Maybe you’re new to investing and you aren’t sure about the concept on the whole. Maybe you are wondering why on earth do people invest at all. Good thoughts that I’ll try to explain.
Investing is a confusing concept to many individuals. They have heard all sorts of mixed signals from the talking heads on CNBC, FOX, or any other you want to name. Big words, complex information, hot tips and insider trading are what comes to mind when picturing the idea of investing in stocks, bonds, or any other alternative.
The good news is much of what you’ve heard is wrong. The people spewing most of the investment nonsense on TV are just plain wrong. They play on people’s emotions while taking advantage of the general ignorance that surrounds investing. If you were to track their actually investment recommendations you would see just how abysmal they are. Funny thing is, somehow they’re still being paid to give investment advice…
The concept of investing itself is quite simple. It’s the practice of lending your money to an individual or institution. In return, you’ll likely wind up being paid more money than you originally invested. This occurs through a variety of means which I’ll discuss in a later article.
Investing is the antonym of borrowing. When you borrow and spend money you don’t have, you pay interest on the amount borrowed. The person who lends you the money is the investor, and he is making the interest that you are paying.
Simply stated, people invest to make more money. Simple enough, right?
Why Do People Invest? – Inflation
The more technical reason that most people choose to invest is inflationary pressures. Inflation is an economic concept that explains why the price of goods and services increases over time.
In this country, the Federal Reserve (Fed) tries to control and manipulate inflation. In fact, they think some inflation (probably around 2.5%) is good for the economy. Many people would disagree, especially since many wages haven’t kept up with inflation over the last 20 years, but that’s how it is.
So they manipulate the money supply, the value of the dollar, and interest rates to control the inflation rate. Because the dollar has decreased in value and the Fed continues to increase the number of dollars in circulation, inflation will continue to occur, and prices will continue to rise.
Pretty sucky, right? Dollars are worth less and prices keep going up! Yeah it sucks if you stick your money in a mattress or a local bank that pays you 0.04% interest!
That’s what a lot of people don’t understand. By refusing to invest in something that at least keeps pace with inflation, they are actually losing money. The purchasing power of their money is decreasing, as is their true wealth. So dig up those coffee cans and contact Vanguard today!
Investing has historically provided a way to outpace inflation and grow wealth. Although inflation has averaged between 3-4% per year, investments have returned more than that. In fact, stocks have returned close to 10% per year, on average, over the last century.
Why Do People Invest? – Goals and Retirement
Investing allows us to set aside money for specific goals, while often providing tax benefits. A perfect example is saving for retirement through a 401k plan. If you choose to set aside money from your paycheck to fund a 401k retirement account, the government won’t tax you on that money until many years down the road when it is withdrawn for retirement. This money is said to be tax deferred because it is not taxed in the year it is earned, providing a temporary tax break.
There are numerous other tax benefits related to investing. Many pertain to retirement accounts, but not all. There are also lower tax rates for the earnings on certain asset classes, most commonly stocks and real estate.
By saving and investing, it is possible to earn enough passive investment income to pay for all living expenses. Some might call that financial freedom. At that point, you can choose to pursue whatever career, job, or hobby you desire. How’s that for motivation?
Primary Investment Options
As stated above, stocks are a good investment and have historically provided high returns for investors. In simple terms, stocks provide a way to invest in real companies. Stocks represent actual ownership of a publicly traded company, and the stock owner (investor) is entitled to a share of company profits.
So by investing in stocks, you are lending money to a company who promised to grow, expand, and create profits to give back to you.
Stocks are not without risk. The stock market on the whole has plummeted many times throughout history, and it will almost surely do it again. But that means that up years provide huge returns. Remember, 10% return per year average means that some years provide much higher stock returns to offset the huge drops that occur.
Bonds are much different. They represent debt. A company issues bonds to raise money as well, but the bond represents outstanding debt that must be paid. So the investor lends money and purchases a bond, and the company is in debt to the investor. The company must pay the investor back at a set date, along with periodic interest payments to reward the investor.
Bonds are less risky than stocks and usually return less to the investor. Older individuals tend to favor bonds more than young investors because of the decreased risk and guaranteed income provided by the interest payments by the issuing company.
Real estate is another viable investment option. Historically, real estate prices have risen at about the same rate as inflation. Not great you say? Well most people make their money in long term rentals or flipping. With a little knowledge and hustle, real estate can provide excellent returns while offering some friendly tax benefits for investors.
I’ll get into more investing details on upcoming articles, so stay tuned. Are you still wondering, “Why do people invest?” If so, post a comment!