Stocks vs Bonds

Stocks vs. BondsUnderstanding the differences between stocks vs bonds is critical to asset allocation. The allocation between stocks and bonds is one of the most significant indicators of the risks and rewards of an investment portfolio. A stock fund buys shares of publicly traded companies, each share representing a small, fractional ownership interest in the company that issued the shares. A bond fund buys bonds issued by the federal government, state and local governments, corporations and other entities. For a stock fund, think of owning part of a public company. For bond funds, think of lending money in exchange for a predetermined interest rate.

History tells us two things about stocks vs bonds: (1) Stocks are riskier than bonds, and (2) financial returns of stocks are higher than the returns on bonds. To better understand the risks and rewards of stocks and bonds, think of owning a home. The homeowner owns the equity (stock) in the house, and the bank owns the note (bond) from the money it loaned the homeowner to buy the house. Let’s look at the differences between the homeowner and the bank:


Homeowner (stock)
Bank (Bond)
Gets (or loses) any change in value of home Gets interest payments only
Assumes risk the house will go down in value Interest payments not affected by value of house
Assumes risk the house will be damaged Interest payments not affect by damage or even destruction of home
If home is sold, must pay the bank first If home is sold, gets paid first


The last point is important, and is one reason why stocks are riskier than bonds. The bondholders always get paid first, and the stockholders get whatever is left. Now let’s look at some numbers. Here are the annualized returns of U.S. stocks and government bonds during the 20th century as reported in William Bernstein’s, The Four Pillars of Investing:

stocks vs bondsNow, one could see this chart and decide never to buy a bond fund. After all, why invest in something that returns less than stocks? We examine this question in more detail in the article on allocating assets between stock and bonds, but let me leave you with a chart taken from The Boglehead’s Guide to Investing, which shows various returns from the recent period 2000-2002:


Total Gain or Loss
Ending Value of $1,000
100% Total Stock Mkt.
80% stocks/20% bonds
60% stocks/40% bonds
40% stocks/60% bonds
20% stocks/80% bonds
100% Total Bond Mkt.

Tomorrow–Day 2: Large Cap v. Mid Cap v. Small Cap Funds

So as you build your own asset allocation plan, remember that how much you invest in stocks vs bonds is one of the most important investing decisions you will make.

4 Responses to “Stocks vs Bonds”

  1. hello im moses by name im here to know the differences and similarities between stock exchange market and local market i would be glad if i got the correct answer

  2. Moses, if I understand your question correctly, there are significant differences between stocks traded on the exchanges/NASDAQ versus Over-the-counter (OTC) stocks. OTC can refer to shares listed on what are called the Pink Sheets, the OTC Bulletin Board, or the gray market.

    Good luck, DR

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