The Art of Mortgage Pre-Approval

Buying a home can feel like a cut-throat process. You may find the craftsman style house of your dreams only to be bumped out of the running by a buyer paying in all cash, or moving super swiftly. But fear not, understanding the home buying process and getting a mortgage pre-approval can put you back in the race and help you secure the house you want.

What is Mortgage Pre-approval?

Mortgage pre-approval is essentially a letter from a lender that states that you qualify for a loan of a certain amount and at a certain interest rate based on an evaluation of your credit and financial history. You’ll need to shop for homes within the price range guaranteed by your pre-approved mortgage. You can find out how much house you can afford with our home affordability calculator.

Armed with a letter of pre-approval you can show sellers that you are a serious homebuyer with the means to purchase a home. In many ways it’s competitive to buying a home in cash. In the eyes of the seller, pre-approval can often push you ahead of other potential buyers who have not yet been approved for a mortgage.

Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage is not the same as pre-approval. It’s actually a relatively simple process in which a lender looks at a few financial details, such as income, assets, and debt, and gives you an estimate of how much of a mortgage they think you can afford.

Taking out a mortgage is a huge step and pre-qualification can help you hunt down reputable lenders and find a loan that potentially works for you. Going through this process can be useful, because it gives you an idea of your buying power, or how much house you can afford.

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It also gives you an idea of what your monthly payment might be and is a chance to shop around to various lenders to see what types of terms and interest rates they offer. Pre-qualification is not a guarantee that you will actually qualify for a mortgage.

Getting pre-approval is a more complicated process. You’ll have to fill out an application with your lender and agree to a credit check in addition to providing information about your income and assets. There are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of pre-approval or to increase the amount your lender will approve. Consider the following:

Building Your Credit

Think of this as step zero when you apply for any type of loan. Lenders want to see that you have a history of properly managing your debt before offering you credit themselves. You can build credit history by opening and using a credit card and paying your bills on time. Or consider having regular payments , such as your rent, tracked and added to your credit score.

Checking Your Credit

If you’ve already established a credit history, the first thing you’ll want to do before applying for a mortgage is check your credit report and your FICO score. Your credit report is a history of your credit compiled from sources such as banks, credit card companies, collection agencies, and the government.

This information is collected by the three main credit reporting bureaus, Transunion, Equifax and Experian. Your FICO score is one number that represents your credit risk should a lender offer you a loan.
You’ll want to make sure that the information on your credit report is correct.

If you find any mistakes, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately to let them know. You don’t want any incorrect information weighing down your credit score, putting your chances for pre-approval at risk.

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Stay on Top of Your Debt

Your ability to pay your bills on time has a big impact on your credit score. If you can, make sure you make regular payments. And if your budget allows, you can make payments in full. If you have any debts that are dragging on your credit score—for example, debts that are in collection—work on paying them off first, as this can give your score a more immediate boost.

Watch Your Debt-to-income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is your monthly debts divided by your monthly income. If you have $1,000 a month in debt payments and make $5,000 a month, your debt-income ratio is $1,000 divided by $5,000, or 20%.

Lenders may assume that borrowers with a high debt-to-income ratio will have a harder time making their mortgage payments. Keep your debt-to-income ratio in check by avoiding making large purchases before seeking pre-approval for a mortgage. For example, you may want to hold off on buying a new car until you’ve been pre-approved.

Prove Consistent Income

Your lender will want to know that you’ve got enough money coming in each month to cover a potential mortgage payment. So, they’ll likely ask you to prove that you have consistent income for at least two years by taking a look at your income documents (W-2, 1099 etc.).

For some potential borrowers, such as freelancers, this may be a tricky process since you may have income from various sources. Keep all pay stubs, tax returns, and other proof of income and be prepared to show them to your lender.

What Happens if You’re Rejected?

Rejection hurts. But if you aren’t pre-approved, or you aren’t approved for a large enough mortgage to buy the house you want, you also aren’t powerless. First, ask the bank why they made the decision they did. This will give you an idea about what you might need to work on in order to secure the mortgage you want.

SoFi Mortgage.


The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Mortgages are not available in all states. Products and terms may vary from those advertised on this site. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria#eligibility-mortgage for details.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

SOMG18100

Source: sofi.com

When You Donate Blood, You Save Lives and Earn Gift Cards

One pint of blood can save three lives. That alone is what drives people to roll up their sleeves and get that needle prick. But there’s another good reason to sign up to be a regular blood donor: Gift cards.

You get a lot more than a T-shirt and some peanut butter crackers these days when you donate blood. Blood collection organizations routinely give out $20 worth of gift cards to Amazon, restaurants and major retailers at blood drives. You can give blood every 56 days, or six times a year.

So, a couple can average $240 in perks and save 36 lives in one year. For a family of four with kids above 16 and old enough to donate, that’s about $500 in gift cards per year and 72 lives saved.

“One time we went to Kohl’s and there was a blood drive in the parking lot,” said Beverly Mattis of Wake Forest, N.C. “They gave us each a $20 Kohl’s gift card so my daughter and I went in and did some shopping afterward.”

A man wearing a face mask shows off his gift certificates after donating blood.
Exavier Jones shows off his $10 gift certificate after donating blood at a OneBlood Big Red Bus in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Exavier Jones gave blood recently at a OneBlood mobile collection bus outside casual dining restaurant Carrabba’s Italian Grill in St. Petersburg.

“I’m type O. That’s always needed, so I try to give as often as I can,” he said, explaining that any blood type can accept type O blood. He received a $10 Carrabba’s gift card and a $10 e-gift card to use at one of a variety of retailers.

How to Get the Perks of Being a Regular Blood Donor

If you register to be a blood donor with the blood collection organization in your area, you will receive texts or emails with dates of upcoming blood drives and the perks. There are many blood collection organizations around the country. Here are three of the biggest, and how to register:

There’s no requirement that you give a certain number of times a year, but there is encouragement.

OneBlood, which collects blood in the Southeast, partnered with Carrabba’s to give $10 gift cards each time someone donated between January and April. Those who gave twice received an additional $25 gift card along with the two $10 cards.

“I got $10. I’m going to go inside and have a lasagna dinner tonight,” said Bill Howard after donating at the Carrabba’s in St. Petersburg.

The gift cards are nice for sure, he said, but the main reason he gives regularly is because he was stabbed during the Vietnam War and needed a lot of blood to survive. He wants to save others like a stranger’s blood once saved him.

A man wearing a camouflage hat poses for a portrait outside of a blood donation bus.
Bill Howard donates blood regularly because his life was saved by a person who donated blood after he was stabbed in the Vietnam War. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

“I would say most of the time at almost all of our drives our intention is to have a donor gift,” said Pat Michaels, OneBlood director of media relations. “It could be Carrabba’s, Publix, Red Lobster. We have built up some wonderful partners,” he said.

OneBlood also gives out tickets donated by the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, the Daytona 500 and Carowinds amusement park near Charlotte, N.C.

Along with gift cards and tickets, many blood collection groups also give out swag such as beach towels, fleece blankets, car sun shades and insulated water bottles.

Vitalant, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is the largest nonprofit blood service provider in the country serving 40 states. It hosts more than 30,000 blood drives a year and offers a variety of perks and incentives for blood donors.

Vitalant is partnering with the Arizona Diamondbacks to encourage high school students there to organize blood drives at school. The team will host more than 1,000 students from blood drive committees. Organizers from the two schools who achieve the most donations will share a party suite at a Diamondbacks game.

Vitalant is also encouraging women to organize a blood drive with friends the same as they might host a party at their homes selling jewelry or clothes. An organizer can invite eight friends to a private party at a collection center that’s catered with fun food where donors receive gift cards and other swag.

For donors with a sweet tooth, Vitalant recently promoted a pint-for-a-pint offer. Donors who gave a pint of blood received a voucher for a free pint of frozen custard at Culver’s.

The American Red Cross recently offered $5 Amazon gift cards to some donors, and their names were entered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2022 Indianapolis 500. Winners will receive pit credentials, airfare, hotel accommodations and a $500 gift card. Other Red Cross blood drives enter donors’ names in a drawing for a chance to win a $1,000 e-Gift card to one of several stores.

More Perks for Donating Platelets

Platelets are small cells that stop bleeding by forming clots. Donated platelets are used for cancer patients, transplants, burn patients and traumatic injuries.

When someone donates platelets, a machine extracts them from whole blood then returns the rest of the blood back to the donor. The process takes about three hours.

Because it takes longer than donating whole blood, more perks are offered for people who give platelets, which can be donated every seven days. OneBlood recently challenged platelet donors to a two-month program offering gift cards valued at $25 for their second donation, $50 for their third and $75 for their fourth.

It is also promoting a three month challenge, offering gift cards valued at $25 for the second donation, $50 for the third, $75 for the fourth, $100 for the fifth and $125 for the sixth. That’s a total of $375 in gift cards in three months.

People line up at a blood donation bus to donate blood.
According to Givingblood.org, only 37% of the U.S. population can donate blood. Less than 10 percent of those people donate blood at least once a year. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Constant Need Increased During the Pandemic

Even in typical times, blood collection organizations are constantly trying to recruit more donors. Only 37% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, and less than 10 percent of those people do so at least once a year, according to Givingblood.org.

Numerous impacts of COVID-19 made it even harder to reach and encourage donors, according to Michaels at OneBlood.

“There has been every reason for there to be a shortage of blood drives,” he said. Blood drives at colleges, high schools and office buildings were cancelled for months on end because they were closed.

“We had to recover by creating new partnerships,” Michaels said. OneBlood worked with county elections offices across the country as well as hundreds of homeowners associations to connect with groups of people who would sign up for blood drives, he said.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Is a Bond Mutual Fund – Risks & Different Types of This Investment

Investing is an important part of saving for the future, but many people are wary of putting their money into the stock market. Stocks can be volatile, with prices that change every day. If you can’t handle the volatility and risk of stocks or want to diversify your portfolio into a less risky investment, bonds are a good way to do so.

As with many types of investments, you can invest in bonds through a mutual fund, which gives you easy diversification and professional portfolio management — for a fee.

Are bond mutual funds a good addition to your portfolio? Here are the basics of these investment vehicles.

What Is a Bond?

A bond is a type of debt security. When organizations such as national and local governments, government agencies, or companies want to borrow money, one of the ways they can get the loan they need is by issuing a bond.

Investors purchase bonds from the organizations issuing them. Typically, bonds come with an interest rate and a maturity. For example, a company might sell bonds with an interest rate of 5% and a maturity of 20 years.

The investor would pay the company $1,000 for a $1,000 bond. Each year, that investor receives an interest payment of $50 (5% of $1,000). After 20 years, the investor receives a final interest payment plus the $1,000 they paid to buy the bond.


What Is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is a way for investors to invest in a diverse portfolio while only having to purchase a single security.

Mutual funds pool money from many investors and use that money to buy bonds, stocks, and other securities. Each investor in the fund effectively owns a portion of the fund’s portfolio, so an investor can buy shares in one mutual fund to get exposure to hundreds of stocks or bonds.

This makes it easy for investors to diversify their portfolios.

Mutual fund managers make sure the fund’s portfolio follows their stated strategy and work towards the fund’s stated goal. Mutual funds charge a fee, called an expense ratio, for their services, which is important for investors to keep in mind when comparing funds.

Pro tip: Most mutual funds can be purchased through the individual fund family or through an online broker like Robinhood or Public.


Types of Bond Mutual Funds

There are many types of bond mutual funds that people can invest in.

1. Government

Government bond funds invest most of their money into bonds issued by different governments. Most American government bond funds invest primarily in bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury.

U.S. government debt is seen as some of the safest debt available. There is very little chance that the United States will default on its payments. That security can be appealing for investors, but also translates to lower interest rates than other bonds.

2. Corporate

Corporate bond funds invest most of their assets into bonds issued by companies.

Just like individuals, businesses receive credit ratings that affect how much interest they have to pay to lenders — in this case, investors looking to buy their bonds. Most corporate bond funds buy “investment-grade” bonds, which include the highest-rated bonds from the most creditworthy companies.

The lower a bond’s credit rating, the higher the interest rate it will pay. However, lower credit ratings also translate to a higher risk of default, so corporate bond funds will hold a mixture of bonds from a variety of companies to help diversify their risks.

3. Municipal

Municipal bonds are bonds issued by state and local governments, as well as government agencies.

Like businesses, different municipalities can have different credit ratings, which impacts the interest they must pay to sell their bonds. Municipal bond funds own a mixture of different bonds to help reduce the risk of any one issuer defaulting on its payments.

One unique perk of municipal bonds is that some or all of the interest that investors earn can be tax-free. The tax treatment of the returns depends on the precise holdings of the fund and where the investor lives.

Some mutual fund companies design special municipal bond funds for different states, giving investors from those states an option that provides completely tax-free yields.

The tax advantages municipal bond funds offer can make their effective yields higher than other bond funds that don’t offer tax-free yields. For example, someone in the 24% tax bracket would need to earn just under 4% on a taxable bond fund to get the equivalent return of a tax-free municipal bond fund offering 3%.

4. High-Yield

High-yield bond funds invest in bonds that offer higher interest rates than other bonds, like municipal bonds and government bonds.

Typically, this means buying bonds from issuers with lower credit ratings than investment-grade bonds. These bonds are sometimes called junk bonds. Their name comes from the fact that they are significantly riskier than other types of bonds, so there’s a higher chance that the issuer defaults and stops making interest payments.

Bond mutual funds diversify by buying bonds from hundreds of different issuers, which can help reduce this risk, but there’s still a good chance that some of the bonds in the fund’s portfolio will go into default, which can drag down the fund’s performance.

5. International

Foreign governments and companies need to borrow money just like American companies and governments. There’s nothing stopping Americans from investing in foreign bonds, so there are some mutual funds that focus on buying international bonds.

Each country and company has a credit rating that impacts the interest rate it has to pay. Many stable governments are seen as highly safe, much like the United States, but smaller or less economically developed nations sometimes have lower credit ratings, leading them to pay higher interest rates.

Another factor to keep in mind with international bonds is the currency they’re denominated in.

With American bonds, you buy the bond in dollars and get interest payments in dollars. If you buy a British bond, you might have to convert your dollars to pounds to buy the bond and receive your interest payments in pounds. This adds some currency risk to the equation, which can make investing in international bond funds more complex.

6. Mixed

Some bond mutual funds don’t specialize in any single type of bond. Instead, they hold a variety of bonds, foreign and domestic, government and corporate. This lets the fund managers focus on buying high-quality bonds with solid yields instead of restricting themselves to a specific class of bonds.


Why Invest in Bond Mutual Funds?

There are a few reasons for investors to consider investing in bond mutual funds.

Reduce Portfolio Risk and Volatility

One advantage of investing in bonds is that they tend to be much less risky and volatile than stocks.

Investing in stocks or mutual funds that hold stocks is an effective way to grow your investment portfolio. The S&P 500, for example, has averaged returns of almost 10% per year over the past century. However, in some years, the index has moved almost 40% upward or downward.

Over the long term, it’s easier to handle the volatility of stocks, but some people don’t have long-term investing goals. For example, people in retirement are more concerned with producing income and maintaining their spending power.

Putting some of your portfolio into bonds can reduce the impact of volatile stocks on your portfolio. This can be good for more risk-averse investors or those who have shorter time horizons for their investments.

There are some mutual funds, called target-date mutual funds, that hold a mix of stocks and bonds and increase their bond holdings over time, reducing risk as the target date nears.

Income

Bonds make regular interest payments to their holders and the majority of bond funds use some of the money they receive to make payments to their investors. This makes bond mutual funds popular among investors who want to make their investment portfolio a source of passive income.

You can look at different bond mutual funds and their annual yields to get an idea of how much income they’ll provide each year. For example, if a mutual fund offers a yield of 2.5%, investors can expect to receive $250 each year for every $10,000 they invest in the fund.

Pro tip: Have you considered hiring a financial advisor but don’t want to pay the high fees? Enter Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. When you sign up you’ll work closely with an advisor to create a custom investment plan that can help you meet your financial goals. Read our Vanguard Personal Advisor Services review.


Risks of Bond Funds

Before investing in bonds or bond mutual funds, you should consider the risks of investing in bonds.

Interest Rate Risk

One of the primary risks of fixed-income investing — whether you’re investing in bonds or bond funds — is interest rate risk.

Investors can buy and sell most bonds on the open market in addition to buying newly issued bonds directly from the issuing company or government. The market value of a bond will change with market interest rates.

In general, if market rates rise, the value of existing bonds falls. Conversely, if market rates fall, the value of existing bonds rises.

To understand why this happens, consider this example. Say you purchased a BBB-rated corporate bond with an interest rate of 2% for $1,000. Since you bought the bond, market rates have increased, so now BBB-rated companies now have to pay 3% to convince investors to buy their bonds.

If someone can buy a new $1,000 bond paying 3% interest, why would they pay you the same amount for your $1,000 bond paying 2% interest? If you want to sell your bond, you’ll have to sell it at a discount because investors can get a better deal on newly issued bonds.

Of course, the opposite is true if interest rates fall. In the above example, if market rates fell to 1%, you could command a premium for your bond paying 2% because investors can’t find new bonds of the same quality that pay that much anymore.

Interest rate risk applies to bond funds just as it applies to individual bonds. As rates rise, the share price of the fund tends to fall and vice versa.

Generally, the longer the bond’s maturity, the greater the effect a change in market interest rates will have on the bond’s value. Short-term bonds have much less interest rate risk than long-term bonds. Bond funds usually list the average time to maturity of bonds in their portfolio, which can help you assess a fund’s interest rate risk.

Credit Risk

Bonds are debt securities, meaning they’re reliant on the bond issuer being able to pay its debts.

Just like people, companies and governments can go bankrupt or default on their loan payments. If this happens, the people who own those bonds won’t get the money they lent back.

Bond mutual funds hold thousands of bonds, but if one of the issuers defaults, some of the fund’s bonds become worthless, reducing the value of the investors’ shares in the fund.

Bonds issued by organizations with higher credit ratings are generally less risky than those with poor credit ratings. For example, most people would consider U.S. government bonds to have a very low credit risk. A junk bond fund would have much more credit risk.

Foreign Exchange Risk

If you’re buying shares in a bond fund that invests in foreign bonds, you should consider foreign exchange risk.

Currencies constantly fluctuate in value. Over the past five years, $1 could buy anywhere between 0.80 and 0.96 euros.

To maximize returns, investors want to buy foreign bonds when the dollar is strong and receive interest payments and return of principal when the dollar is weak.

However, it’s incredibly hard to predict how currencies’ values will change over time, so investors in foreign bonds should consider how changing currency values will affect their returns.

Some bond funds use different strategies to hedge against this risk, using tools like currency futures or buying dollar-denominated bonds from foreign entities.

Fees

Mutual funds charge fees, which they commonly express as an expense ratio.

A fund’s expense ratio is the percentage of your invested assets that you pay each year. For example, someone who invests $10,000 in a mutual fund with a 1% expense ratio will pay $100 in fees each year.

Expense ratio fees are included when calculating the fund’s share price each day, so you don’t have to worry about having cash on hand to pay the fee. The fees are taken directly out of the fund’s share price, almost imperceptibly. Still, it’s important to understand the impact fees have on your overall returns.

If you invest $10,000 in a fund that produces an annual return of 5% and has a 0.25% expense ratio, after 20 years you’ll have $25,297.68. If that same fund had an expense ratio of 0.50%, you’d finish the 20 years with $24,117.14 instead.

In this example, a difference of 0.25% in fees would cost you more than $1,000.

If you find two bond funds with similar holdings and strategies, the one with the lower fees tends to be the better choice.


Final Word

Bond mutual funds are a popular way for investors to get exposure to bonds in their portfolios. Just as there are many different types of stocks, there are many types of bonds, each with advantages and disadvantages.

If you don’t want to pick and choose bonds to invest in, bond funds offer instant diversification and professional management. If you want an even more hands-off investing experience, working with a financial advisor or robo-advisor that handles your entire portfolio may be worth considering.

Source: moneycrashers.com

What Is a Security – Definition & Types That You Can Invest In

Securities are one of the most important assets to understand when you’re starting to invest. Almost every investment you can make involves securities, so knowing about the different types of securities and how they fit in your portfolio can help you design a portfolio that fits with your investing goals.

What Is a Security?

A security is a financial instrument investors can easily buy and sell. The precise definition varies with where you live, but in the United States, it refers to any kind of tradable financial asset.

Securities may be represented by a physical item, such as a certificate. Securities can also be purely electronic, with no physical representation of their ownership. The owner of a security, whether it is physical or digital, receives certain rights based on that ownership.

For example, the owner of a bond is entitled to receive interest payments from the issuer of that bond.


Types of Securities

There are many different types of securities, each with unique characteristics and a different role to play in your portfolio.

Stock

A stock is a security that represents ownership of a company.

When a business wants to raise money — for example, to invest in expanding the business — it can issue stock to investors. Investors give the business money and receive an ownership interest in the company in exchange.

The number of shares that exist in a company determine how much ownership each individual share confers. For example, someone who owns one share in a company with 100 shares outstanding owns 1% of the company. If that business instead had 100,000 shares outstanding, a single share would represent ownership of just 0.001% of the business.

Investors can easily buy and sell shares in publicly traded companies through the stock market. Shares regularly change in value, letting investors buy them and sell them for either a loss or a profit. Owning stock also entitles the shareholder to a share of the company’s earnings in the form of dividends if the company chooses to pay them, and the right to vote in certain decisions the company must make.

Bonds

A bond is a type of debt security that represents an investor’s loan to a company, organization, or government.

When a business or other group wants to raise money but doesn’t want to give away ownership, it can instead borrow money. Individuals typically borrow money from a bank, but companies and larger organizations often borrow money by issuing bonds.

When an organization needs to borrow money, it chooses an interest rate and the amount that it wants to borrow. It then offers to sell bonds to investors until it sells enough bonds to get the amount of money it wishes to borrow.

For example, a company may decide to issue $10 million worth of bonds at an interest rate of 5%. It will sell bonds in varying amounts, usually with a minimum purchase requirement, until it raises $10 million. Then, the company stops selling the bonds.

With most bonds, the issuing organization will make regular interest payments to the person who owns the bond. The payments are based on the interest rate and the value of the bond purchased. For a $1,000 bond at an interest rate of 5%, the issuer might make two annual payments of $25.

The bonds also come with a maturity date. Once the maturity date arrives, the bond issuer returns the money it raised to the bondholders and stops making interest payments. For example, when it matures, the holder of the $1,000 bond might receive a final interest payment of $25 plus the $1,000 they initially paid to buy the bond.

Interest payments and returned principal go to the person who holds a bond on the payment date, not necessarily the original purchaser. This means that people who own bonds can sell them to other investors who want to receive interest payments. The value of a bond will depend on how much time is left until it matures, the bond’s interest rate, the current interest rate market, and the bond’s principal value.

Money Market Securities

Money market securities are incredibly short-term debt securities. These types of securities are similar to bonds, but their maturities are generally measured in weeks instead of years.

Because of their short maturities and their safety, investors often see money market securities and investments in money market funds as equivalent to cash.

Mutual Funds and ETFs

Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are both securities that purchase and hold other securities. They make it easier for investors to diversify their portfolios and offer hands-off management for investors.

For example, a mutual fund may purchase shares in many different companies. Investors can purchase shares in that mutual fund, which gives them an ownership stake in the different shares that the fund holds. By buying shares in one security — the mutual fund — the investor gets exposure to many securities at once.

The primary difference between mutual funds and ETFs is how investors buy and sell them. With mutual funds, investors place orders that settle at the end of the trading day. That makes mutual funds best for long-term, passive investment. ETFs are traded on the open market, so investors can buy them from or sell them to other investors whenever the market is open. This means ETFs can be used as part of an active trading strategy.

There are many different types of mutual funds and ETFs, each with its own investing strategy. Some mutual funds aim to track a specific index of stocks. Others actively trade securities to try to beat the market. Some funds hold a mix of stocks and bonds.

Mutual funds and ETFs are not free to invest in. Most charge fees, called expense ratios, that investors pay each year. For example, a fund with an expense ratio of 0.25% charges 0.25% of the investor’s assets each year. Fees vary depending on the fund provider and the fund strategy.

Preferred Shares

Preferred shares or preferred stock are a special kind of shares in a company, which have different characteristics than shares of common stock.

Compared to common stock, preferred shares typically:

  • Have priority for dividends over common stock
  • Receive compensation before common shares if a company is liquidated
  • Can be converted to common stock
  • Do not have voting rights

Derivatives

Derivatives are securities that derive their value from other securities rather than any value inherent to themselves.

One of the most common types of derivatives is an option, which gives the holder the right — but not the requirement — to buy or sell shares in a specific company at a set price. Derivatives are more complex financial instruments than generally aren’t suitable for beginners because they can be confusing and come with elevated risk.


How Securities Fit in Your Portfolio

Most investors use securities to build the majority of their investment portfolios. While some people may choose to invest solely in assets like real estate rather than securities like stocks and bonds, securities are highly popular because they make it easy for people to build diversified portfolios.

The mix of investments you choose is called asset allocation. Each type of security fits into an investment portfolio in different ways.

The Role of Stocks

For example, stocks generally offer high volatility and some risk, but higher rewards than fixed-income securities like bonds. People with long-term investing plans and the risk tolerance to weather some volatility may want to invest in stocks.

Within stocks, investors often hold a mixture of large-cap (large, well-known companies) and small-caps (smaller, newer businesses). Typically, larger companies are more stable but offer lower returns. Small-caps can be risky but offer greater rewards.

Large-caps often pay dividends, which are regular payments to shareholders. This makes them popular for people who want to produce an income from their portfolio but who don’t want to shift too heavily into safer, but less lucrative investments like bonds.

Pro tip: Earn a $30 bonus when you open and fund a new trading account from M1 Finance. With M1 Finance, you can customize your portfolio with stocks and ETFs, plus you can invest in fractional shares.

The Role of Bonds

By contrast, bonds are good for people who want to reduce volatility in their portfolios. A retiree or someone who wants to preserve their portfolio’s value instead of growing it might use bonds.

Bonds experience much less volatility than stocks, with their values changing primarily with changes in interest rates. If rates rise, bond values fall. If rates fall, bond values rise.

If you hold individual bonds and don’t sell them, you can only lose value from the bonds if the issuer defaults and stops making payments. That means that bonds can provide a predictable return, assuming you can hold them to maturity.

Bonds also make regular interest payments, often twice annually, making them very popular for income-focused investors.

The Role of Mutual Funds

A huge number of everyday investors opt to invest in mutual funds and ETFs instead of buying individual stocks and bonds. These funds hold dozens or hundreds of different stocks and bonds, making it easy for investors to diversify their portfolios. There are also many different funds that follow different investing strategies, meaning that almost everyone can find a mutual fund that meets their needs.

One of the most popular types of mutual funds is the target-date fund. These funds reduce their stock holdings and increase their bond holdings as time passes and gets closer to the target date. This makes them an easy way for investors to reduce risk and volatility in their portfolio as they get closer to needing the money,

For example, someone who wants to retire in 2062 might invest their money in a target date 2060 or 2065 fund. In 2020, the fund might hold a 90/10 or 80/20 split of stocks and bonds. By 2060, the fund will have reduced its stock holdings and increased its bond holdings so that its portfolio is a 40/60 split between stocks and bonds.

The Role of Derivatives

Derivatives are designed for advanced investors who want to use more complex strategies, such as using options to hedge their portfolio’s risk or to leverage their capital to produce greater gains.

For example, a trader could use options to short a stock. Shorting a stock is like betting against it, meaning the trader earns a profit if the share price falls. On the other hand, if the share price increases, the trader will lose money.

These are best used by advanced investors who know what they’re doing. Derivatives can be more volatile than even the riskiest stocks and can make it easy to lose a lot of money. However, if they’re used properly, they can be a safe way to produce income from a portfolio or a hedge to reduce risk.


Final Word

A security is the basic building block of an investment portfolio. Most assets that people invest in — like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds — are securities. Each type of security has different features and plays a different role in an investor’s portfolio.

Many investors succeed by investing in mutual funds or ETFs, which give them exposure to a variety of securities at once. If you want an even more hands-off investing experience, working with a robo-advisor or financial advisor can help you choose the best securities to invest in.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Investing in Food Stocks

You may not know what the future holds, but you know there’ll be a meal involved. A good meal or grocery trip is not only a necessity for survival, it can also be part of an investment strategy.

While restaurants and grocery stores may come to mind, the world of food stocks is larger than one might think, encompassing everything from a grain of wheat to the latest on-demand app.

Food stocks and the industries surrounding them have long been a part of investors’ portfolios. The most recent figures show that Americans dedicate close to 10% of their disposable income on food, a level that’s been consistent for about two decades. Roughly half that is spent for food at home, and the other half is on dining out.

But some types of food stocks can hold more risk than others. Read on to learn the history of food stocks in the market, the types of food stocks, and the overall risk profile of these investments.

Are Food Companies Consumer Staples or Discretionary Stocks?

Looking at the market as a whole, food stocks are part of the “consumer staples” industry, which is considered to be a “defensive” sector in investing. Defensive sectors are those less closely tied to the economy. That means even if the economy is in a recession, consumer staples are seen as less risky and more stable than other industries.

However, no stock is recession-proof. And not all food stocks are actually consumer staples. For instance, restaurant companies typically fall into the consumer discretionary category, which consist of “cyclical stocks,” or those tied to how well the economy is doing. That’s because of how people tend to dine out when they have more income to spend in their pockets.

Recommended: Investing With the Business Cycle

When deciding whether to invest in a food stock, beginner investors might want to research which industry the company falls under: consumer staples or consumer discretionary.

Different Types of Food Stocks

Food stocks include more than just memorable brands. It’s more encompassing than just consumer-facing brands or restaurants. Anything that helps food get to your plate can be considered part of the food supply chain.

Food stocks generally fall under these seven sub-industries:

Farming

Food stock investing can start at the granular level–investing in raw agricultural commodities like soy, rice, wheat, and corn. Farming stocks can also include the ancillary companies that foster that growth–companies that create and distribute insecticide and herbicide or build the industrial-size farm equipment to help harvest goods.

While one might think investing in farming stock would be actual farms, the reality is the opposite. About 98% of farms in the U.S. are family-owned and therefore, not publicly traded. So investing in farming stock primarily means the chemicals and machinery that help harvest the raw product.

Farming stocks can waver based on things like the weather and current events. It can be challenging to predict the next rainy season or drought, sometimes making it hard to track and predict value. In addition, tariffs and trade agreements can influence the performance of these stocks, making them more volatile.

Recommended: Understanding Stock Volatility

Food-Processing Stocks

Companies that work in food processing buy raw ingredients that are combined to make items in the grocery store aisles or on restaurant menus.

Some names and brands in the food processing sector might not be familiar to the casual investor. More often than not, these companies are behind the scenes, operating at a large scale to provide the world oils and sweeteners.

Food processing stocks have their own quirks when it comes to investing. Unlike farming, they’re less influenced by the whims of weather or season, but they still have an associated set of risks. The costs associated with this industry vertical are vast, and price competition across brands can lead to drops or jumps in the market.

Stocks of Food Producers

Further up the supply chain comes food producers, where novice investors are more likely to know these brands and companies from daily life and dietary habits. Food producers take the raw ingredients provided by processors and create the items found on store shelves.

Break this vertical down further to find “diversified” and “specialized” producers.

As the name suggests, diversified food producers are companies that create a ton of different products under the same name umbrella, like Nestlé, which makes everything from baby food to ice cream.

Then there are specialized producers. They make consumer products as well, but these companies often cater to a narrower audience, producing only a few items, often within the same vertical.

In times of recession, luxury or expensive food processing stocks might take a dip. Additionally, consumer trends can influence the market. Take the alternative meat craze–a popular investment trend in recent years. Investors saw larger-than-average returns for the industry due to interest in the trend.

Food-Distribution Stocks

Distribution companies have little to do with consumption or production and focus more on logistics and transport. These companies send products across the country and world.

Distribution companies range from very large, reaching national distribution, to fairly small, where they connect specialty retailers. The distribution market might have its long-term players, but investing in it comes with its own risks.

Grocery-Store Stocks

Grocery stores have become big business in the investment game. The next link in the chain, grocery stores are where the products end up once a distributor drops them off.

Grocery store investments are hardly recession-proof, but the necessity of groceries as a staple for consumers suggests these investments take a lesser hit in a market downturn.

Recommended: Investing During a Recession

Restaurant Stocks

Restaurants are an additional resting place for food distributors. In economic downturns, discretionary restaurant spending is usually the first to go, making this industry within food investing slightly less stable than the others. Additionally, this arena might be most susceptible to trends.

Food-Delivery Service Stocks

The newest addition in food stocks is more about tech than good eats. Online delivery services have burst onto the scene, and with a limited history of performance, are considered to be riskier than the traditional food stocks outlined above.

Right now, delivery service companies are still duking it out across the country, expanding to new cities and slashing the price of services to entice customers.

Pros and Cons of Investing in Food Stocks

With all the ingredients in order, it’s time to highlight a few of the basic pros and cons of investing in food stocks.

Pro: Food stocks, particularly those that are consumer staples, can perform consistently. Food stocks can be a relatively safe, recession-resistant investment (but remember all stocks have inherent risk).
Con: Food stocks perform consistently. For an investor looking for a higher-risk investment, the steady year-over-year earnings might not be as enticing for someone trying to build a high-return portfolio.
Pro: Familiarity with brands. Many food stocks are also commonly found in investors’ pantries and refrigerators. For someone new to investing, buying stocks in the brands they trust and use could be a great way to dip their toes in the market.
Con: Not all food stocks are immune to ups and downs in the economy. Some companies, particularly restaurant groups or those that produce higher-priced products, may be hurt if discretionary spending by consumers pulls back.

The Takeaway

Investing in food companies can actually lead to investing in a wide range of different companies–those that are defensive and more immune to economic shifts, those that are cyclical and rise when the economy is hot.

It can also involve wagering on stocks that have long been a part of the food supply chain, as well as startup unicorn companies that are using innovative mobile technology to deliver meals to consumers.

For individuals who want to try their hand at picking food stocks, SoFi’s Active Investing platform may be a good option. Investors can buy traditional stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or even fractional shares of some companies. For those who need help, the Automated Investing service builds portfolios for SoFi Members and Certified Financial Planners can answer questions on investing.

Get started with SoFi Invest today.


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Source: sofi.com