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The 3 main types of investments: lending, cash, ownership

There are only three basic categories when it comes to investments: lending, cash equivalents, and ownership. Learn about each one here.

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While the term “investment” is thrown around rather loosely these days, the fact of the matter is that there are only three basic categories when it comes to investments: lending, cash equivalents, and ownership. 

Lending vehicles include savings accounts and bonds while cash equivalents include money market accounts. The ownership category encompasses instruments such as real estate, stocks, and commodities. While education and consumer products are often labeled as investments, this is not necessarily the case as the primary purpose behind investments is to provide income or profit, or ideally both. 

Below we explore these three core categories. 

Lending Investments

Lending investments are a type of investment in which an individual or an organization lends money to another party with the expectation of receiving interest payments on the loan. The borrower could be an individual, a company, or a government entity.

This investment category can take various forms, including savings accounts, bonds, personal loans, business loans, and peer-to-peer lending. In general, the interest rate on a lending investment depends on the creditworthiness of the borrower, the duration of the loan, and the prevailing market conditions.

Overall, lending investments can be a valuable component of a diversified investment portfolio, providing both income and diversification benefits. Two of the more popular options include bonds and savings accounts.


Bonds are an umbrella term encapsulating a vast range of investments, ranging from U.S. Treasuries, government bonds and international debt instruments to corporate junk bonds as well as credit default swaps (CDS).

Compared to other ownership investments, bonds pose a much lower risk and offer smaller returns. The risks and yields associated with different types of bonds vary considerably.

Savings Accounts

Placing money in a savings account is an investment of sorts, as the investor entrusts their funds to the bank, essentially lending money to it to earn interest. The bank then pays out interest on deposits made and earns its profits by lending out these same funds at higher rates to businesses. While the returns are low, there is essentially zero risk. 

Lending investments can be a good way to generate steady income with relatively low risk, especially when compared to other forms of investment such as real estate or trading on the stock market. However, there is still a risk of default, which means that the borrower may not be able to repay the loan as agreed. Therefore, it is important to conduct due diligence on the borrower's creditworthiness before investing in any lending opportunity, as you would with any types of investments.

Cash Equivalents

Cash equivalents are a type of investment that is considered to be highly liquid and low risk. They are typically short-term investments that can be quickly converted into cash without a significant loss in value. As such, this category is often used by investors as a safe haven or a temporary parking place for funds until a more attractive investment opportunity presents itself.

Cash equivalents are often classified as a separate category of investment, alongside stocks, exchange traded funds, bonds, and other asset classes. They include instruments such as money market funds, certificates of deposit (CDs), commercial paper, and treasury bills.

Money market funds

Money market funds are a type of mutual fund that invests in short-term debt securities, such as commercial paper and Treasury bills. These can typically be bought at a bank and function in a similar way to a savings account, only the lock-in period is fixed and ranges from roughly 3 months to a year. Money market funds also provide higher returns when compared to a savings account. 

Certificates of deposit (CDs)

CDs are bank deposits that offer a fixed rate of interest for a specified period of time. 

Commercial paper

Commercial paper is a short-term debt security issued by companies to fund their operations.

Treasury bills

Treasury bills are short-term government securities issued to finance the national debt.

Cash equivalents are generally considered to be a low-risk investment, as they offer a high degree of liquidity and are backed by the creditworthiness of the issuer. However, they may not offer a high rate of return compared to other types of investments, such as stocks or bonds. As such, they are often used as a component of a diversified portfolio, providing a measure of stability and liquidity in times of market volatility.

Ownership investments

Ownership investments are a type of investment in which an individual or an organization purchases an ownership stake in a company or asset with the expectation of receiving a return on their investment. They include investments in publicly traded stocks, privately held companies, real estate, and commodities.


Publicly traded stocks are securities that are traded on a public exchange, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or the Nasdaq. Private companies, on the other hand, are not publicly traded, and ownership stakes in these companies are typically obtained through private equity investments.

Real estate

Real estate is another type of ownership investment, in which an individual or an organization purchases a physical property with the expectation of generating rental income or appreciation in the property's value over time. 


Commodities, such as gold or oil, are also considered to be ownership investments, as they represent a physical asset that can be bought and sold. Precious metals fall into this category as well.

Ownership investments can offer the potential for high returns but also come with a higher degree of risk compared to other types of investments. The value of an ownership investment can be affected by a variety of factors, including economic conditions, industry trends, and company performance.

Overall, ownership investments when compared to different types of investments can be a valuable component of a diversified portfolio, providing the potential for long-term growth and income. However, it is important to conduct due diligence on any potential investment and to consider the risks associated with owning an ownership stake in a company, physical asset or precious metals.

In conclusion

There are three main different types of investments: lending investments, cash equivalents, and ownership investments. 

Lending investments involve lending money to another party with the expectation of receiving interest on the loan. Cash equivalents are highly liquid and low-risk investments that can be quickly converted into cash. Ownership investments involve purchasing an ownership stake in a company or physical asset with the expectation of generating a return on the investment. 

Each type of investment has its own unique characteristics, benefits, and risks, and can be used to create a diversified investment portfolio that balances risk and reward. Ultimately, the choice of investment strategy will depend on an individual's investment objectives, financial goals, and risk tolerance.


This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice or a recommendation of any kind whatsoever and should not be relied upon or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances. We make no warranties, representations or undertakings about any of the content of this article (including, without limitation, as to the quality, accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose of such content), or any content of any other material referred to or accessed by hyperlinks through this article. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our site is accurate, complete or up-to-date.


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