10 Risky Investments That Could Make You Lose Everything

If the stock market crashed again, would you respond by investing more? Is day trading your sport of choice? Do you smirk at the idea of keeping money in a savings account instead of investing it?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re probably an investor with a high risk tolerance.

Hold up, Evel Knievel.

It’s fine to embrace a “no-risk, no-reward” philosophy. But some investments are so high-risk that they aren’t worth the rewards.

10 Risky Investments That Could Lead to Huge Losses

We’re not saying no one should ever consider investing in any of the following. But even if you’re a personal finance daredevil, these investments should give you serious pause.

Sure, if things go well, you’d make money — lots of it. But if things go south, the potential losses are huge. In some cases, you could lose your entire investment.

1. Penny Stocks

There’s usually a good reason penny stocks are so cheap. Often they have zero history of earning a profit. Or they’ve run into trouble and have been delisted by a major stock exchange.

Penny stocks usually trade infrequently, meaning you could have trouble selling your shares if you want to get out. And because the issuing company is small, a single piece of good or bad news can make or break it.

Fraud is also rampant in the penny stock world. One common tactic is the “pump and dump.” Scammers create false hype, often using investing websites and newsletters, to pump up the price. Then they dump their shares on unknowing investors.

2. IPOs

You and I probably aren’t rich or connected enough to invest in an IPO, or initial public offering, at its actual offering price. That’s usually reserved for company insiders and investors with deep pockets.

Instead, we’re more likely to be swayed by the hype that a popular company gets when it goes public and the shares start trading on the stock market. Then, we’re at risk of paying overinflated prices because we think we’re buying the next Amazon.

But don’t assume that a company is profitable just because its CEO is ringing the opening bell on Wall Street. Many companies that go public have yet to make money.

The average first-day returns of a newly public company have consistently been between 10% to 20% since the 1990s, according to a 2019 report by investment firm UBS. But after five years, about 60% of IPOs had negative total returns.

3. Bitcoin

Proponents of bitcoin believe the cryptocurrency will eventually become a widespread way to pay for things. But its usage now as an actual way to pay for things remains extremely limited.

For now, bitcoin remains a speculative investment. People invest in it primarily because they think other investors will continue to drive up the price, not because they see value in it.

All that speculation creates wild price fluctuations. In December 2017, bitcoin peaked at nearly $20,000 per coin, then plummeted in 2018 to well below $4,000. That volatility makes bitcoin useless as a currency, as Bankrate’s James Royal writes.

Unless you can afford to part ways with a huge percentage of your investment, bitcoin is best avoided.

4. Anything You Buy on Margin

Margining gives you more money to invest, which sounds like a win. You borrow money from your broker using the stocks you own as collateral. Of course, you have to pay your broker back, plus interest.

If it goes well, you amplify your returns. But when margining goes badly, it can end really, really badly.

Suppose you buy $5,000 of stock and it drops 50%. Normally, you’d lose $2,500.

But if you’d put down $2,500 of your own money to buy the stock and used margin for the other 50%? You’d be left with $0 because you’d have to use the remaining $2,500 to pay back your broker.

That 50% drop has wiped out 100% of your investment — and that’s before we account for interest.

5. Leveraged ETFs

Buying a leveraged ETF is like margaining on steroids.

Like regular exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, leveraged ETFs give you a bundle of investments designed to mirror a stock index. But leveraged ETFs seek to earn two or three times the benchmark index by using a bunch of complicated financing maneuvers that give you greater exposure.

Essentially, a leveraged ETF that aims for twice the benchmark index’s returns (known as a 2x leveraged ETF) is letting you invest $2 for every $1 you’ve actually invested.

We won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty, but the risk here is similar to buying stocks on margin: It can lead to big profits but it can also magnify your losses.

But here’s what’s especially tricky about leveraged ETFs: They’re required to rebalance every day to reflect the makeup of the underlying index. That means you can’t sit back and enjoy the long-haul growth. Every day, you’re essentially investing in a different product.

For this reason, leveraged ETFs are only appropriate for day traders — specifically, day traders with very deep pockets who can stomach huge losses.

6. Collectibles

A lot of people collect cars, stamps, art, even Pokemon cards as a hobby. But some collectors hope their hobby will turn into a profitable investment.

It’s OK to spend a reasonable amount of money curating that collection if you enjoy it. But if your plans are contingent on selling the collection for a profit someday, you’re taking a big risk.

Collectibles are illiquid assets. That’s a jargony way of saying they’re often hard to sell.

If you need to cash out, you may not be able to find a buyer. Or you may need to sell at a steep discount. It’s also hard to figure out the actual value of collectibles. After all, there’s no New York Stock Exchange for Pokemon cards. And if you do sell, you’ll pay 28% tax on the gains. Stocks held long-term, on the other hand, are taxed at 15% for most middle-income earners.

Plus, there’s also the risk of losing your entire investment if your collection is physically destroyed.

7. Junk Bonds

If you have a low credit score, you’ll pay a high interest rate when you borrow money because banks think there’s a good chance you won’t pay them back. With corporations, it works the same way.

Companies issue bonds when they need to take on debt. The higher their risk of defaulting, the more interest they pay to those who invest in bonds. Junk bonds are the riskiest of bonds.

If you own bonds in a company that ends up declaring bankruptcy, you could lose your entire investment. Secured creditors — the ones whose claim is backed by actual property, like a bank that holds a mortgage — get paid back 100% in bankruptcy court before bondholders get anything.

8. Shares of a Bankrupt Company

Bondholders may be left empty-handed when a corporation declares bankruptcy. But guess who’s dead last in terms of priority for who gets paid? Common shareholders.

Secured creditors, bondholders and owners of preferred stock (it’s kind of like a stock/bond hybrid) all get paid in full before shareholders get a dime.

Typically when a company files for bankruptcy, its stock prices crash. Yet recently, eager investors have flocked in to buy those ultracheap shares and temporarily driven up the prices. (Ahem, ahem: Hertz.)

That post-bankruptcy filing surge is usually a temporary case of FOMO. Remember: The likelihood that those shares will eventually be worth $0 is high.

You may be planning on turning a quick profit during the run-up, but the spike in share prices is usually short-lived. If you don’t get the timing exactly right here, you could lose big when the uptick reverses.

9. Gold and Silver

If you’re worried about the stock market or high inflation, you may be tempted to invest in gold or silver.

Both precious metals are often thought of as hedges against a bear market because they’ve held their value throughout history. Plus in uncertain times, many investors seek out tangible assets, i.e., stuff you can touch.

Having a small amount invested in gold and silver can help you diversify your portfolio. But anything above 5% to 10% is risky.

Both gold and silver are highly volatile. Gold is much rarer, so discovery of a new source can bring down its price. Silver is even more volatile than gold because the value of its supply is much smaller. That means small price changes have a bigger impact. Both metals tend to underperform the S&P 500 in the long term.

The riskiest way to invest in gold and silver is by buying the physical metals because they’re difficult to store and sell. A less risky way to invest is by purchasing a gold or silver ETF that contains a variety of assets, such as mining company stocks and physical metals.

10. Options Trading

Options give you the right to buy or sell a stock at a certain price before a certain date. The right to buy is a call. You buy a call when you think a stock price will rise. The right to sell is a put. You buy a put when you think a stock price will drop.

What makes options trading unique is that there’s one clear winner and one clear loser. With most investments, you can sell for a profit to an investor who also goes on to sell at a profit. Hypothetically, this can continue forever.

But suppose you buy a call or a put. If your bet was correct, you exercise the option. You get to buy a winning stock at a bargain price, or you get to offload a tanking stock at a premium price. If you lose, you’re out the entire amount you paid for the option.

Options trading gets even riskier, though, when you’re the one selling the call or put. When you win, you pocket the entire amount you were paid.

But if you end up on the losing side: You could have to pay that high price for the stock that just crashed or sell a soaring stock at a deep discount.

FROM THE INVESTMENT FORUM
Investing
6/10/20 @ 6:48 PM
Elite Four47
Question- equity for work
12/29/20 @ 2:51 PM
bob G
Home Repair
9/28/20 @ 3:53 PM
Keron X Willis
See more in Investment or ask a money question

What Are the Signs That an Investment Is Too Risky?

The 10 things we just described certainly aren’t the only risky investments out there. So let’s review some common themes. Consider any of these traits a red flag when you’re making an investment decision.

  • They’re confusing. Are you perplexed by bitcoin and options trading? So is pretty much everyone else.If you don’t understand how something works, it’s a sign you shouldn’t invest in it.
  • They’re volatile. Dramatic price swings may be exciting compared with the tried-and-true approach of investing across the stock market. But investing is downright dangerous when everything hinges on getting the timing just right.
  • The price is way too low. Just because an investment is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good value.
  • The price is way too high. Before you invest in the latest hype, ask yourself if the investment actually delivers value. Or are the high prices based on speculation?

The bottom line: If you can afford to put a small amount of money in high-risk investments just for the thrill of it, fine — as long as you can deal with losing it all.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Is Considered a Good Return on Investment?

hand holding smartphone on yellow background

People invest with one goal in mind: To earn a good return on their investment. Returns can be determined by the type of investment, the timing and the risks associated with it. That means returns can vary wildly, often making it hard for investors to plan for their financial future. So just what exactly is a good return on investment?

Buying stocks has traditionally been considered a risky but high probability way to earn a good return. Looking at the performance of a market index like the S&P 500 can help lend a sense what kind of return an investor can expect during an average year.

Dating back to the late 1920s, the S&P 500 index has returned, on average, around 10% per year. Adjusted for inflation that’s roughly 7% per year.

Here’s how much a 7% return on investment can earn an individual after 10 years. If an individual starts out by putting in $1,000 into an investment with a 7% average annual return, they would see their money grow to $1,967 after a decade. So almost double the original amount invested.

For financial planning purposes however, investors should keep in mind that that doesn’t mean the stock market will consistently earn them 7% each year. In fact, S&P 500 share prices have swung violently throughout the years. For instance, the benchmark gauge tumbled 38% in 2008, then completely reversed course the following March to end 2009 up 23%. Factors such as economic growth, corporate performance and share valuations can affect stock returns.

Why Your Money Loses Value if You Don’t Invest it

It’s helpful to consider what happens to the value of your money if you simply hang on to cash.

Keeping cash can feel like a safer alternative to investing, so it may seem like a good idea to deposit your money into a savings account–the modern day equivalent of stuffing cash under your mattress. But cash slowly loses value over time due to inflation; that is, the cost of goods and services increases with time, meaning that cash has less purchasing power.

Interest rates are important, too. Putting money in a savings account that earns interest at a rate that is less than the inflation rate, that money loses value every single day as well. This is why, despite the risks, investing money is often considered a better alternative to simply saving it, as it can grow at a faster rate.

Pay a little, invest in a lot.

Distributor, Foreside Fund Services, LLC

What Is a Good Rate of Return for Various Investments?

CDs

Certificates of deposit (CDs) are considered a very safe investment because there’s a fixed rate of return. That means there’s relatively little risk—but investors also agree to tie their money up for a predetermined period of time. CDs are illiquid, in other words.

But generally, the longer money is invested in a CD, the higher the return. Many CDs require a minimum deposit amount, and larger deposits tend to be associated with higher interest rates.

It’s the low-risk nature of CDs that also means that they earn a lower rate of return than other investments, usually only a few percentage points per year. But they can be a good choice for investors with short-term goals who need a relatively safer investment vehicle.

Here are the weekly national rates compiled by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as of Jan. 4, 2021:

Non-Jumbo Deposits

National Avg. Annual Percentage Yield

1 month 0.04
3 month 0.07
6 month 0.10
12 month 0.16
24 month 0.21
36 month 0.25
48 month 0.27
60 month 0.33

Jumbo Deposits (≥$100,000)

National Avg. Annual Percentage Yield

1 month 0.05
3 month 0.08
6 month 0.11
12 month 0.17
24 month 0.22
36 month 0.26
48 month 0.28
60 month 0.34

Bonds

Bonds are considered to be safe investments. Purchasing a bond is basically the same as loaning your money to the bond-issuer, like a government or business.

Here’s how it works: A bond is purchased for a fixed period of time, investors receive interest payments over that time, and when the bond matures, the investor receives their initial investment back.

Generally, investors earn higher interest payments when bond issuers are riskier. An example may be a company that’s struggling to stay in business. But interest payments are lower when the borrower is trustworthy, like the U.S. government. Government bonds, on average, return around 5% annually.

Stocks

Stocks can be purchased in a number of ways. But the important thing to know is that a stock’s potential return will depend on the specific stock, when it’s purchased, and the risk associated with it. Again, the general idea with stocks is that the riskier the stock, the higher the potential return.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you can put money into the market today and assume you’ll earn a large return on it in the next year. But based on historical precedent, your investment may bear fruit over the long-term. Because the market on average has gone up over time, bringing stock values up with it. As mentioned, the stock market averages a return of roughly 7% per year, adjusted for inflation.

Real Estate

Returns on real estate investing vary widely. It mostly depends on the type of real estate—if you’re purchasing a single house versus a real estate investment trust (REIT), for instance—and where the real estate is located.

As with other investments, it all comes down to risk. The riskier the investment, the higher the chance of greater returns and greater losses. Historically, the rate of return on average properties has been similar to that of the stock market, according to one study. That study found that the return on homes have been between 8.6% and 10% per year .

High or Best Return on Investment Assets

For investors who have a high risk tolerance (they’re willing to take big risks to potentially earn high returns), some investments are better than others. For example, investing in a CD isn’t going to reap a high return on investment. So for those who are looking for higher returns, riskier investments are the way to go.

Remember the Principles of Good Investing

Learn more →

Want to take a
hands-off role?

Learn more →