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Bonds—investments in which you loan money to a corporation or government at a fixed interest rate—are another major asset category. They tend to offer lower returns than stocks, but there’s typically also less associated risk because their prices are largely based on the creditworthiness of who’s issuing the bond, as well as the bond’s interest rate, and not market fluctuations.
Generally, the longer you have before needing the money, the more risk you may be able take on; this might mean that you hold more stock investments (like stock index funds) in your portfolio. But as you draw closer to withdrawing, the more you may want to skew toward conservative assets, like bonds, because you want to decrease the volatility in your portfolio the closer you get to needing the money.
Beyond stocks and bonds, Blaylock says, there are alternative investments, such as real estate or commodities. In the past, if you wanted to invest in real estate, you’d probably have to buy property—but you can now consider investing in real estate investment trusts, also known as [REITs].
The same is true for commodities, like precious metals or oil—you don’t have to buy bars of gold or barrels of oil. You can invest in exchange-traded funds, or [ETFs], that track commodity markets. Mutual funds are also a way to incorporate a variety of assets into your portfolio, because they can hold stocks, bonds, real estate *and* commodities.
One of the main reasons to consider investing in commodities is that “they serve as inflation hedges,” Blaylock says. “During times when there’s higher-than-normal inflation, these investments tend to do pretty well. And the closer [you are] to withdrawing your money, the more inflation becomes a concern.”
The bottom line: You don’t have a crystal ball. “I think we are very naïve if we feel like we have the secret to selecting which companies will perform [well] and which will fail,” says Blaylock.
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