Investment categories and risk

Risk vs reward

Different kinds of investments mean putting your money at different levels of risk. Greater risk equals potentially greater reward. Here’s a simplified way of looking at risk versus reward.

Chart displaying increasing levels of risk and reward for different investment categories. From lowest risk and reward to highest – capital preservation, bonds, large cap stocks, mid cap stocks, small cap stocks and international stocks.

Investment categories

Short-Term Investments (fixed accounts/cash) – Short-term investments are sometimes referred to as cash equivalents because they can be easily sold (converted to cash) without affecting their value. While these short-term investments are generally less risky than stocks or bonds, their returns are also usually much lower and may not keep pace with inflation. A variety of investment types can be generally categorized as short-term investments, including Certificates of Deposit (CDs), Money Market Accounts (MMAs) and Treasury bills (T-bills). The Plan’s short-term investment option is a stable value fund. Because the value of the securities held by stable value funds will fluctuate, there is the risk that an investor will lose money by investing in stable value funds.

Bond Funds – Bond funds are made of bonds purchased from a government entity or corporation that agrees to pay back the original amount paid along with interest on a specified date. Many bonds are generally more stable than stocks and provide a steadier flow of income. However, they also typically provide a lower rate of return. High-yield bond securities are typically subject to greater risk and price volatility than funds which invest in higher-rated securities.

Balanced Funds – Balanced funds typically invest in a combination of stocks (which tend to be higher risk), bonds (which tend to be more stable), and, occasionally, short-term investments. This is similar to an asset allocation approach, but the asset mix is never adjusted in response to the investor’s age or risk tolerance. This fund is aimed at preserving proportionate levels of risk, safety and gains.

Large-Cap Funds – Large-cap refers to companies with market values (or capitalization) greater than $10 billion. Because these tend to be large, established corporations, their stocks generally offer lower risk than stocks from mid- and small-cap companies.

Mid-Cap Funds – Mid-cap refers to companies with market values (or capitalization) between $2 billion and $10 billion. These stocks are typically more volatile than large-cap stocks but less risky than small-cap stocks.

Small-Cap Funds – Small-cap refers to companies with market values (or capitalization) under $2 billion. Small companies can often grow much faster than big companies, but their stocks also tend to be riskier.

International Funds – These funds include stock in companies located outside of the United States. These stocks may trade on either the U.S. or foreign stock exchanges and are generally considered higher-risk investments. Risks include currency fluctuations, political instability, differences in accounting standards and foreign regulations.

Specialty Funds* – Specialty funds are mutual funds investing primarily in the securities of a particular industry, sector, type of security or geographic region. Funds that focus on real estate investing are sensitive to economic and business cycles, changing demographic patterns and government actions.

*Examples of specialty funds include real estate, energy, health care and other specific industry-specific funds. Not all plans offer Specialty Funds. Check with your plan.

Investing involves risk. You could lose money. And there is no guarantee that investment objectives will be achieved.

Asset allocation, rebalancing and diversification do not assure a profit or protect against loss in a down market.