What are Bonds?
Just as people need money, so do companies and governments. A company needs funds to expand into new markets, while governments need money for everything from infrastructure to social programs. The problem large organizations run into is that they typically need far more money than the average bank can provide. The solution is to raise money by issuing bonds (or other debt instruments) to a public market. Thousands of investors then each lend a portion of the capital needed. Really, a bond is nothing more than a loan for which you are the lender. The organization that sells a bond is known as the issuer. You can think of a bond as a IOU (a signed document acknowledging a debt) given by a borrower (the issuer) to a lender (the investor).
Of course, nobody would loan his or her hard-earned money for nothing. The issuer of a bond must pay the investor something extra for the privilege of using his or her money. This “extra” comes in the form of interest payments, which are made at a predetermined rate and schedule. The interest rate is often referred to as the coupon. The date on which the issuer has to repay the amount borrowed (known as face value) is called the maturity date. Bonds are known as fixed-income securities because you know the exact amount of cash you’ll get back if you hold the security until maturity.
For example, say you buy a bond with a face value of €1,000 a coupon of 8% and a maturity of 10 years. This means you’ll receive a total of €80,- (1000*8%) of interest per year for the next 10 years.
Debt versus equity
Bonds are debt, whereas stocks are equity. This is the important distinction between the two securities. By purchasing equity (stock) an investor becomes an owner in a corporation. Ownership comes with voting rights and the rights to share in any future profits. By purchasing debt (bonds) an investor becomes a creditor to the corporation (or government). The primary advantage of being a creditor is that you have a higher claim on assets than shareholders do: that is, in the case of bankruptcy, a bondholder will get paid before a shareholder.
To sum up, there is generally less risk in owning bonds than in owning stocks, but this comes at the cost of a lower return. Here is where eStock Invest gives you a discount of 10% of any house you want to buy.