The thing with compound interest is simple: it can either make or break your financial future. That might sound like an exaggeration but it really is that powerful. Today’s challenge is to learn (or refresh your knowledge) about compound interest and see where you have compounding interest affecting your finances positively or negatively.
Compound interest is nothing more than interest over interest over interest. When this happens over any savings or investments you have, this is generally a good thing as it means your capital is growing more each year. Instead of receiving interest over your original amount, you also get interest over any interest you have generated in past years. In this way if you have an investment account with an 8% annual return and an initial starting amount of $10,000 that amount will be worth $46,000 after 20 years. Continue reading →
Your credit score is important when you want to qualify for a loan, such as a mortgage or a car loan, or many other financial products including insurance policies. Only with a high credit score will money lenders want to give you a loan. If your credit score isn’t high enough they won’t want to give you a loan, meaning you either won’t be able to buy your house, or you might only be able to get loans with high interest rates. Nowadays some employers even check credit scores of job applicants so maintaining a positive score is truly important not just in order to get a loan but potentially also when it comes to applying for a new job.
The importance of having a high credit score:
It gives you lower interest rates on loans and mortgages. As you know by now, even small differences in percentages can make a huge difference over time.
Landlords usually evaluate rental applications on credit scores as with a higher credit score they believe you are less likely to default on your payment of the rent.
Other financial products such as insurance policies as well as investment opportunities are sometimes only granted to those who have a sufficiently high credit score.
Certain companies and employers don’t hire people with low credit scores as they believe these people have less self-control and are less goal-oriented.
Higher credit scores increase your chances of getting a higher credit limit. This in turn helps you decrease your credit utilization rate (see further below)
Tips to improve and maintain a credit score:
Don’t ever default on a credit card payment. At the end of each month make sure that you pay the minimum you are required to pay.
Start paying off your debt, this shows that you are a responsible person looking to reduce your debt instead of constantly living with outstanding amounts.
Once you’ve paid off all outstanding credit card debt, make sure to pay off your credit card in full at the end of each month from now on.
Maintain a low credit utilization ratio, i.e. the percentage of your credit limit you use. Try and keep it below 30%. For example if you have 3 credit cards with a $1,000 limit, aim to use no more than $900.
Don’t apply for credit too often or for too long. A credit company will keep track of any inquiries they receive and if somebody has been marked with having made lots of enquiries or over an extended period of time, your score again goes down.
Close cards you are no longer using. This might reduce your credit utilization percentage, but having many different cards also imposes a risk of fraud, theft and temptation to use more than you need.
You usually get a better rating for cards that you’ve had for a while, so avoid closing long-term cards.
Keep track of your credit score regularly, e.g. monthly. You can easily check your credit score online.
Start build your score early on. The longer you give it time, the better your score.
Once you’ve got a taste for investing, you’ll likely want to investigate other options that allow you to invest some money, either to diversify your portfolio, support a small start-up, increase returns or simply for fun to see what happens.
A hugely popular new way of investing (or indeed raising money if you are on the other side of it) is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a way for companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups to get together a sum of money to set up a business, launch a new product or expand and open a new project or department.
Types of crowdfunding
There are different types of crowdfunding:
In P2P (peer-to-peer) lending, capital is raised by getting many different loans of small amounts together. Instead of getting one loan of $30.000 from the bank, entrepreneur(s) might get as many as 200 different people lending them amounts between $50 and $1000 for example. Like with a bank loan, the entrepreneurs are then paying the loans back over time with interest to their investors.
Pre-sales in which people can pre-order even before a product has been produced. Those initial investors will get a first release or even a small present several times a year (for example a new exclusive wine or another small new release).
Selling shares and having people invest in your company in return for a small ownership in your company.
Now that you’ve been through the various steps on expenses and budgeting, saving, pensions, investing and planning for your future, it’s time to go back again to the bit on debts with one debt in particular which is probably your biggest debt: your mortgage (providing you have one – otherwise you can skip this step). We of course spoke about paying off debt at the start of our mission, but as we said there, since your mortgage has a lower interest rate than most of your other debts, chances are you haven’t yet started paying it down faster.
As commented before many people would argue that a mortgage is a different type of debt and therefore not to worry about as much as they see having a mortgage as an investment. At the end of the day they say, your house is an asset that will probably increase in value over time. I disagree for several reasons:
first of all it isn’t the same type of assets such as stocks and bond that you can just sell to generate some extra money. The only situations in which you can argue that your house is an asset like any other is when you don’t need it anymore for example because you decide to:
move in with somebody else
live in another house that you already own or rent
scale down and don’t need a mortgage on a new house
live on the streets
secondly, you never know when you can sell your house. Some houses are on the market for years, so liquidating that asset isn’t as easy as with other assets.
thirdly nothing guarantees your house will truly increase in value or have increased in value by the time you need or want to sell. During the recent house market crash, many houses were sold below their original purchase price.
fourthly you are still losing money by having a mortgage in the form of interest payments and you are tied to paying back regularly so until you pay off your mortgage in my eyes this is a debt that takes a big toll on your monthly finances.
Stock markets have a vast selection of stocks and bonds that can be invested in and before deciding what to invest in, understanding the main differences between stocks and bonds well is absolutely key if you consider getting in the stock market. Investors can decide whether they want to invest in just shares, just bonds or whether to create their own mix of stocks and bonds. With time, many furthermore decide to slowly reallocate their investments, so even if you start with a certain percentage shares and bonds, this needn’t stay as such for the rest of your investment life.
Here we’ll look at the main differences between shares and bonds from an investor’s point of view and how they both offer different advantages and disadvantages.
Share prices vary more day-to-day but also over long periods of time: their value can increase or decrease fast.
Bonds are generally more price solid and fluctuate less over time and at a much slower pace than shares.
In step 47 we looked at an introduction of what shares are, but they are only part of the stock market, there is another major player to be found on the stock exchange, which are of course bonds. In this step we’ll look at bonds in greater detail and find out why they might be interesting to invest in.
What is a bond
A bond is in essence nothing more than an IOU that a government or company issues when they borrow money. In the case of a bond, the debtor (i.e the government or company that issued a bond and therefore borrows money) agrees to pay back the full amount of the original loan, along with interest.
A bond is traditionally an official paper to confirm the loan and when bonds are issued, they usually have the following information:
Value of the original loan, i.e. how much money the bond was for.
Interest rate that the company or government will pay back yearly.
Redemption date: this is the date when the issuer of the bond will pay back the original loan. This is usually anything between 5 and 30 years.
Like with stocks, companies and governments often issue many bonds at the time in order to raise a total amount of money they need for a new investment or expansion.
Why do bonds exist
So why do companies issues bonds and not just borrow money from the bank? The main reason to choose for bonds is that companies can often agree lower interest rates with investors than they can with banks. It also means that they don’t need to adhere to the restrictions that many banks impose on entities when they borrow money. By issuing bonds it guarantees that companies have more flexibility and freedom when it comes to chosing between reinvesting or loan repayments.
So why not issue shares then? A drawback of shares is that a company cannot just continue issuing more and more stocks without annoying their investors as the more shares are out, the more owners of the company there are, the more reduced the Earnings Per Share (EPS) are: the same profit has to be divided amongst more investors. With bonds, companies don’t have this problem as they can issue more so long they can find new investors willing to lend them money. Of course the disadvantage of bonds over stocks is that the full amount needs to pay back, which as we saw in step 47 is not the case when a company issues shares.
What do bonds give
Bonds give investors the possibility of making money in the following two ways:
Interest payment – as with any loan, a debtor agrees to pay interest on an outstanding loan, so if you lend somebody $100 at an interest rate of 5%, you can expect to get $5 every year until the redemption date, when the bond will be paid back in full.
Capital gains – similar to shares an investor can decide to sell their bond to somebody else, meaning the new investor takes over the loan. Since bonds are traded on the market, their prices can go up (or down). Bonds can be sold for more or less money than was originally lent to the company or than what the original investor paid, so as with shares, one can make and lose money on the buying and selling bonds.
What affects the price of bonds
The fluctuation of bonds prices is usually a result of the following three main factors:
1. Interest rates of the national and global economy
Investing in anything on the stock market always brings a risk as well as a cost with it. You pay fees somewhere along the line, be that to a stock broker or your brokerage account.. at some point you’ll pay. Added to that, bonds might cease to exist if the company or government goes bankrupt. So if you get 5% interest on a savings account with you bank, you’d be silly to buy bonds at 4%, as not only will you get less money on it, you will also run a higher risk of losing your money and you haven’t even paid for any costs at this stage. When interest rates of the economy go up, bonds have to offer more interest, otherwise people will invest their money in their own savings accounts. Add in inflation rates being high or low and you can imagine that it might be more interesting to put your money in stocks instead of in a low-interest bond.
2. Risks associated with the bonds
Every bond issuer is different and is either more or less likely to actually pay back the loan. If the entity goes bust, you simply won’t get any money back. Safer bond issuers might be more interesting as they are less likely to go bankrupt, although returns (i.e. interest rates) are generally lower than on bonds from more risky entities. To indicate how safe a bond is, there is a credit quality rating or bond rating, which ranges from AAA (highest level of safety) to AA, then A, BBB, BB and B and continues with CCC, CC and finally C, which indicates a low quality bond. During different economic times, people are willing to take more or less risk.
3. The remaining life span of the bond
Bonds that have a long life span have a higher risk of a payment default (the issuer not being able to pay) or a change in their credit rating. A company might be very healthy at the moment, but what will they look like in 30 years’ time? Because of the associated risk, longterm bonds usually have a higher interest rate to correct for the increased risk or insecurity. Bonds getting closer to their redemption date can go up in prices as they become more interesting to have as the chance of payment default or bankruptcy of the company goes down.
Two last warnings
Remember that if you bought a bond of $100 for $110 (thinking you’d either get enough interest on it to counter for the $10 difference, or would be able to re-sell at an even higher price), since the bond was originally issued for $100 at the end of the its date, you will only be given $100 by the issuer! If on the other hand you purchased it for $90, you will make $10 on the bond by its expiry date.
If a company has issued both bonds and stocks, then their bondholders must be paid interest before any profit can be given to the share holders. At the same time when you buy a bond, you won’t be given any part of the profit.
Step 48 – Understanding bonds – in detail
Like in the previous step, we are for now just finding out about bonds and how they behave on the market.
Type in bond prices + a company to find out more about the characteristics of bonds, such as their interest rates, maturity date / redemption date, and current prices. See how this evolves over time. Don’t worry about the actual details or number, just try to get an idea of how bonds trade on the market.
It’s harder to find information on bonds in the news, as news items tend to focus more on shares since they sound more exciting due to their prices fluctuating more. Try and see if you can find some information on bond prices, defaults and other information on bonds.
And that ladies and gentlemen is the introduction to bonds. Does the whole stocks-and-bonds-story still sound little confusing? Good, as the next step is completely focussed on comparing the two in greater detail.
We’ve mentioned inflation in several earlier steps, so it’s time to have a closer look at this economical phenomenon, how it works and what effect it has on the economy and your personal finances specifically.
Inflation is an increase in the prices of goods and services over a period of time, leading to a loss of the relative value of our money. If you have $1,000, you can buy 10 items that cost $100 each today, but when the item price goes up to $110, the $1,000 will only buy you 9 items in the future. Inflation leads to us being able to buy less for the same amount of money.
The opposite of inflation is deflation, with prices dropping and therefore our money increasing in value. Although this might initially sound like a fantastic situation, a period of deflation is normally a sign of economic recession. When customers know that prices will go down with time and that their money will be worth more tomorrow than today, they hold off making new purchases or investments. Often times this is a vicious circle, as interest rates on loans drop (see further down as to why) so holding off bigger purchasing such as a house means not only that it will be cheaper if one waits a little, but also that the interest on a mortgage will be lower. The more people do this, the more prices drop further, the more interesting it becomes to wait even longer. Less money is spent, the government needs to make cuts as less taxes are coming in, more businesses struggle to survive, people lose their jobs and money is no longer flowing, meaning the economy is becoming unhealthy and in no time the economy is affected negatively tremendously. So in reality a situation of deflation is not generally a desirable one. Continue reading →