Your Investing and Savings Tools!

The simplest way to begin investing and earning money on your savings is to open a savings account at a financial institution. You can take advantage of compound interest, with no risk.

Financial institutions offer a variety of savings accounts, each of which pays a different interest rate.

Savings Account:

Access your money at any time,

Earn interest and

Move money easily from one account to another.

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Certificate of Deposit (CD):

Earn interest during the term (one month, three months, six months, etc.),

Must leave the deposit in the account for the entire term to avoid an early-withdrawal penalties and

Receive the principal and interest at the end of the term.

Investing Tools:

Investing is not a get-rich-quick scheme! Smart investors take a long-term view, putting money into investments regularly and keeping it invested for two, five, 10, 15, 20 or more years.

Stocks -- Owning Part of a Company:

Shares of stock may be acquired on an organized exchange such as the Nasdaq or New York Stock Exchange, through a stock-broker, over the counter or by direct purchase in some cases.

When you buy stock, you become a part owner of the company and are known as a stockholder, or shareholder. Stockholders can make money in two ways:

A. Receiving dividend payments and

B. Selling stock that has appreciated.

A dividend is an income distribution by a corporation to its shareholders. Stock appreciation is an increase in the value of stock in the company, generally based on its ability to make money and pay a dividend.

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However, if the company doesn't perform as expected, the stock's value may go down.

There is no guarantee you will make money as a stockholder. In purchasing shares of stock, you take a risk on the company making a profit and paying a dividend or seeing the value of its stock go up.

Before investing in a company, learn about its past financial performance, management, products and how the stock has been valued in the past.

Learn what the experts say about the company and the relationship of its financial performance and stock price. Successful investors are well informed!

Stock Options:

Some companies offer employees stock options, which they can use to buy stock in the company at a fixed price.

For example, your employer, AAA Company, offers a stock-option plan, and its stock is valued at 20 a share. The stock-option price is set at 30 a share.

As part of your compensation for meeting company goals and contributing to increased profits, you receive options to purchase 100 shares.

Over time the value of the AAA Company's shares appreciates to 60 a share. You may now want to exercise your stock options and purchase the shares valued at 60 for 30.

Bonds -- Lending Your Money:

When you buy bonds, you are lending money to a federal or state agency, municipality or other issuer, such as a corporation. A bond is like an IOU.

The issuer promises to pay a stated rate of interest during the life of the bond and repay the entire face value when the bond comes due, or reaches maturity.

The interest a bond pays is based primarily on the credit quality of the issuer and current interest rates. Firms like Moody's Investor Service and Standard & Poor's rate bonds. With corporate bonds, the company's bond rating is based on its financial picture. The rating for municipal bonds is based on the creditworthiness of the governmental or other public entity that issues it.

Issuers with the greatest likelihood of paying back the money have the highest ratings, and their bonds will pay an investor a lower interest rate.

Remember, the lower the risk, the lower the expected return.

A bond may be sold at face value (called par) or at a premium or discount. For example, when prevailing interest rates are lower than the bond's stated rate, the selling price of the bond rises above its face value. It is sold at a premium.

Conversely, when prevailing interest rates are higher than the bond's stated rate, the selling price of the bond is discounted below face value.

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When bonds are purchased, they may be held to maturity or traded.

The bonds the U.S. Treasury issues are sold to pay for an array of government activities and are backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government.

Treasury bonds are securities with terms of more than 10 years. Interest is paid semiannually. The U.S. government also issues securities known as Treasury bills and notes.

Treasury bills are short-term securities with maturities of three months, six months or one year. They are sold at a discount from their face value, and the difference between the cost and what you are paid at maturity is the interest you earn.

Treasury notes are interest-bearing securities with maturities ranging from two to 10 years. Interest payments are made every six months.

Inflation-indexed securities offer investors a chance to buy a security that keeps pace with inflation. Interest is paid on the inflation-adjusted principal.

U.S. savings bonds are government-issued and government-backed. There are different types of savings bonds, each with slightly different features and advantages.

Series I bonds are indexed for inflation. The earnings rate on this type of bond combines a fixed rate of return with the annualized rate of inflation.

Some government-issued bonds offer special tax advantages. There is no state or local income tax on the interest earned from Treasury and savings bonds.

And in most cases, interest earned from municipal bonds is exempt from federal and state income tax. Typically, higher income investors buy these bonds for their tax benefits.

Mutual Funds -- Investing in Many Companies:

Mutual funds are established to invest many people's money in many firms. When you buy mutual fund shares, you become a shareholder of a fund that has invested in many other companies.

By diversifying, a mutual fund spreads risk across numerous companies rather than relying on just one to perform well.

Mutual funds have varying degrees of risk. They also have costs associated with owning them, such as management fees, that will vary depending on the type of investments the fund makes.

Before investing in a mutual fund, learn about its past performance, the companies it invests in, how it is managed and the fees investors are charged. Learn what the experts say about the fund and its competitors.

Remember, when investing in stocks, bonds and mutual funds:

Find good information to help you make informed decisions.

Make sure you know and understand all the costs associated with buying, selling and managing your investments.

Beware of investments that seem too good to be true ...

They probably are!

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