Because I spent four years in college studying personal finance, most of the basic questions don’t occur to me any more. It’s called familiarity blindness. I’m just so used to this stuff that I no longer realize what other people might not know. That’s not to say they’re stupid. They just haven’t spent as much time studying these things.
Part of my purpose for writing on Provident Planning is to educate people. I want to teach people enough to make good financial decisions on their own. So it’s with that mindset that I’m approaching several topics from here on out by focusing on the basics. I’m planning on looking at the basics of investing, insurance, taxes, retirement planning, and estate planning. These will start off very basic (like today’s post), and I’ll look at more complex issues as time goes on. So let’s get on to today’s post.
What Is an Investment?
If you’re new to the idea of investing, a great place to start is to define what an investment is. An investment is simply anything you put money in with the expectation (or hope) that it will generate income and/or increase in value. An investment return is the reward you get from investing – basically current income or increased value.
For example, money in a savings account provides income in the form of interest payments. A share of stock is expected to increase in value over time while possibly providing income in the form of dividends. A rental home could be considered an investment because you expect to generate rental income while the property value increases over time. You can even consider education to be an investment because you expect it will help you earn more income or increase your value to employers. While that’s true, this series is going to look more at things like stocks, bonds, options, mutual funds, real estate, and other such traditional investments.
So that’s a basic definition of an investment – something that is purchased with the hope that it will provide income or go up in value. But be sure you don’t get “investing” and “speculating” confused. Investing involves the creation of wealth through legitimate means. Speculating is often a zero-sum game, where someone else has to lose so you can win. No wealth is created in speculating – it simply changes hands.