What is Asset Class? Investment Options Go Beyond Stocks and Bonds

Oct 12, 2023 By Triston Martin

There is no such thing as an investment that does not fall into one of the two asset classes. When you put money into the market, you need to know precisely where it is going and what asset class. Investing is more straightforward to grasp because of categorizing assets into several "classes." The following topics are discussed throughout this article:

What Exactly Is A Class of Assets?

A class of assets is a category of related financial assets. Various asset classes, such as fixed-income investments, are categorized according to their expected economic characteristics. It's common for them to be traded on the same exchanges and governed by the same policies.

Realizing The Various Types of Investments

The number of distinct asset categories is a matter of significant debate. Many market analysts and financial consultants, however, classify assets into the following five groups:

Equities And Stocks

Equities refer to owning shares in a company that trades on a public exchange. They can be purchased or sold on a stock exchange like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or the National Association of Securities Dealers.

Equity investments have two possible avenues of return: capital appreciation and dividend payments. Small-cap, mid-cap, and large-cap stocks are common ways of categorizing the equity asset class.

Fixed-Income Bonds

Investing in debt instruments that offer a fixed interest rate is known as a fixed-income investment. Such investments are considered safer alternatives to the equity market or other asset types.

Money Market Funds Or Cash Equivalents

The most significant benefit of cash and other liquid investments is their accessibility. Money and other readily convertible assets allow instant access to capital.

Other Considerations For Asset Types

Some assets defy easy categorization. Consider trading in stock market futures as an illustration. Since they function similarly to a stock market investment, should we include them with equities? Or, given that they're the future, should they be categorized alongside the lots?

Although gold and silver are physical commodities, they are often traded as financial derivatives such as futures and options. Since real estate investment trusts (REITs) are publicly traded securities, should they be classified as "hard" assets or "equity" investments instead?

Classifications of Assets and Spreading Risks

It's optional to know the specific category an investment fits. All you need to know to invest successfully is that there are broad, generic categories. The principle of diversity makes such a fact significant.

Spreading your investing capital across various asset types can help mitigate your exposure to any particular market downturn. Generally, the connection between different asset classes is either weak or negative.

Bonds, real estate, and commodities can be underperforming when stocks are doing well. Nonetheless, real estate and bonds may provide investors with above-average profits during a stock market downturn.

Allocation of Resources According to Acceptable Risk

Another reason to familiarize yourself with asset classes is to identify the fundamental characteristics of the assets you could be interested in trading. You may, for instance, put all or almost all of your investing cash into futures trading or any other form of financial derivative trading, such as the forex market.

If you do decide to go through with it, you should be aware that the trading of commodities is typically regarded as a much riskier endeavor than the trading of bonds or stocks. How much you want to rely on asset allocation to diversify will be determined by the goals you have for your investments and how comfortable you are with taking risks.

Which Asset Class Has The Best Returns Over Time?

Over long periods, the stock market has produced the most significant returns. Assuming all dividends were reinvested and adjusted for inflation, the S&P 500's CAGR from the late 1920s is around 7.63%.

If you had invested $100 in the S&P 500 on January 1, 1920, you would have over $167,500 as of the end of 2020. Without considering inflation, by 2022, this sum would be almost $2.2 million. If the same $100 had been placed in 10-year Treasuries, it would have been worth slightly more than $8,000.

What Role Do Asset Classes Play?

Advisors use asset class to diversify their clients' portfolios for maximum return. Diversifying one's investing portfolio across many asset types offers some protection against market fluctuations. Regarding risk and return, various asset classes are likely to respond differently to changes in the market.

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