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Investing: what is yield? Understanding the basics

Discover how yield can help you make informed investment decisions. Our article explains what yield is and how to calculate it.

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When it comes to investing, yield is a term that gets thrown around a lot. But what exactly is yield, and why does it matter? In its simplest form, yield refers to the income generated by an investment. It's a key metric that investors use to assess the performance of an investment, and it can be influenced by a range of factors.

Understanding yield is essential for anyone looking to build a successful investment portfolio. In this article, we'll explore what yield is, how to calculate yield, and why it's important. We'll also look at different types of yield. Whether you're a seasoned investor or just starting out, this article will provide you with the knowledge to help you make informed investment decisions.

What is yield? Understanding the basics

Simply put, yield refers to the income generated by an investment. It's typically expressed as a percentage of the investment's current value, and it can come in many forms, such as interest payments, dividends, or rental income.

Understanding yield is important for investors because it provides a way to compare different types of investments and assess their potential for generating income. For example, a bond with a higher yield may be more attractive to an investor than a similar bond with a lower yield, all else being equal.

Yield can be influenced by a range of factors, including market conditions, interest rates, and the type of investment being made. Different types of investments may have different types of yield as well, with some providing a fixed yield and others offering a variable yield.

By understanding the basics of yield, investors can make more informed decisions about where to put their money and how to build a successful investment portfolio.

The different types of yield

Yields can vary based on the invested security, the duration of investment, and the return amount. There are different types of yields for different types of investments.

Bond's yield

The yield on bonds that pay annual interest can be calculated using the nominal yield, which is calculated as the annual interest earned divided by the face value of the bond. However, a floating interest rate bond yields will change over the life of the bond depending on the applicable interest rate at different times. Floating interest rate bonds pay a variable interest over its tenure.

Similarly, the interest earned on an index-linked bond, which has its interest payments adjusted for an index, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation index, will change as the fluctuations in the value of the index.

Yield on stocks

When investing in stocks, two types of yields are popularly used. The first is yield on cost (YOC), which is calculated based on the purchase price at the initial investment. This yield is calculated as the sum of the price increase and dividends paid divided by the purchase price. The second is the current yield, which is calculated based on the current market price of the stock.

Yield to maturity

Yield to maturity (YTM) is a special measure of the total return expected on a bond each year if the bond is held until maturity. It differs from nominal yield, which is usually calculated on a per-year basis and is subject to change with each passing year.

On the other hand, YTM is the yield expected per year and the value is expected to remain constant throughout the holding period until the maturity of the bond.

Yield to worst

The yield to worst (YTW) is a measure of the lowest potential yield that can be received on a bond without the possibility of the issuer defaulting. YTW indicates the worst-case scenario on the bond by calculating the return that would be received if the issuer uses provisions including prepayments, call back, or sinking funds.

This yield forms an important risk measure and ensures that certain income requirements will still be met even in the worst scenarios.

Yield to call

The yield to call (YTC) is a measure linked to a callable bond—a special category of bonds that can be redeemed by the issuer prior to its maturity—and YTC refers to the bond’s yield at the time of its call date.

Tax-equivalent yield

Municipal bonds, which are bonds issued by a state, municipality, or county to finance its capital expenditures and are mostly non-taxable, also have a tax-equivalent yield (TEY). TEY is the pretax yield that a taxable bond needs to have for its yield to be the same as that of a tax-free municipal bond, and it is determined by the investor's tax bracket.

Mutual fund yield

Mutual fund yield is used to represent the net income return of a mutual fund and is calculated by dividing the annual income distribution payment by the value of a mutual fund’s shares. It includes the income received through dividends and interest that was earned by the fund's portfolio during the given year.

The importance of yield in investing

Yield is a crucial metric for investors to consider when making investment decisions.

For income-seeking investors, yield is particularly important as it directly impacts their cash flow. High-yield investments can provide a steady stream of income to investors, allowing them to meet their financial goals and cover their expenses.

However, it's important to note that high yields can come with higher risks. Investors must carefully evaluate the underlying assets and the sustainability of the yield to ensure that it's not artificially inflated.

Overall, yield should be one of many factors investors consider when making investment decisions, but it's a crucial one for those seeking income.

Yield vs. return on an initial investment: what's the difference?

In investing, yield and return are both important metrics as they measure the performance of an investment, however, they have different meanings.

Return on investment (ROI) is a measure of the overall profitability of an investment over a given period of time, taking into account both capital gains and income rendered by the investment.

Yield, on the other hand, excludes capital gains and is specifically the income generated by an investment as a percentage of the investment's current value. Yield is often used to measure the income generated by fixed-income investments like bonds or dividend-paying stocks.

While yield and return are related, they can differ in certain situations. For example, if the value of an investment increases significantly, the yield may decrease even if the total return remains high. Alternatively, an investment with a low yield may have a high return if its value appreciates significantly.

Ultimately, investors should consider both yield and return when evaluating investments, but the importance of each metric will depend on the individual investor's goals and priorities.

How to calculate average yield

To calculate yield, you need to determine the return on investment for a given security or investment. The method used to calculate yield varies depending on the type of investment.
For stocks, the two most commonly used yields are the yield on cost and the current yield. 

Calculating yield on cost

The yield on cost is calculated based on the purchase price, price increase, and dividends paid. To calculate the yield on cost of an investment, you need to know the current annual income generated by the investment and the original cost of the investment. The formula for yield on cost is:

YOC = (Annual Income / Original Cost) x 100

For example, let's say you purchased a stock for $100 and it pays an annual dividend of $5. After one year, the yield on cost would be:

YOC = ($5 / $100) x 100 = 5%

This means that for every $100 you invested, you are earning a 5% return in annual income.

Yield on cost is particularly useful for investments that increase their dividend payments over time. As the annual income generated by the investment increases, the yield on cost will also increase, which can be a sign of a successful long-term investment.

Calculating current yield

The current yield is calculated based on the current market value, price increase, and dividends paid. 

The current yield is the annual income (interest or dividends) divided by the current market price of the security. It is calculated as follows:

Current Yield = Annual Income / Current Market Price
For example, suppose a bond with a face value of $1,000, a coupon rate of 5%, and a maturity of 10 years is currently trading at $950.

Annual income = $50 (5% coupon rate * $1,000 face value)

Current market price = $950

Current yield = $50 / $950 = 5.26%

The calculated yield value, therefore, is 5.26%.

In conclusion

What is yield? Yield is an essential term in investing that refers to the income generated by an investment, and it provides a way for investors to compare different types of investments and assess their potential for generating income. While a higher yield is generally preferable, investors must look at a range of other factors when determining whether it is a valuable investment or not.

Disclaimer

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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