What Is Investing?

Investing involves putting capital (usually money) into a company, security or other asset with the expectation of generating returns. Historically, investing—particularly in the stock market—has proven one of the best ways to build wealth and save for retirement.

Investing, explained

Investing is the act of allocating capital into an asset that you hope will turn a profit. Your total collection of assets makes up your portfolio.

Types of investment instruments

You can invest in several types of assets based on your risk tolerance and preferences. Common asset classes include:

  • Cash and equivalents
  • Stocks (equities)
  • Bonds
  • Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
  • Commodities like oil, precious metals and agricultural products

Risks and returns

Investing requires a tradeoff between risk and return. As a rule, riskier investments have higher return potential, and vice versa. (Though nothing is guaranteed.)

The risk-return tradeoff varies between asset classes. Generally, cash and equivalents are considered the safest, followed by bonds, then stocks, then more advanced investments like commodities and real estate.

Risk and return also varies between individual securities. For instance, stocks are usually riskier than bonds. But penny stocks (cheap, relatively illiquid equities) are often riskier than blue-chip stocks issued by large, stable companies.

Risk tolerance

Before investing, it’s crucial to know your:

  • Goals, or why you’re investing

  • Time horizon, or how long you have before you need the money
  • Risk tolerance, or how much risk you can handle

These factors can influence your investment strategy. Younger investors can often handle more risk than those closer to retirement. But if volatility makes you nervous, you may prefer a more conservative portfolio.

Types of investors

Every investor has their own preferences and needs. But generally, you can divide investors into two categories: active or passive.

  • Active investors try to beat the market by making frequent trades and timing the market. However, this method risks greater long-term losses due to trading costs or ill-timed transactions. 
  • Passive investors are less involved, often using index funds or ETFs to build a diversified portfolio. While you may not beat the market, you’ll pay lower fees.

What this means for you

Investing is one of the best ways to grow your wealth and save for retirement. With a well-diversified portfolio, you can build financial security thanks to price appreciation, dividend payouts and the magic of compound growth.

If you’re ready to start investing, Q.ai makes it easy. Instead of taking the DIY approach and getting your hands dirty, our robo-advisor can help you get started with a brief survey to assess your needs. Then, we’ll help build the perfect portfolio to suit your situation—all while minimizing your tax bill and maximizing your earnings potential.

Best of all, you can start with just $100 and no fees, ever.

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