She has been working in the financial planning industry for over 20 years and spends her days helping her clients gain clarity, confidence, and control over their financial lives. Everything in life is about trade-offs. With low-risk investment choices , you are unlikely to lose your principal, but you are also unlikely to earn a very high rate of return. If this is the kind of trade-off you are looking for, then below are seven low-risk investment options to consider.
A savings account at your bank or credit union is low risk. Your account value is not going to fluctuate. Yet, you can lose money in a slow and steady way—similar to how erosion works. Bank savings accounts are the best choice when you need access to your money at any time.
Banks issue certificates of deposit CDs that guarantee you a specific interest rate over a specific term, such as six months, one year, or five years. If you withdraw the money before the end of the term, a penalty may apply. Like savings accounts, CDs are low risk. CDs can be a good place to park money for a purchase you know you will need to make at a specific time in the future. The U. Government issues numerous types of securities, all considered low-risk investments. You buy these types of investments electronically directly from the U.
Treasury through an online account. For many people, it's as easy as linking it to a checking account. Your bank may offer a money market account, which may pay a slightly higher interest rate than a standard savings account. You may be required to keep a minimum balance to qualify for the higher interest rate.
Money market accounts are slightly different from money market funds. Stable value is an investment option that is available within most, though not all, k plans. It is a low-risk investment with the objective of preserving your principal, providing liquidity so you can transfer out of it at any time, and achieving returns comparable to short and intermediate-term bonds—but with less volatility less up and down fluctuations. Most near-retirees should consider stable value as part of their portfolio within their k plan.
Fixed annuities are issued by an insurance company. They are low risk because the insurance company contractually agrees to pay you a fixed interest rate. Investors also have to include factors such as time horizon , expected returns, and knowledge when thinking about risk. On the whole, the longer an investor can wait, the more likely that investor is to achieve the expected returns. There is certainly some correlation between risk and return and investors expecting huge returns need to accept a much larger risk of underperformance.
Knowledge is also important—not only in identifying those investments most likely to achieve their expected return or better but also incorrectly identifying the likelihood and magnitude of what can go wrong. National Safety Council. Certificate of Deposits CDs. Risk Management. Quantitative Analysis.
Trading Strategies. Your Money. Personal Finance. Your Practice. Popular Courses. Table of Contents Expand. Table of Contents. Low-Risk vs. High-Risk Investments: An Overview. High-Risk Investment. Low-Risk Investment.
Special Considerations. Trading Skills Risk Management. High-Risk Investments: An Overview Risk is absolutely fundamental to investing; no discussion of returns or performance is meaningful without at least some mention of the risk involved.
Key Takeaways There are no perfect definitions or measurements of risk. Inexperienced investors would do well to think of risk in terms of the odds that a given investment or portfolio of investments will fail to achieve the expected return and the magnitude by which it could miss that target.
By better understanding what risk is and where it can come from, investors can work to build portfolios that not only have a lower probability of loss but a lower maximum potential loss as well. Article Sources. Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate.
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Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace. Related Articles. Mutual Funds. Partner Links. The efficient frontier comprises investment portfolios that offer the highest expected return for a specific level of risk. What Is a Balanced Investment Strategy?
A balanced investment strategy combines asset classes in a portfolio in an attempt to balance risk and return. Sharpe Ratio Definition The Sharpe ratio is used to help investors understand the return of an investment compared to its risk. What Is Expected Return? The expected return is the amount of profit or loss an investor can anticipate receiving on an investment over time. Excess Returns Definition Excess returns are returns achieved above and beyond the return of a proxy.
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Why they're safe: The short-term debt assets that money market funds hold tend to be very low-risk themselves, like CDs and US Treasuries. They are very liquid and come from sound issuers. What they are: Corporate bonds are debt instruments used by companies to raise money. Investors buy the bond, essentially loaning money to the issuing company, and then receive regular interest payments.
When the bond matures, the company pays back the principal. Corporate bonds receive letter grades from independent credit rating agencies; these ratings reflect the financial soundness and credit history of the issuing company. Why they're safe: The AAA rating is the highest grade a company and its debt can receive. Companies rated AAA by credit rating agencies have been judged to have an extremely high capacity to meet their financial obligations — so it's unlikely they'll default on the bond's interest payments or fail to repay the principal.
They are considered the lowest-risk of equities. Why they're safe: As stocks, blue chips rank higher on the risk spectrum than bonds, but not by much. These companies have "made it" — they have long histories of success and are often leaders in their fields. They pay dividends steadily, and their shares hold their value; both tend to move gently but steadily up.
No guarantees, of course — there have been blue chips that crashed and burned in the past — but it's more likely that at worst, a blue chip will stagnate, rather than decline, in value. What they are: Exchange-traded funds are publicly traded securities that hold a basket of similar assets, often designed to track an index of a particular type of asset.
There's an ETF for just about every asset in the investment universe, and that includes low-risk ones. Why they're safe: Diversification by its nature lessens risk: It's the old safety-in-numbers principle. ETFs that purchase a portfolio of other low-risk assets, like bonds, are particularly low risk. Economical, too: Buying just a few shares of an ETF gives you exposure to dozens of bonds or stocks.
What they are: Annuities are an insurance product, technically a contract with an insurer. You invest a sum with an insurance company now, and they pay your principal back to you with interest in a series of payments later — for a set period, or even as long as you live.
There are different types of annuities, but fixed-rate annuities — which pay the same, set amount of interest — are among the lowest-risk. Why they're safe: Dierdre Woodruff , senior vice president and secretary at Canvas Annuity , notes that you're guaranteed to get your money back, with a predictable interest rate.
It's part of your arrangement with the insurance company. They are obligated to make those payments at the set rate. Of course, there's always the risk the insurance company will fail and no, there's no FDIC insurance that covers your funds. Low-risk investments protect you on the downside, but often don't offer much on the upside. And the safer they are, the less they pay. Johnson , professor of finance at Creighton University's Heider College of Business, notes that Treasury bills only returned 3.
In contrast, large-cap stocks returned And you do lose something with safe investments: the opportunity for higher returns — from another investment. Another downside to low-risk investments, especially those paying fixed interest rates, is inflation risk — the risk that rising prices will eat into the principal or the returns of your investment. That's one reason why longer-term CDs and bonds pay higher interest than shorter ones — the increased risk from inflation.
That's why time matters. If an investor's time horizon is short, low-risk investments with low yields can work. But over a long term, low-risk investments that pay returns lower than inflation end up losing their value. Although liquidity is a component of low-risk investments, many of them do lock up your money. CDs often charge fees if you want to cash out before the term ends. Annuities can come with steep penalties for taking your money out early, especially after payments begin.
Rosen suggests that this illiquidity puts them slightly higher on the risk spectrum. Any investment has some risk. But if you invest in the low-risk assets above, you'll almost always get back what you put in — and usually more. Although every portfolio can use some of the safety they offer, they're best for very conservative investors who want to access their money in the short term. Just be aware that low-risk also typically means low yield.
In the long-term, if they don't keep up with inflation, these can actually cost you money. What this means for investors is that they must consider both the likelihood and the magnitude of bad outcomes. By nature, with low-risk investing, there is less at stake—either in terms of the amount of invested or the significance of the investment to the portfolio.
There is also less to gain—either in terms of the potential return or the potential benefit bigger term. Low-risk investing not only means protecting against the chance of any loss, but it also means making sure that none of the potential losses will be devastating. Let us consider a few examples to further illustrate the difference between high-risk and low-risk investments.
Biotechnology stocks are notoriously risky. The vast majority of new experimental cures will fail, and, not surprisingly, most biotech stocks will also eventually fail. Thus, there is both a high percentage chance of underperformance most will fail and a large amount of potential underperformance. In comparison, a United States Treasury bond offers a very different risk profile. There is almost no chance that an investor holding a Treasury bond will fail to receive the stated interest and principal payments.
Even if there were delays in payment extremely rare in the history of the United States , investors would likely recoup a large portion of the investment. Investors need to look at risk from a number of angles, considering factors such as diversification, time horizon, expected returns, and short- and long-term goals.
It is also important to consider the effect that diversification can have on the risk of an investment portfolio. Generally speaking, the dividend-paying stocks of major Fortune corporations are quite safe, and investors can be expected to earn mid-to-high single-digit returns over the course of many years. That said, there is always a risk that an individual company will fail.
Companies such as Eastman Kodak and Woolworths are famous examples of one-time success stories that eventually went under. Moreover, market volatility is always possible. If an investor holds all of their money in one stock, the odds of a bad event happening may still be relatively low, but the potential severity is quite high. Hold a portfolio of 10 such stocks, though, and not only does the risk of portfolio underperformance decline, the magnitude of the potential overall portfolio also declines.
Investors need to be willing to look at risk in comprehensive and flexible ways. For instance, diversification is an important part of risk. Holding a portfolio of investments that all have low risk—but all have the same risk—can be quite dangerous. For example, while the odds of an individual plane crashing is very rare, many large airlines still have or will experience a crash. Holding a portfolio of low-risk Treasury bonds may seem like very low-risk investing, but they all share the same risks; the occurrence of a very low-probability event such as a U.
Investors also have to include factors such as time horizon , expected returns, and knowledge when thinking about risk. On the whole, the longer an investor can wait, the more likely that investor is to achieve the expected returns. There is certainly some correlation between risk and return and investors expecting huge returns need to accept a much larger risk of underperformance.
Knowledge is also important—not only in identifying those investments most likely to achieve their expected return or better but also incorrectly identifying the likelihood and magnitude of what can go wrong.
National Safety Council. Certificate of Deposits CDs. Risk Management. Quantitative Analysis. Trading Strategies. Your Money. Personal Finance. Your Practice. Popular Courses. Table of Contents Expand. Table of Contents. Low-Risk vs. High-Risk Investments: An Overview. High-Risk Investment. Low-Risk Investment. Special Considerations.
Low Risk Investments are. Here are the best low-risk investments in May · High-yield savings accounts · Series I savings bonds · Short-term certificates of deposit. Savings accounts, cash ISAs, annuities, government bonds and protected funds are considered low risk investments. Cash is the most stable investment option, but.