A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions the term specifically excludes financial instruments other than equities and fixed income instruments. In some jurisdictions it includes some instruments that are close to equities and fixed income, e.g. equity warrants. In some countries and languages the term “security” is commonly used in day-to-day parlance to mean any form of financial instrument, even though the underlying legal and regulatory regime may not have such a broad definition.
In the United Kingdom, the national competent authority for financial markets regulation is the Financial Conduct Authority; the definition in its Handbook of the term “security” applies only to equities, debentures, alternative debentures, government and public securities, warrants, certificates representing certain securities, units, stakeholder pension schemes, personal pension schemes, rights to or interests in investments, and anything that may be admitted to the Official List.
In the United States, a security is a tradable financial asset of any kind. Securities are broadly categorized into:
- debt securities (e.g., banknotes, bonds and debentures)
- equity securities (e.g., common stocks)
- derivatives (e.g., forwards, futures, options and swaps).
A dividend is a payment made by a corporation to its shareholders, usually as a distribution of profits. When a corporation earns a profit or surplus, the corporation is able to re-invest the profit in the business (called retained earnings) and pay a proportion of the profit as a dividend to shareholders. Distribution to shareholders may be in cash (usually a deposit into a bank account) or, if the corporation has a dividend reinvestment plan, the amount can be paid by the issue of further shares or share repurchase.
A dividend is allocated as a fixed amount per share, with shareholders receiving a dividend in proportion to their shareholding. For the joint-stock company, paying dividends is not an expense; rather, it is the division of after tax profits among shareholders. Retained earnings (profits that have not been distributed as dividends) are shown in the shareholders’ equity section on the company’s balance sheet – the same as its issued share capital. Public companies usually pay dividends on a fixed schedule, but may declare a dividend at any time, sometimes called a special dividend to distinguish it from the fixed schedule dividends. Cooperatives, on the other hand, allocate dividends according to members’ activity, so their dividends are often considered to be a pre-tax expense.
A real estate investment trust (REIT) is a company that owns, and in most cases operates, income-producing real estate. REITs own many types of commercial real estate, ranging from office and apartment buildings to warehouses, hospitals, shopping centers, hotels and timberlands. Some REITs engage in financing real estate. The law providing for REITS was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1960. The law was intended to provide a real estate investment structure similar to the structure mutual funds provide for investment in stocks. REITs are strong income vehicles because, to avoid incurring liability for U.S. Federal income tax, REITs generally must pay out an amount equal to at least 90 percent of their taxable income in the form of dividends to shareholders.
REITs can be publicly traded on major exchanges, public but non-listed, or private. The two main types of REITs are Equity REITs and Mortgage REITs. In November 2014, Equity REITs were recognized as a distinct asset class in the Global Industry Classification Standard by S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI. The key statistics to examine the financial position and operation of a REIT are net asset value (NAV), funds from operations (FFO), and adjusted funds from operations (AFFO).
Real estate investing involves the purchase, ownership, management, rental and/or sale of real estate for profit. Improvement of realty property as part of a real estate investment strategy is generally considered to be a sub-specialty of real estate investing called real estate development. Real estate is an asset form with limited liquidity relative to other investments, it is also capital intensive (although capital may be gained through mortgage leverage) and is highly cash flow dependent. If these factors are not well understood and managed by the investor, real estate becomes a risky investment. The primary cause of investment failure for real estate is that the investor goes into negative cash flow for a period of time that is not sustainable, often forcing them to resell the property at a loss or go into insolvency. A similar practice known as flipping is another reason for failure as the nature of the investment is often associated with short term profit with less effort.