Bonds vs Stocks Top 11 Differences between Bonds and Stocks

loss of principal

When you invest in stocks you do not actually lose the capital until you sell. If you have enough income from the dividends and other sources such as a pension, and you do not need to sell, you will regain your capital if/when the market comes back. This means that as stocks lose value, corporate bonds most likely will also lose value. The bonds will typically not go down as much as stocks, which have little downside protection, but the overall portfolio will still decrease.

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Bonds and stocks are often clubbed together when it comes to investing. But they are quite different in terms of behavior, returns, and risks from an investor’s perspective. Both these investments come with their set of pros and cons. If you’re a younger investor who is further from retirement, you might be open to taking a few more risks and investing in some stocks. If you’re older and are just trying to pad your account as you head into your golden years, bonds may be the better choice.

Stock/bond portfolio allocation

For example, supply chain issues and even weather conditions can affect a company’s production and cause stock prices to plummet. Although both stocks and bonds are popular investment options, there are several key differences to be aware of before investing your money. Another important difference between stocks and bonds is that they tend to have an inverse relationship in terms of price — when stock prices rise, bonds prices fall, and vice versa. For example, they might consider investing in different types of things, like a mix of stocks, bonds, real estate and more.

mix of stocks

Let’s delve into the tax and fee considerations that investors need to keep in mind when investing in stocks and bonds. In contrast, bonds are generally considered to be a more conservative investment, with a lower risk of loss than stocks. However, they still carry some level of risk, particularly when it comes to interest rate risk.

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Stocks are sold on stock exchanges, such as the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange. They offer the greatest potential for growth, but they also come with significant risk. Stock prices can drop significantly in a short time, so it’s possible to lose money investing in stocks.

Like the names suggest, premium bonds are bonds trading at a higher value than their par value, and discount bonds are trading below their par value. Exchange-traded notes are a type of unsecured debt security that tracks an underlying index of securities and trades on a major exchange like a stock. New York Stock Exchange is the largest exchange in the world based on the total market cap of its listed securities.

Treasury bonds mature over longer time frames, usually between five and 30 years. With interest rates still relatively low, bonds aren’t likely to generate the returns most people need to retire in their early 60s. In general, bonds are considered safer investments than stocks. The riskier the bond — that is, the lower a borrower’s credit quality or “rating” — the higher the interest rate and the more you stand to gain, unless, of course, the borrower defaults. A bond is essentially a loan from you, the investor, to a corporation, government entity, or other organization. Investors can purchase bonds directly from the issuing government entity or corporation or through a brokerage.

As a Lender, you receive Fixed Interest Payments over the Bond’s life. In addition, at the end of the life of the Bond, you are entitled to full repayment of the Face Value (or ‘Principal‘) of the Bond. In this article, we will provide a simple, Plain English review of the difference between Stocks and Bonds. Our advisors will help to answer your questions — and share knowledge you never knew you needed — to get you to your next goal, and the next.

Unlike stocks, bonds are a debt the company owes to you rather than an investment, so the interest and value of the bond is not tied to the stock market value of the company. The price of bonds also goes in the opposite direction of interest rates. So, if interest rates go up, you will be able to sell your bonds for less (for example a $1000 bond might go for $900) because investors can purchase new bonds with higher interest rates. Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds are not investments, in the sense that a stock or a bond is.

How Are Stocks and Bonds Valued?

Buying shares of a long-established utility company is one example of investing in income stock. Allocating a percentage of your investments to bonds could help avoid unnecessary drawdowns to your assets if you need money while the market is down. Since fixed income is historically less volatile than equity, the reasoning is that those assets shouldn’t experience such a severe drawdown, forcing you to sell at a low point. Recall the earlier discussion on the relationship between interest rates and yields. When rates decline and yields drop to today’s historic lows, it supports equities, as investors may feel they have no alternative to stocks for yield. Back in October 2007, the 10-year yield was 4.7% when the forward dividend yield on the S&P 500 was 1.9%.


These varying levels of risks and returns help investors choose how much of each to invest in — otherwise known as building an investment portfolio. Bonds can also be sold on the market for a capital gain, though for many conservative investors, the predictable fixed income is what’s most attractive about these instruments. Similarly, some types of stocks offer fixed income that more resembles debt than equity, but again, this usually isn’t the source of stocks’ value. Stocks and bonds vary in terms of how correlated the asset classes are. Utilizing asset classes that aren’t perfectly correlated helps provide protection as securities in a portfolio respond differently to changing market conditions.

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When this happens, they may begin a process of liquidation — that is, assets to pay off debts — which is part of Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the U.S. Debts are always paid off first, meaning bondholders have an advantage over shareholders when it comes to liquidation. Shareholders receive any money that is left over from debt repayment, which may not be any at all. This is one of the biggest reasons bond investments are safer than stock investments. Those who decide to invest manually in the stock market, rather than use index funds, must learn to diversify their portfolios themselves.

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This rating—expressed through a letter grade—tells investors how much risk a bond has of defaulting. A bond with a “AAA” or “A” rating is high-quality, while an “A”- or “BBB”-rated bond is medium risk. Bonds with a BB rating or lower are considered to be high-risk. Many investors choose to hold bonds in their portfolios as a way to save for retirement, for their children’s education, or other long-term needs. Also known as equities, stocks are a type of security that gives you a share of ownership in a specific company.

However, the returns on bonds are generally lower than those on stocks, and they may not offer the same potential for long-term growth. Investors must also keep in mind the impact of fees on their investments. Some of the fees that investors might face when investing in stocks and bonds include account maintenance fees, trading fees, and other miscellaneous charges. These fees can significantly eat into an investor’s returns, reducing their overall ROI. As mentioned above, Investing in stocks and bonds can generate significant returns for investors, but it also comes with its share of fees and taxes.

Wrap-Up: The Difference Between Stocks and Bonds

Most people will want to allocate their assets among both types of investments, as well as others, to create a balanced mix. Institutional investors like preferred stocks due to the preferential tax treatment they receive on the dividends (50% of the dividend income can be excluded on corporate tax returns). Individual securities are exactly what the name implies.

  • If you sell the bond before maturity, it will trade at a discount or premium to par depending on prevailing interest rates at the time.
  • However, as with any investment, there are risks involved.
  • For example, a 10-year treasury bond might have a par value of $10,000 and a 2% coupon.
  • Both types of investments have a deep history within the capital markets.

There is no guarantee that past performance will recur or result in a positive outcome. Carefully consider your financial situation, including investment objective, time horizon, risk tolerance, and fees prior to making any investment decisions. No level of diversification or asset allocation can ensure profits or guarantee against losses. Article contributors are not affiliated with Acorns Advisers, LLC. And do not provide investment advice to Acorns’ clients. Acorns is not engaged in rendering tax, legal or accounting advice.

What Is a Bond?

Under it, it is easiest to think of stock types according to several primary factors. Good, diversified portfolios include a variety of different types of companies’ stocks. The basic idea behind a stock is that an entity needs to raise money and can sell stocks or shares in return for the required funds. Bonds are debt instruments and can be considered IOUs or loans. The basic idea behind a bond is that an entity needs to raise money, and therefore, can sell a bond in return for the required funds.

Bonds and stocks difference interest returns are set since interest rates seldom vary, and when the bonds mature, the holder of the bonds must make principal payments. Some bonds include transformation options that allow bond investors to make the transition from their securities into stock holdings at prespecified stock-to-bond ratios. This alternative is advantageous when an industry’s market goes up, allowing bondholders to realize an instant cash gain. When a previous bondholder converts to shares, he or she has the power to vote on specific corporate matters. Bonds are a type of fixed-income instrument in which a borrower owes money to an institution that collects the cash for a specified period of time at a fixed or floating interest rate. Bonds are used to raise finance for a variety of projects and activities by enterprises, organizations, countries, and authorities.

Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.Please consider, among other important factors, your investment objectives, risk tolerance and Acorns’ pricing before investing. Investment advisory services offered by Acorns Advisers, LLC , an SEC-registered investment advisor. Brokerage services are provided to clients of Acorns by Acorns Securities, LLC, an SEC-registered broker-dealer and memberFINRA/SIPC.


Stocks can only be sold by companies, but bonds can also be sold by other entities, such as cities and governments. Stocks fall under two main categories, common stock and preferred stock, and preferred stock is further divided into non-participating and participating stock. The vast majority of investors only buy and sell common stock.

Like stocks, bonds can have a wide range of risk and return profiles. Generally speaking, the safer the bond is considered, the lower the interest rate will be. Unlike stocks, bonds generally do not trade on a centralized exchange. They are traded “over the counter,” which makes buying and selling them slightly more complicated than buying and selling stocks. Between issuance and maturity, the bondholder receives regular interest payments. The interest rate is termed the _coupon_ of the bond, expressed as a percentage yield.

  • For example, you can buy stocks and become a shareholder of major companies like Apple , Tesla or Intel .
  • That means bondholders are in a better position to get paid back than investors when a company is in trouble.
  • If you’re older and are just trying to pad your account as you head into your golden years, bonds may be the better choice.
  • The company pays you interest, and once the bond matures, you get your principal bank.

Stock starter guide), but in short, if a company’s performance doesn’t live up to investor expectations, its stock price could fall. Given the numerous reasons a company’s business can decline, stocks are typically riskier than bonds. The investing information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. NerdWallet does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks, securities or other investments.

If you’re wondering how to split up your investments, SmartAsset offers a free asset allocation calculator. This can help you figure out how you want to spread out your assets among various investment types. Both bonds and preferred stocks are sensitive to interest rates, rising when they fall and vice versa.

Stocks offer a higher potential for higher profits, but cash can be lost. Following the acquisition of stocks, if indeed the market rises as a consequence of the high in the company’s worth, the owner can resell it and benefit from it. Diversification reduces risk and maximizes returns because you have invested in assets that react differently to market conditions. Traditionally, bonds have been presented as an investment that moves in the opposite direction of stocks. However, this does not paint the full picture and needs to be looked at in context.

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