Investment Category Descriptions
Investment options with similar characteristics can be grouped into the following major investment categories or asset classes.
Stable value1 and money market1 investments are designed to protect your savings from loss. These tend to be low-risk, low-return investments. Their value is relatively stable, so they react more slowly and gradually to changes in interest rates or fluctuations in the stock and bond markets. Money market investments are not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or any other government agency. Although these investments seek to preserve their value at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in them.
Bonds are designed to provide stability, income, and some appreciation in value. This combination is intended to provide a higher return over time than money market and stable value investments. Bonds are "I owe yous" (IOUs) issued by governments, corporations, and agencies.
As the investor, you make a loan to the issuer of that bond. In return, you expect two things: (1) your money returned at maturity and (2) interest payments to compensate you for not being able to use that money. Securities rated "BB" and below are commonly referred to as "high yield, high risk securities" or "junk bonds." High yield bonds generally involve greater credit risk and may be more volatile than investment grade bonds.
Stocks are meant to provide long-term growth by increasing in value. Some stocks also provide dividend income. Although their prices tend to fluctuate more, stocks have historically provided a higher long-term average return than money market, stable value investments, or bonds. Stocks represent ownership in a company. Rather than lending money to a company, as with a bond, you become a part owner - so your profit is based on how well the company does.
Within the three major asset classes are these additional asset classes.
Asset Allocation/Balanced Investment Options
Asset allocation/balanced investment options invest in a combination of stocks and bonds. The goal of a balanced investment option usually is to achieve higher returns than an all-bond investment option, along with more security of principal and less market risk than all-stock investment options.
Large Cap (Stocks)
The goal of a large cap stock investment option is long-term growth of capital by investing in large, financially established companies. Risk and return are typically moderate to high.
Mid Cap (Stocks)
The goal of a mid cap investment options is to seek long-term growth by investing in stocks of mid-size companies located in the United States. Mid-size company stocks have the potential for more price swings than the larger, more stable brand-name companies that make up the large company segment of the market. With that higher risk, the potential for higher long-term growth also exists.
Small Cap (Stocks)
Small cap stock investment options are designed for aggressive growth investors and for the growth portion of diversified accounts. Small cap stocks have had higher returns than large cap stocks over long periods of time. Small cap stocks are also much more volatile and have higher short-term risk.
Most international stock investment options provide long-term growth of capital and act as a diversification tool for growth investors. They are a higher-risk choice with higher potential returns. Investing in foreign issuers and non-dollar securities may involve different and additional risks associated with foreign currencies, investment disclosure, accounting, securities regulation, commissions, taxes, political or social instability, war, or expropriation.
Specialty investment options invest solely in a specific area of the market, such as technology stocks or healthcare stocks. Specialty investment options, because they are focused on a small segment of the market, tend to have a higher risk and higher potential for return than diversified equity investment options.
Professionally Managed Portfolios
In addition to investment options within the categories above, you may have the opportunity to invest in diversified portfolios of professionally managed investments that target a specific investment objective, each bundled into a single investment option.
Asset Allocation and Lifestyle (Risk-Based) Investment Options
Asset allocation and lifestyle investment options can help meet your risk tolerance needs for long-term saving. The investment objective is based on a certain level of risk:
Investments may be diversified across a group of underlying investments (generally from the same fund family) or individual securities (generally a mix of equities, fixed income and cash equivalents). The principal value of the Target Date funds is not guaranteed at any time, including the target date.
Target-Date (Age-Based) Investment Options
Target-date investment options offer a simple way to help maximize your assets for retirement. They target a particular retirement year and risk level and evolve from higher risk investments (stock and equity investments) when you are younger to lower risk investments (bonds and cash equivalents) as you near retirement. The principal value of the Target Date funds is not guaranteed at any time, including the target date.