks in the hope that the market has overreacted and that the stock’s price will rebound.
  • Blue-chip stocks are shares in large, well-known companies with a solid history of growth. They generally pay dividends.

 

Another way to categorize stocks is by the size of the company, as shown in its market capitalization. There are large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap stocks. Shares in very small companies are sometimes called “microcap” stocks. The very lowest priced stocks are known as “penny stocks.” These companies may have little or no earnings. Penny stocks do not pay dividends and are highly speculative.

 

Structured Notes with Principal Protection

 

The retail market for structured notes with principal protection has been growing in recent years. While these products often have reassuring names that include some variant of “principal protection,” “capital guarantee,” “absolute return,” “minimum return” or similar terms, they are not risk-free. Any promise to repay some or all of the money you invest will depend on the creditworthiness of the issuer of the note—meaning you could lose all of your money if the issuer of your note goes bankrupt.

 

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. Most target date funds are designed so that the fund’s mix of investments will automatically change in a way that is intended to become more conservative as you approach the target date. Typically, the funds shift over time from a mix with a lot of stock investments in the beginning to a mix weighted more toward bonds. Target date funds are often available through 401(k) plans. Some 401(k) plans use these funds as the default investment for plan participants who have not selected their investments under the plan. Both before and after investing in a target date fund, consider carefully whether the fund is right for you.

 

   

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Additional information can be found at investor.gov

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