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Understanding Investments Investment Concepts
All investors should understand a few essential investment concepts, including how to evaluate investment performance, asset allocation, diversification, rebalancing and the role risk plays in virtually all aspects of investing.

Key Investing Concepts

Choosing investments is just the beginning of your work as an investor. As time goes by, you’ll need to monitor the performance of these investments to see how they are working together in your portfolio to help you progress toward your goals. Understanding how to figure rate of return and yield are key to evaluating the performance of an investment or portfolio.

As time goes by, you'll need to monitor the performance of these investments to see how they are working together in your portfolio to help you progress toward your goals

Asset Allocation

With a mix of asset classes in your portfolio (such as stocks, bonds, real estate and cash), you increase the probability that some of your investments will provide satisfactory returns even if others are flat or losing value.

Diversifying Your Portfolio

Diversification helps protect the value of your portfolio if one or more of your investments perform poorly.

Rebalancing Your Portfolio

As market performance alters the values of your asset classes, you may find that your asset allocation no longer provides the balance of growth and return that you want. In that case, you may want to consider adjusting your holdings and rebalancing your portfolio.

All investments carry some degree of risk

The Reality of Investment Risk

When it comes to risk, here’s a reality check: All investments carry some degree of risk. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds can lose value, even all their value, if market conditions sour. Even conservative, insured investments, such as certificates of deposit (CDs) issued by a bank or credit union, come with inflation risk.

Market risk – The risk of investments declining in value because of economic developments or other events that affect the entire market. The main types of market risk are equity risk, interest rate risk and currency risk.

Equity risk – applies to an investment in shares. The market price of shares varies all the time depending on demand and supply. Equity risk is the risk of loss because of a drop in the market price of shares.

Interest rate risk – applies to debt investments such as bonds. It is the risk of losing money because of a change in the interest rate. For example, if the interest rate goes up, the market value of bonds will drop.

Currency risk – applies when you own foreign investments. It is the risk of losing money because of a movement in the exchange rate. For example, if the U.S. dollar becomes less valuable relative to the Canadian dollar, your U.S. stocks will be worth less in Canadian dollars.

Liquidity risk – The risk of being unable to sell your investment at a fair price and get your money out when you want to. To sell the investment, you may need to accept a lower price. In some cases, such as exempt market investments, it may not be possible to sell the investment at all.

Concentration risk  – The risk of loss because your money is concentrated in 1 investment or type of investment. When you diversify your investments, you spread the risk over different types of investments, industries and geographic locations.

Credit risk – The risk that the government entity or company that issued the bond will run into financial difficulties and won’t be able to pay the interest or repay the principal at maturity. Credit risk  applies to debt investments such as bonds. You can evaluate credit risk by looking at the credit rating  of the bond.

Reinvestment risk –  The risk of loss from reinvesting principal or income at a lower interest rate. Suppose you buy a bond paying 5%. Reinvestment risk  will affect you if interest rates drop and you have to reinvest the regular interest payments at 4%. Reinvestment risk will also apply if the bond matures and you have to reinvest the principal at less than 5%. Reinvestment risk will not apply if you intend to spend the regular interest payments or the principal at maturity.

Inflation risk  – The risk of a loss in your purchasing power because the value of your investments does not keep up with inflation. Inflation erodes the purchasing power of money over time – the same amount of money will buy fewer goods and services. Inflation risk is particularly relevant if you own cash or debt investments like bonds. Shares offer some protection against inflation because most companies can increase the prices they charge to their customers. Share prices should therefore rise in line with inflation. Real estate also offers some protection because landlords can increase rents over time.

Horizon risk  – The risk that your investment horizon may be shortened because of an unforeseen event, for example, the loss of your job. This may force you to sell investments that you were expecting to hold for the long term. If you must sell at a time when the markets are down, you may lose money.

Longevity risk – The risk of outliving your savings. This risk is particularly relevant for people who are retired, or are nearing retirement.

Foreign investment risk – The risk of loss when investing in foreign countries. When you buy foreign investments, for example, the shares of companies in emerging markets, you face risks that do not exist in EU Countries, for example, the risk of nationalization.