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10 Investments You Should Know

10 Investments You Should Know

    It’s impossible to miss the fact that stocks, real estate and bonds all make for decent investments (at least most of the time). But there are so many different investment options, most of which get minimal marketing. If you want to take a look at a wider variety of options, you should be able to at least tell an American Depository Receipt apart from a Convertible Security. There are about twenty investments that any investor should at least be familiar with and the ten listed below are the first half of that list.

    1. American Depository Receipt (ADR)

    ADRs are traded on U.S. stock markets just like regular stocks, but they actually represent shares in foreign corporations. An ADR is issued by a U.S.-based bank or brokerage, which buys a large number of shares from a company based outside the U.S. Those shares are bundled into groups and then resold; they are usually labeled with a ratio representing how many shares a particular ADR represents. The sponsoring bank collects detailed financial information about any company whose shares it resells. ADRs are a relatively simple way to invest in foreign companies and avoid the administrative and duty costs of international transactions. Other countries besides the U.S. have depository receipt opportunities available.

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    2. Annuity

    Annuities provide set payments at regular intervals to their owners. You can typically purchase an annuity through an insurance company, and you’ll have several options. An annuity can either be immediate or deferred: with a deferred annuity, you will not begin receiving payments for a certain period of time. Deferred annuities are often contracted for life — they’re set up so that as long as you live, the insurance company will send you a check at a regular interval. Annuities are also either fixed (the payments are set) or variable (there is a guaranteed minimum payment, as well as payments based on the performance of an annuity investment portfolio.

    3. Closed-End Investment Fund

    A closed-end fund issues shares that are traded just like stocks but are actually closer to mutual funds in the way the are managed. Closed-end funds hold portfolios of securities — usually securities that meet very specific criteria (i.e. come from particular industries). These fund are actively managed and may hold a few investments in stocks or bonds in order to diversify, but because of their focus on particular sectors, closed-end fund issues are not considered diverse. Some closed-end funds offer dividends.

    4. Collectibles

    Collectibles can be pretty much any physical asset with a value that increases over time. While most people consider fine art, stamps and similar purchases to be collectibles, there is no strict definition that includes or excludes a particular asset. The greatest drawback to collectibles is the fact that collectibles offer no income, unlike many other investments. However, a collectible’s appreciating value often outpaces inflation.

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    5. Common Stock

    Common stock is what most of us think of when we hear the word stock: a share of ownership in a particular company. It entitles you to a portion of the company’s profits as well as voting rights. The majority of stocks traded today are common stocks. While the benefits associated with owning stock can be great, it is a relatively risky investment. If a company that you own stock in goes bankrupt, as a common shareholder, you won’t receive money until the creditors, bondholders and preferred shareholders have all been paid off.

    6. Convertible Security

    Convertible securities are either preferred stock convertibles or convertible bonds. While you would purchase a convertible bond just as you would purchase a normal bond, you would have the opportunity to convert it into common stock in the company that issued it. Depending on the terms of the convertible bond, also known as the indenture, the bond could convert into a significant number of shares. Convertible bonds do provide a small amount of income, but the real value is that the bond can be converted into common stock.

    7. Corporate Bond

    Corporations issue bonds in order to raise money: when you buy a corporate bond, you’re essentially loaning a corporation money for the length of the bond. Not only will the corporation repay you the full face value of the bond (and your loan) but it will also pay you a coupon — a predetermined interest rate paid out every six months. Corporate bonds are more lucrative than government bonds, but they are also riskier.

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    8. Futures Contract

    A futures contract is a commitment to either deliver or receive a specific quantity of a commodity during a specific month at a specific price. Most futures contract are closed out before the expected delivery date and while they can be very risky, futures contracts can also provide for a simple way to manage price risks. They can provide impressive profits, due to their higher risk factors.

    9. Life Insurance

    While life insurance may not seem like an investment on the surface, it provides a return on your monthly payments. No matter how long you may have been paying for a life insurance polity, its value is set. It’s a relatively low-risk investment because insurance is heavily regulated by the government.

    10. The Money Market

    Through the money market, you can buy fixed-income securities, primarily short-term securities that last less than a year. Unless you are able to deal in the very high denominations that most money market securities are sold in, you will likely have to purchase these securities through a money market mutual fund or bank account. Returns on money market investments are highly dependent on the current interest rate and are considered low risk.

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    Check back on Thursday for the other ten investments that you should know.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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