What investment advice do you have for someone looking to grow their money?
How do investments rank in terms of risk?
This includes keeping your cash in a checking/savings account or certificate of deposit (CD). What are CDs? When you put your money in a certificate of deposit, you are loaning money to the bank for X amount of time. Usually somewhere between a month and five years. Unlike a checking or savings account, you will not be able to withdraw that money for X amount of time. If you do so, you will be charged a penalty. The penalty can vary CD to CD. For example, on a one year CD, Bank of America has been known to charge $25 in cash plus 3 percent of principal for early withdrawal. While, Bank of the West charges a penalty of only 30 days of interest.
In exchange for putting your money in a CD, the bank will give you slightly higher interest rates compared to the checking/savings account. If the bank is a FDIC insured bank, that CD is safe. Should the bank default, if your deposit is less than 250,000, the government will give you that money. If you keep your money in a checking or savings account at the current interest rates you will probably earn less than 1% return on your money. With CDs the longer your terms are the higher the payout is. So for example, if you have a CD for 6 months versus a CD for 3 years, the CD for three years will have a higher interest rate. Though at current market levels, in my opinion, for the additional time (6 months to 3 years) you keep your money in a CD, is not worth the additional payout. With these investments, the upside is low, but so is your downside.
Even within bonds there are different risk levels. You have treasury bonds, which are issued by the government and work a lot like CDs. They may have slightly higher rates of returns than CDs, but the terms are for longer periods of time. A CDs can be as short as one month, but bonds usually are for multiple years. Alternatively, you can invest in treasury bills, which are shorter term investments also issued by the government and are comparable to CD terms. Because treasury bonds and bills are issued by the government, they are considered safer investments.
Corporate bonds are issued by corporations looking to borrow money. They are slightly more risky because should the company default, you may or may not get your money back. The upside is that they offer slightly higher rates of return than treasury bonds. Compared to treasury bonds, corporate bonds can provide returns of on average 5% annually whereas the treasury bonds average less than 3% at current levels. With mutual funds, investment companies create portfolios that includes both stocks and bonds thereby spreading the risk out. This might be a good way to go if you don't want to bother with making your own investment picks. The highest consistent average return I've seen for mutual funds is about 10% annual return.