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How Your Investments Earn You Money

April 24, 2018

  • Investments earn investors money in a few ways
  • Stocks and bonds can gain value. Dividends and interest payments provide investors with a cut of the action
  • Companies can engage in buybacks to surge share prices
2 min read

It pays to invest, kids.

But how, exactly, investing pays is something of a mystery to many investors. For some people, the idea that you can stash money away in an account or security and that it could grow into more money seems at best, like magic and at worst, suspicious.

We all know people that have made money “investing”. But what they actually did (and where they figured out how to do it) can seem like a Mulder and Scully-level mystery.

So how does your money actually make money?

While almost everyone invests their money with the goal of turning a profit, investing involves risk.

Markets can be volatile and investors need a sound strategy to weather the ups and downs over the long term.

That said, over the long run, though, markets (and returns) trend up:

*Disclaimer: This graph is not a prediction or projection of performance of an investment or investment strategy. Source: Macrotrends (2018)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, for example, has seen incredible gains over the past two or three decades. Since the market bottomed-out during the financial crisis in 2009, the Dow has more than doubled, briefly topping out over 26,000 points in early 2018.

Here are the three primary ways that companies pay back their shareholders, or, by which investments can earn you money.

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1. An increase in share value

Perhaps the most obvious way in which an investment can make you money is that it gains value. As stock prices rise, shares become more valuable. And if you’re a shareholder, you can sell your stocks, earning you a profit, or return, on your initial investment.

The same applies to bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and other investments. When a company’s shares are worth more, shareholders reap the benefits.

2. Dividends

A dividend is your cut of a company’s earnings. If you own shares in a company, you own a part of the company — and therefore, you get a cut of the profits.

Typically, dividends are cash payouts to shareholders which can be reinvested, or sent to your accounts. They can, however, be issued in the form of additional shares.

3. Interest payments

Interest payments are generally associated with fixed-income securities, like bonds. Bonds are a form of debt, meaning that you’ve loaned a company your money. In exchange, a bondholder is due interest payments and the bond’s full amount upon maturity.

If you’re a bondholder, then, you can expect periodic interest payments.

A quick note about stock buybacks

Sometimes, companies will engage in stock buybacks, which is when a company buys its own stock on the market. There are a few reasons why a company might do this, but one of the most common is to consolidate stakeholder value, and to increase share prices.

While somewhat controversial, a stock buyback is another way that companies can effectively “pay back” their shareholders.

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By Sam Becker

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