Welcome to the second issue of The RealTalk Blog’s Investment Series!
In this series, we aim to simplify and debunk the mysteries of the financial world to encourage financial literacy for all. If you missed the first issue (we forgive you), click here to read up on our introduction to Stocks and Bonds.
In this article we will be covering what the financial markets are, what the bear and bull market terms mean and finally making use of the financial markets via equity fund investing (index funds and ETFs).
As always, we must stress that this article is not investing advice – we are not experts. If you are interested in investing in the markets but not sure when, where or how to start, please seek professional advice. All investments fall as well as rise in value, so you could get back less than you invest.
So, the Financial Markets?
Starting with the basic understanding of the markets – this is a place where goods and/or services are exchanged (bought and sold). Everyday examples being a Tesco superstore, eBay or even a local Farmers’ market, the financial market follows the same principle.
Since we all love Investopedia: they define financial markets as “any marketplace where the trading of securities occurs, including the stock market, bond market, forex market, and derivatives market, among others.” (securities are a glossy financial term to mean any financial product, for example a stock, FX currency or a crypto coin)
This is by all means a great definition! But what does this mean for you and I? Not much on face value. That is unless we know how to access these markets. Thankfully that’s fairly easy these days, due to the internet and technology.
Common platforms where anyone can access the stock markets to buy and sell include Hargreaves Lansdown (HL), Trading212, Vanguard, Fidelity Investments and more! Bonds can also be accessed on some of the more institutional platforms like HL or Vanguard via their various account types. These platforms allow everyday investors like you and I access to stocks listed on the various exchanges around the world: London Stock Exchange, New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ.
For our crypto lovers, these platforms include, but are not limited to the likes of Binance, Coinbase, KuCoin, CoinDesk and eToro.
Each of these platforms will have different offerings, account types and fees, so it’s essential to do your research into the medium you plan to access the financial markets with.
Bull and Bear Markets
A key part of financial literacy involves getting used to big words and fancy terminology that often makes no sense. Bull and bear market terms are no exemption.
The terms bull and bear originate from the way in which each animal attacks its opponents. A bull will thrust its horns up into the air, whereas a bear will swipe down. These analogies help us to understand what the terms seek to define within a financial context.
The bull market describes a situation in the financial market where prices are rising or are expected to rise. This is typically a good sign in a market or economy. In this situation it is generally understood that businesses are doing well and investors are confident in their positive expectations of the market. Ultimately for your long term investments, a bull market is a pleasant indication that there are gains/profits to be made.
Ultimately if you purchase a stock and you expect the bull market to continue, then this could result in you making gains on your investments. Profits will be realised once you have later sold the stock. (NB: profits can be realised earlier with stocks that pay regular dividends, check out our earlier Investment Series article here for a quick reminder!)
The bear market as you’ve probably deduced defines the opposite situation. This is where prices in the market are falling for a sustained period of time – typically two months or more.
The bear market is not a good sign for the market. Investors in this position are pessimistic about the strength of the market. In this instance the potential for losses may lend investors to sell their investments if the exposure to risk is too much to accommodate. On the other hand, the bear market might be the best time to get into the market when prices are low – but this can be tricky business, so proceed with caution!
Let’s leave it there for now…
I know we promised coverage of equity funds, but it’s probably best to leave that for the next issue (maybe). Hopefully this article has helped you to build on your understanding of the products we were introduced to in the Stock and Bonds article. In addition, when you hear or see the terms bull and bear markets, you’ll know exactly what is going on.
Ayo and Tom
Tom is a Economics graduate from Loughborough University and is currently doing a Finance & Private Equity MSc at the London School of Economics. Tom has a deep interest in the financial world and is keen to make his mark in the industry after the completion of his Masters.
Please feel free to get in contact with Tom directly via his LinkedIn profile below.