Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you. ~Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man under Socialism, 1891
It is important to realize that investing is not an exact science. Even though some seem to make money in whatever they invest, others seem to lose whenever they invest in anything.The simplest, most straightforward method for evaluating any investment is the percentage of people who buy into it and get their money back. The next rule of thumb is how many made returns above their investments.
Generally, if investments make more money than they cost, they can be considered good investments. Most successful investors are what can be called hedged risk-takers. That means that they will take risks periodically if they can afford to, but they never take more risks than are considered necessary to accomplish their goals. Although there are investments that historically have reaped more financial rewards than financial disasters, many more are nothing more than bottomless pits that continually feed the never-quenched thirst of speculation. They seem to always promise great returns but seldom seem to deliver.
1. Residential housing. Without question, the best overall investment for the majority of Americans has been their homes. Residential housing has kept pace with inflation; in addition, it has appreciated on the average approximately 4 percent annually. A simple investment plan to follow is to make the ownership of your home your first investment priority.
2. Rental properties. It is often said that the thing you know best you do best. The majority of Americans know how to evaluate rental properties, particularly residential housing. Therefore, they are a logical investment. However, rental properties are not for everybody. Unless you have a strong personality and are willing to evict some nonpaying tenants from time to time, you need to avoid becoming a landlord. However, one of the attractive aspects of rental property is that the initial investment is not excessively large in many areas. In addition, once the property is rented the tenants pay off the mortgage for you.
3. Mutual funds. The whole concept of mutual funds is designed to attract the average investor. The pooling of a large number of small investors’ monies to buy a broad diversity of stocks and other securities is a simple way of spreading the risks. Mutual funds are good investments because (1) most allow small incremental investments, (2) they provide professional investment management, and (3) they allow great flexibility through the shifting of funds between a variety of investment assets.
4. Insurance products. With the dual benefit of insurance coverage plus higher yields, insurance products such as annuities and whole-life insurance have become viable products for long-term investors.
5. Company retirement plans. The investments available through a company retirement plan are the same as those you might choose personally. One major advantage with company-sponsored retirement plans is that usually the funds are tax deferred. Additionally, many companies offer matching funds based on a percentage of what you elect to invest yourself.
6. Government backed securities. Government backed investments are considered to be absolute security. Although they may not be the best performers, they are without a doubt the most secure.
This article does not presume to give investment advice. Based on past performance, it merely points out and draws attention to what investments over the years have been most likely to produce financial gains and those that have been mostly likely to produce financial disappointments or losses. Although past performance does not necessarily guarantee the same showing for the future, it does provide a standard by which nonprofessional investors can judge whether an investment is historically financially safe or detrimental. So, based on the fact that these best and worst investments are not intended to be used as guidelines for developing investment strategies but, rather, are to be viewed as investment suggestions based on past performance, we submit the following investment options.